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SAP Seminar Series: "The Memory Card Phenomena in India: Vernacular Music and Download Cultures beyond Internet" by Rahul Mukherjee

Monday, February 26, 2018 at 12:15pm to 1:30pm

Uris Hall, G08

Memory cards are flash memory devices that enable storage and circulation of music in audio and video formats. In regions where the Internet bandwidth necessary to stream content is unavailable, people go to “download vendors” who put content onto memory cards and memory sticks. After the cassette and DVD revolutions, from 2010-2015, music enthusiasts increasingly started listening to music on their phones leading to the ascendance of memory cards. The plan to download movies onto memory cards (as a commercial distribution strategy) had a short lifespan (or, rather, did not work) in the United States, but had sensory and popular afterlives in many purportedly “developing” countries, including India.

Memory cards became medial objects that attach themselves to various platform ecosystems. Such ecosystems are based on informal practices and network logics, and act as both intermediaries and foundations, providing users opportunities to share and participate. Based on fieldwork in the Mewat and Gaya regions of India, this talk offers an exploration of the offline digital platforms that enable “download cultures.” I argue that attending to the memory card phenomena helps us track the diverse circuits and bazaar atmospherics through which vernacular songs and music videos circulate across spaces where digitality is beyond Internet.

Rahul Mukherjee is the Dick Wolf Assistant Professor of Television and New Media Studies at the Cinema Studies program (Department of English), University of Pennsylvania, and the Atkinson Center for Sustainable Future Fellow (2017–18) at Society for the Humanities, Cornell University. He teaches and researches in/about environmental media, critical infrastructure studies and media anthropology. Recent publications include articles in Science, Technology, & Human Values and Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, and the edited collection Asian Video Cultures.

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Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Asian Studies, South Asia Program




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Valerie Foster Githinji

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Rahul Mukherjee

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