At a cybercafé in rural India, a man gossips with his friend while his government form downloads; two teenagers sit side by side working on a school project while surreptitiously orkuting one another; the owner during downtime photoshops himself with Angelina Jolie and makes it his screensaver. In fact, India is currently implementing one of the most ambitious computerization projects of linking 600,000 of its villages through cybercafés or “knowledge centers” on the premise that access to computers will significantly enhance productivity for socio-economic mobility. In this paper, I address busyness that stems from computer usage in cybercafés in rural India, and through this, recontextualize and readdress the relationship of new technology with socio-cultural practice of labor and leisure. Drawing from my extensive fieldwork in India since 2004, I bring to the fore certain issues worth examining, namely how 1) the time lost in dealing with online bureaucracy can be the time gained for offline leisure 2) online busyness can provide a legitimate and safe grounds for offline dating in a public space, otherwise considered taboo, and 3) busyness at work can indeed be play. This discussion can enhance our sociotechnical understandings of busyness and its range of opportunities for transcultural practice.

busyness, cybercafes, efficiency, information technologies, productivity, rural india
hdl.handle.net/1765/38290
ERMeCC - Erasmus Research Centre for Media, Communication and Culture
Conference proceedings for Cornell University conference on Slow Down, You Move Too Fast: Rethinking the culture of Busyness and IT. Seattle: WA.
Department of Media and Communication

Arora, P.A. (2011). Busyness within cybercafés: The Indian Context. ERMeCC - Erasmus Research Centre for Media, Communication and Culture. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/38290