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Cybermoholla, New Delhi (ongoing)
by Shveta Sarda (IN)

Cybermohalla (CM, or Cyber Neighbourhood) is a network of five labs across the city of Delhi - locality labs in LNJP (an informal settlement in Central Delhi, lab set up in 2001), Dakshinpuri (a Resettlement Colony in South Delhi, 2002) and Nangla Maachhi (2004, an informal settlement in which surveys have begun which mark the beginning of the State's process to displace it to the outskirts of the city); a CM Research and Development Lab in the Ankur office (started 2003) and the Sarai Media Lab. The languages spoken in these labs are diverse - Hindustani, Khari Boli, Hindi; and the audio-visual-realm, too, is unique and specific to each location. The locality lab practitioners meet each other at each others' labs, do joint projects at the RnD Lab, keep connected with each others' labs through keeping materials in circulation on Mailing Lists and Blogs. Does this 'diversity' constitute a network?

A network can be defined through the terms that are set up in it, so that nodes can keep reworking the accretion of densities within them, by keeping them in circulation. What are these 'terms' for Cybermohalla? Each locality lab is a room with three computers, portable audio recorders (dictaphones) and cameras (digital and bromide print); and fifteen to twenty practitioners from the locality, between 15 and 24 years of age. The labs are self-regulated spaces, that is the daily routine of the lab is decided upon by them, they are in charge of the maintenance of the lab and the responsibility to imagine and realise the future of the lab is theirs.

Each practitioner spends five days a week at the lab, and many are at the lab for close to eight hours every day. The day begins with listening to what their peers have written the day before, and brought to the lab to share. The challenge here is not only to be able to write a text, but to be able to read it out in front of fifteen people, and to be able to listen with them, and among them.

While Mondays are reserved exclusively for listening to each others' texts (reflections, descriptions, conversations, logs of a street, anecdotes from daily encounters, etc), afternoons and evenings on the other days are devoted to creating projects from these texts, their narrations and the discussions that follow every narration. These projects could be animations, HTML, typed and formatted texts, soundscape, photo stories, written word, audio and visual juxtapositions o rnarratives, storyboards, etc. That is, every day is a day for practice and creation from associational thinking with each others' experiences, thoughts and energies.

Repetition and duration are central to building the density of each node, and therefore, of the network; and every practitioner coming to the lab knows there will be new encounters and engagements every day.

For a practitioner who is new to the lab, the threshold of entry is this challenge - not only to share, but to listen. Perhaps one of the questions asked to a new entrant by his older peers is, “Aap ka sunne ka samay kitna hai? (What is your listening time?)”

What are the protocols of interaction of this network? As in any network, practitioners come to a locality lab with different priorities and desires, seeking pleasures differently, and with their own unique imaginations. A context of listening is therefore crucial to the practices at the labs. As one practitioner puts it, “Fearless speech requires that there be fearless listening”. Many people have joined this network, but many have left as well, because of marriage, when they find a job, or to pursue other searches in life.

For more information, see

Shveta Sarda works with the Cybermohalla Labs (http://www.sarai.net/cybermohalla/cybermohalla.htm) as a process chronicler and interlocutor, and keeps the diverse CM content in circulation among English speaking publics through blogs, essays and postings on discussion lists. She seeks to critically engage with the debates on pedagogy, translation, technology and inequality. She is a member of the editorial collective of the Sarai-txt, a bimonthly publication (broadsheet) from Sarai.

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