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The Act of Media: Workshop on Law, Media and Technology in South Asia

The traditional understanding of 'media law' has gradually given way to approaches that show us that 'law' and 'media' are not separate domains but constantly overlap, define and redefine each other. The law seeks to define and regulate media practice, inciting a discursive space which brings media, its relationship to social order and subversion, its materiality and evidentiary status, into the very folds of the law. And the law is relayed, debated and disputed through media publicity and tested by media acts that regularly challenge legal regulation.

Following in this trajectory, this workshop will explore the historical relationship between law and media, as it is constituted in culture, politics and performance and on the shifting ground of sovereignty in South Asia.

The Act of Media workshop will bring together law and media practitioners, legal and media theorists, scholars from the law and social sciences, media and visual studies and media anthropology. The workshop will be a space to throw open and explore new ideas and work in these fields, and engage with ongoing research in this area, while keeping in mind the nuances of legal and media practice.

Date: 8th - 10th January, 2016
Venue: Sarai-CSDS, 29 Rajpur Road, Delhi

Call for Papers:
The Sarai Programme invites submission of abstracts for 'The Act of Media' workshop. Abstracts should not exceed 300 words, and should be sent to by 15th October, 2015, with the subject heading 'Proposal for The Act of Media Workshop.' Authors of the selected abstracts will be notified by 1st November, 2015.


  • Evidence, Truth and Legal Procedure:
    Changing media technologies demand the ability of law to deal with the evidentiary aspects of these technologies. The government's truth labs that have been set up have institutionalized practices related to criminal law, criminology and forensics. Drawing upon the work of scholars such as Cornelia Vismann, what are the longer histories of media technologies that help explain the relationship between the file, truth and law? For instance, the ability to fake doctor images and recordings throws into question how evidence law can verify the authenticity of these claims.

  • Histories of Media, Law and Technology:
    The proliferation of blogs, online forums like Facebook and Twitter, and peer-to-peer networks such as Whatsapp have led to the government arguing for stricter legal standards to regulate these media. In the 2015 Shreya Singhal judgment, the Indian Supreme Court held that legal regulation of the Internet could not be equated to the regulation of other media. At the same time the Court held that the safeguards under the Constitution could not be diluted for the Internet. How does one read this development in relation to older debates and legal doctrine around changing media technology?

  • Law and the Media Event:
    With the legal trial becoming a media event, there has been an increasing focus on the power of the media and its ability to influence the legal process. The ethical and legal issues surrounding the interviews of undertrials, the release of a film or book while a trial is going on, and the hyper-mediatised coverage of incidents like the Arushi murder, have led to legal precedent, and debates on the ethical aspects of these trials. What happens to the notion of publicity in the trial? How has the law attempted to balance the right to fair trial and the freedom of speech and the right to receive information?

  • Censors and their Sensibilities:
    How do we understand the production of knowledge and theory of aesthetics even as we examine debates around the censorship of media through the law? What are the ways that the language of the law, couched in reason, struggles with the affective space of sentiments - hurt, contempt, and disgust? Does the medium determine the capacity of language to incite, inflame, outrage and stir passions? What are the tensions between the evolving juridical categories such as hate speech, the social media's circulation of incendiary material, and political contestations around these categories and practices?

  • Consent, Technology and Gendered Violence:
    The Internet has emerged as a highly masculine space, and there are emerging debates in the Indian context around the barriers that women and persons of diverse genders face in occupying the online public sphere. Videos of rape that are circulated, revenge pornography, and videos and images of public figures that circulate without their consent, have given us cause to think of the complex interplay between the criminal law, consent, and the gendered use of technology. Is the state and police apparatus complicit in the production of a pornographic public? How has the emergence of social media and new media technologies changed the terms of the debates around representation, and the distinction between the speech act and its impact?

  • Circulation, Virality, Rumour:
    How does the law deal with events that are staged for the afterlife of You Tube videos, when the audience is not just those watching the events but the millions of people who view and share these videos? In what way is new and ubiquitous media technology like Whatsapp images on mobile phones implicated in the production of heightened affect? What are the infrastructures of surveillance and regulation that are put in place to respond to the circulation of 'objectionable' material on social media? How has the phenomenon of rumour and its potential to mobilize crowds adapted to the post Web 2.0 moment? How have corporate media agencies such as Google and Facebook responded to the circulation of rumour and hate speech and how transparent are they in their actions?

The Sarai Programme will cover three days of accommodation for outstation participants. In addition, participants from India will be eligible for travel support.

The last date for submission of Abstract is 15th October, 2015.

Centre for the Study of Developing Societies
#29 Rajpur Road,
Civil Lines, Delhi - 110054

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