Technologies of Development. The Digital Divide and the Media of Globalization. An Indian Perspective, c. 1970-2020
July 2021 – October 2021
Around the mid-20th century, as the Global Cold War loomed, the constitution of the political seemed, more than ever, linked to global media control and regulations. In the light of a growing North-South divide, the 1970s saw a highly controversial debate on global news media monopolies, as new communication technologies such as satellite and digital computer networks allegedly turned the world into a “global village”. However, the Non-Aligned Countries challenged these news monopolies, criticizing the “digital gap” and claiming a “New World Information and Communication Order” which was envisioned to give voice to the Global South countries in world politics. From early on, India was a “leading voice” in this global media debate.
My research project, titled Technologies of Development. The Digital Divide and the Media of Globalization. An Indian Perspective, c. 1970-2020, aims to explore the high hopes and disillusionments that shaped the discourse on technological “development” and the “digital divide” between the Global North and the Global South. In this context, it exemplarily focuses on the role of early radio and television experiments in India. Here, especially the TV as “instructional media” was euphorically planned to be a technology of “development” and “nation building”. Thus, the project explores the history of the “Satellite Instructional Television Experiment” in 1975 and its legacy in order to analyze the ambivalent role of ICTs as emancipatory and/or repressive tools in India’s political economy. With that, the case study eventually aims to speak to a broader sociological and historiographical research on media and digital technologies in India.
The case study is a spin-off to my postdoctoral dissertation on “Digital Independence. India and the Computer. An International History, 1947-2020”. In general, my research combines political, social and science history approaches to trace the roots of the “digital revolution” in India. It looks into why and how actors both on a local and a global level engaged in this process and thus aims to shed new light on the history of the “digital era” from a North-South-divide perspective – based on oral history interviews and a broad variety of archival and printed sources from all over Europe, the USA and India. During my ICAS:MP fellowship, I will pursue my studies on the convergences and conflicts of the digital era, the role of international development policy, and the new technological north-south divides.
Michael Homberg is an Assistant Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at the Leibniz-Centre for Contemporary History (ZZF) Potsdam. He has studied Modern and Medieval History, German Philology and Political Sciences at the University of Cologne. His doctoral thesis Reporter Streifzüge. Metropolitane Nachrichtenkultur und die Wahrnehmung der Welt, 1870-1918 (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht) was shortlisted for the award of the “Best Newcomer Publication of the Year” by the Volkswagen Foundation in 2017 and was awarded the Offermann-Hergarten-Prize. Since 2015, Michael has held several positions as a Postdoctoral Scholar and has taught graduate and undergraduate classes in Modern European and Global History in Cologne and Potsdam. Besides, he was a Feodor Lynen-Research Fellow at Stanford University, UC Berkeley and Harvard University. His research foci include the history and theory of globalization, the global history of the digital age as well as media and cultural history from 19th to 21st century.