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A Knowledge Journey Across India – An Introd...

A Knowledge Journey Across India – An Introduction

Photo: Students play and learn at a “Hole in the Wall” site in New Delhi, India.

Editor’s note:  Last fall, Daniel Oxenhandler journeyed around India with a team to craft a documentary film that investigates emerging paradigms of collaboration and open innovation in India. Learning and knowledge play a key role in the research; we are publishing this series to provide a lens on the ways learning is evolving with the adoption of new technology. Learn more at the Network Affect website.

It is the year 2019, and India has just achieved a staggering milestone: everyone in the nation of over 1.3 billion people has a mobile phone and a connection to the internet. This is the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Digital India” initiative.

Flashback to the present and the reality is much different: there are between 200 – 250 million people with internet connections, and about 600 – 700 million mobile devices. Statistics aside, India is on course for tremendous growth in network technology over the next 4 years.

Despite the rapid technological development, India is rife with enormous social and environmental challenges — food security, energy and natural resources, access to quality education and healthcare, amongst others. These complex issues will require a tremendous amount of collaboration — across sectors, disciplines and socioeconomic divides — in order to be resolved. As network technology continues to grow in India, can it provide the tools and infrastructure to help cultivate the type of deep collaboration necessary to face these challenges?

This is the question we set out to explore as we traveled across India over the course of six weeks in the fall of 2014.  We traversed the country speaking with scholars, industry leaders, entrepreneurs, educators,  students, artists, and community builders. We captured these conversations on film and are currently working on crafting a documentary.

One of the core pillars of our exploration for the project is learning and knowledge. How do cultures of learning and systems of knowledge affect our ability to effectively collaborate? What role can network technology play in cultivating new learning cultures? How can we cultivate the types of learning cultures and environments necessary for meaningful collaboration?


“The beauty of internet would be, if it goes back to storytelling. I want to be able to download a million stories, I don’t want to be able to download information…”

Shiv Visvanathan – Professor and Executive Director,
Centre for the Study of Science, Society and Sustainability,
Jindal School of Government & Public Policy, New Delhi, India

Throughout our travels and conversations, we found that the importance of storytelling arose as a key theme. It is perhaps one of the oldest and most universal forms of learning and sharing knowledge. For millennia, storytelling has been a remarkable tool for passing down knowledge and wisdom from generation to generation. India is a land rich with stories — from the Mahabharata and Ramayana to modern Bollywood blockbusters. Though the mediums through which the stories are shared may have become more diverse and dynamic with time, the power of story itself remains just as potent as ever.

But how does the medium affect the message? India has a rich history of oral tradition and myriad forms of classical song and dance, all of which have served to tell stories for millennia. In more recent times, cinema and the silver screen have served to usher in new generations of storytellers. And now, as new tools, technologies and media spread rapidly across the country, the permutations and possibilities of storytelling continue to grow…

As we explore the potential and power of storytelling, we’re driven by a few key questions: What role does storytelling play in cultivating learning and knowledge? How can this story-driven learning and knowledge contribute to meaningful collaborations, specifically around social and environmental issues? How will network technology and new media impact storytelling and its ability to create the conditions for these types of deep collaboration?

How will the story unfold? Join us over the coming weeks as we seek to explore these intersections and inquiries.

E-180 | Labs‘ mission is to transform events, spaces and organisations into peer-learning hubs, through what we call Brain Dates. Learn how here!

Daniel Oxenhandler

Daniel is the co-director and creative coordinator of Network Affect, a multimedia research project exploring the impact of network technology on human collaboration, with a focus on social and environmental challenges. He also serves as a Curator for the CATAPULTA Social Innovation Festival in Oaxaca, Mexico.