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Visual Background as a Window to the Social Background

Walls That Speak

In a time when online education is becoming prevalent, an aspect of it that needs to be discussed is that of social disparities and embarrassments made visible by video conferencing. Visual backgrounds in these conferences can be looked at as a concrete entry point into how the system displaces a large section of students from access to and equity in education.

With indefinite lockdowns and self quarantines in full swing, education today has come to be effected in unprecedented ways. The shift from classroom to a device is one that Indian academia has been trying to put off for the longest time, with many conferences organised and journals brought out to collectively address the issue of what an educational institution is and what it stands for. The debate within which I place my arguments here is well marked by the category of “digital divide” and I will only help the same dig its heels deeper into the sands of inequalities, curtains to which have been suddenly lifted by a virus.

What might appear to be a speculative leap in argumentation is substantially supplemented with descriptions gathered from over a dozen online lectures attended over platforms as safe as Google Hangouts or as treacherous as Zoom. This is long after worldwide propositions to widen the horizon of ­traditional anthropological methods to incorporate emergent modes of social analysis as internet ethnography. Hence, I will allow myself the liberty to make theoretically grounded propositions about a specifically internet born pheno­menon, based on my own participant observations therein. I also concede that the arguments I make hold well only within the ableist discourse of the capa­city to see and the case of visual impairment calls for an alternate mode of ­engagement.

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Updated On : 15th Jul, 2020

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