Panel C

Digital Media Analysis and Digital Research

Keshia Dsilva: Guardians or Obstructors of Justice? An Exploration of the Police’s Role in Responding to Gender-Based Violence in India 

Instances of police brutality and injustices around the world have sparked heated debates regarding the role and necessity of the police globally. In India, such conversations are also taking place, specifically in relation to the police’s role in tackling gender-based violence and other dangers facing women. Previous research suggests that a significant majority of sexual violence cases in India go unreported due to women’s reluctance to approach the police. A number of digital media campaigns have been launched over the last decade that aim to tackle this by reforming the Indian police. Yet there is a dearth of literature dedicated to analysing these campaigns and the ways in which they advocate for the police to be reformed. This paper seeks to address this gap by exploring how the police is represented in the digital media campaigns of two different organizations in India, the first an international NGO and the second, a government ministry for women. The theoretical and analytical framework of the study comprises of the social representations theory used in conjunction with narrative analysis. Findings suggest that the international NGO represented the police as a villain while the government ministry portrayed the police as a hero protecting women. The analysis further sheds light on how these findings are rooted in the relationships these organizations have with the state, arguably the hegemonic institution in society, as well as their organizational identities.

Keywords: gender-based violence, digital activism, police, India 

Paula Marques: To Review or Not to Review? Online Consumer Review Websites’ Consequences  

With the growth of online consumer reviews websites, information about products and services is now being produced by large numbers of contributors. While these websites created a promise of democratization by opening the contribution of wider audiences on the valuation of products and services, the negative consequences of their use have been increasingly recognized. Given this paradox, and the need to systematize existing knowledge, the purpose of this research was set to explore what characterizes online consumer review websites and what are the consequences of their use. The methodological approach is based on a literature review that allows to unearth several insights. While this research is still ongoing, some of these insights can be stated. The first relates to what is being portrayed in the reviews. Online consumer reviews are not simply somehow reflecting a reality but are rather providing orientation about what others observe: they shift the reference from the world to observers – from first-order observation to second-order one. A second insight pertains to the creation of power shifts in various relationships and a resulting increase in competition: customer reviews become treadmills in a never-ending, and ever-shifting, competition. Finally, a third insight relates to the self-referential dynamics of these websites, deriving from the use of ranking algorithms. The self-reinforcing trends in results create diverse consequences. These and other insights will be discussed, opening up a set of reflexive avenues of research.

Fabienne Valmond: Trying to Conceive in the Digital Age: A Digital Ethnography of Online Fertility Forums

Online forums for infertile women trying to conceive provide a valuable milieu to understand the relationship these women have with public healthcare and biomedicine and their interactions on these online groups. Women are increasingly turning to the Internet to fill in the information gap from their physicians. Through digital ethnographic research on online fertility forums, this essay examines the intersection of knowledge construction and the reciprocal support system fundamental to these spaces. It explores the social structure of the spaces that allow these social interactions to occur. The forums function as a space where women acquire and contribute knowledge and encouragement to others with shared travails. They allow women who previously suffered the brunt of infertility alone the space to share their pregnancy test strips on the Internet and ask strangers to “squint with me” to confirm if the faint line on the test zone on the strip is an early pregnancy indication and to share their grief when the faint line darkens as the days progress, only to fade completely, signaling a miscarriage. Online forums reflect society’s increasing reliance on technology for global information flows. This paper uses medical pluralism to explore how people deal with illness, negotiating between home remedies, biomedicines, religious healing, and other alternative treatments, and how these frames of knowledge are reproduced and indexed in online interactions. My position as a woman trying to conceive and an online fertility forums user provides a unique vantage point for studying socioculturally situated online fertility communities.