Certifying India: Everyday Aspiration and Basic Computer Training in Hyderabad

Zyskowski, Kathryn. Certifying India: Everyday Aspiration and Basic Computer Training in Hyderabad. Diss. U of Washington. 2018.
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This dissertation investigates the impact of new technologies and a technology-centric economy for low-income and minority students in Hyderabad, India. Based on fifteen months of ethnographic research at basic computer-training centers, this project demonstrates how computer education programs are a window through which to see how students intersect with new sociotechnical forms of control and security, how gender is performed in contemporary India, and how students find meaning in pursuing their dreams. In spending time with students in the classrooms and on the job market, I came to understand that an incredible amount of work comprises striving towards the future. To this end, this dissertation develops a central argument that aspiration, or the process of moving towards a desired future position, should be conceived of as labor. Conceiving of aspiration as labor shifts the focus from the future to the present work that goes into striving. Following this labor entailed tracing students' sociotechnical entanglements with the computer including social media, email, medical diagnostic machines, and mobile phones. Tracking these materialities allowed me to see the labor that goes into preparing for imagining a future in a technology-centric economy. Analyses in this dissertation are grounded in three strands of materiality including how students carry their bodies (embodiment), how students engage external technologies towards a future goal (artefactual), and how students imagine technologies as an extension of selves (prosthetic). In following the computer in the context of students' lives, I also argue for a more capacious understanding of the computer in India: the computer exists in multiple ways outside of the world of Information Technology. Attention to students' experiences show how access to new technologies simultaneously offers possibility and increased policing. Amidst this, however, I show how students aspire with playfulness and openness.

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