(This lecture was delivered by Prof. Sheena Jain, a ​former faculty at the Department of Sociology, Jamia Millia Islamia)

The lecture given by Sheena Jain revolved around her own experiment with new electronic gadgets like pen drives, television and the online platform like YouTube to create a meaningful intervention in the prevailing notion of public sphere/spaces. The onus was laid on altering the visual and auditory environment in public spaces like dhabas in and around Delhi. This very idea of engaging with the unprecedented possibilities inaugurated by the explosion of digital technology was triggered out of their experiences with the working class people in dhabas while distributing their newspaper “Faridabad Majdoor Samachar” in the Okhla industrial area. As part of this experiment to document the people’s response, she exhibited several footages from the films in the public dhabas as well as in public transports such as buses. Following Bourdieu, she argues that the prevailing atmospherics are mostly dictated by the tastes fortifying commercial interests which calls for a nonreflective conformity to the norms.

In contrast to this blatant subjection to the norms, she relied on new digital platforms like YouTube and other internet sites to introduce a different visual culture to the audiences, the passive recipients of hegemonic visual culture. It was also an attempt to shape an alternate taste over an accepted norm in due course of time. The technology used in this experiment was nothing fancy but common gadgets like pen drives, computers, television sets, etc. which are owned or used by professionals and students. This intervention at the level of public spheres is aimed at the transformation of the existing visual culture, which could be taken up as the basis of students projects for research into the tastes engendered by the media culture. Details of the method and theoretical inputs can be collectively discussed and formulated. It is suggested that the work of scholars like Pierre Bourdieu will be of immense help, especially Distinctions which is a classic in the field of sociology of culture in general and on ‘tastes’ in particular.

[About the Presenter: Prof. Sheena Jain was a faculty member in the Department of Sociology, JMI, till 2014.She has since been exploring the activities in and around Delhi within the industrial working class, mainly in association with the newspaper Faridabad Majdoor Samachar. Her academic work includes a major focus on social theory and the contribution of Pierre Bourdieu’s study of the symbolic.The sociology of film has also been an area of interest.]