As we continue living our lives online, we are forced to confront and challenge our world through our screens. We debate and deliberate over real-world politics and elections, moderated and manoeuvred by the rules of the internet. With the potential to consume the content of the world, and the ability to have the world as your audience, we have a platform like never before. With this however, come important questions about how to control and carry out conversations online, and the extent of its real-world impacts.
In this edition, we attempt to start a conversation around precisely these topics. We start with the notion of privacy online, as Debayan Gupta explores the importance of software encryption and discusses whether governments should be given a secret key to decrypt citizens’ conversations. Aradhya Sharma looks at privacy in the context of health data, in light of India’s recent attempt to digitise healthcare through the National Digital Health Mission. In Deep Vakil’s piece, we deepdive into a real-life case study of online privacy—an instance of doxxing of university students and how it is situated in the context of ‘culture wars’ between ideological oppositions online. When our online lives get too much, we try to get away from it—but can we really resist the allure of our devices? By understanding human psychology and its interaction with online media, Simantini Ghosh suggests practical ways to escape the trap of the ‘black mirror’.
But is life beyond technospace any better? With the unlawful investigation of Manisha Valmiki’s rape and murder, there has been polemical uproar against the police, media and the judicial system. Mansi Ranka’s piece tells us why caste is central to the Hathras case and touches upon how activists are carrying out related protests during the pandemic. With COVID infections still steadily increasing, many other people prefer to voice their criticism of the investigation online. Social media has been rife with polarizing opinions.
But then again there is no dearth of people for whom the pandemic has not been a deterrent to assert their ‘invincibility’. These people, most of whom are on the conservative side, have flouted health advisories and social distancing guidelines. Isha Deshmukh examines the nuance between one’s political leaning and their proclivity (or lack thereof) towards science in her article.
As similar political criticism continues online, engaging the voices of millions globally, it takes on various forms apart from 280-character opinions. Karantaj Singh explores one such instance in Amazon’s hit show The Boys, which stars an anti-superhero protagonist eerily similar to Donald Trump. Speaking of the current President of the United States, Aditya Burra takes us through a journey of Trump’s America over the past four years, reminding us of the high-stakes game that is November’s Presidential elections. We also take a look at the state of democracy in today’s world, and the role of American government and aid agencies in promoting it, in Bann Seng Tan’s exploration of American foreign policy.
It is thus important to remind ourselves that the world goes on, despite the pandemic and our lives online. In no way are we immune to being scrutinized by various actors digitally. In no way can our society easily get rid of structures it is entrenched in. But also in no way can we ignore the ability to collectively amplify the voices of those who haven’t been passed the mic, for the greater good.
– Nirvik Thapa, Pravish Agnihotri and Samyukta Prabhu