Emergent Practices Around CGNet Swara: A Voice Forum for Citizen Journalism in Rural India

Preeti Mudliar, Jonathan Donner, William Thies

Abstract


Rural communities in India are often underserved by the mainstream media. While there is a public discourse surrounding the issues they face, this dialogue typically takes place on television, in newspaper editorials, and on the Internet. Unfortunately, participation in such forums is limited to the most privileged members of society, excluding those individuals who have the largest stake in the conversation. This article examines an effort to foster a more inclusive dialogue by means of a simple technology: an interactive voice forum. Called CGNet Swara, the system enables callers to record messages of local interest, as well as to listen to messages that others have recorded. Messages are also posted on the Internet as a supplement to an existing discussion forum. In almost three years of deployment in India, CGNet Swara has logged more than 137,000 phone calls and released 2,100 messages. To understand the emergent practices surrounding this system, we conducted interviews with 42 diverse stakeholders, including callers, bureaucrats, and media members. Our analysis contributes to the understanding of voice-based media as a vehicle of social inclusion for remote and underprivileged populations.

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