The Department of Communication, University of Hyderabad, in collaboration with the Kohli Centre for Intelligent Systems, IIIT-Hyderabad, hosted the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR) Flashpoint Symposium 2024 on 13 April, 2024, on the theme “Constructing the Digital: Working from the Global South”. The event featured two keynote panels bringing together speakers who have engaged with the theoretical and practical aspects of digital infrastructures and labour, and 15 paper presentations by emerging scholars from across the country. Keynote speakers included Prof Pradip Thomas from the University of Queensland, Australia, Dr Janaki Srinivasan, IIIT-Bangalore, Dr Gayatri Nair, IIIT-Delhi, Dr Padmini Ray Murray of Design Beku, Dr Tarunima Prabhakar of Tattle, and Ms Bhanupriya of BehanBox. Dr Nicholas John of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and President of AoIR, was also present. Held for the first time in this region, the symposium is organized in the lead up to the annual conference of the Association that is to be held in Sheffield, UK, later this year.

While the two keynotes explored the broader ideas and research trajectories dealing with digital infrastructure and the conditions of digital and platform labour, the papers were grouped into three themes that explored different facets of work that goes into creating and maintaining the structure of the internet and the content that travels on it. Paper presenters came from nine Indian universities and four international universities, making for a diverse range of topics and perspectives.

The first keynote panel, titled “Training a critical eye on digital India” featured talks by Dr Pradip Thomas, Dr Janaki Srinivasan and Dr Gayatri Nair which addressed issues such as the nature of inequity in a digital landscape, the political economy of data infrastructures, and new formulations of worker rights in a platform era. The second keynote panel, titled “Towards a just and fair Internet” brought together three speakers who in their own ways are leading projects that aim to broaden and deepen people’s access to digital tools, understand and negotiate digital politics, and find ways of exercising voice in an increasingly complex information landscape. Dr Padmini Ray Murray, Dr Tarunima Bhaskar and Ms Bhaupriya Rao described some of these initiatives.

AoIR is increasingly becoming a favoured forum for internet studies globally, and the symposium provided an opportunity for young scholars to interact with senior researchers and receive feedback on their work.