December 2007

A programme for developing societies

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Sarai is a programme of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, (CSDS), one of India's leading research institute, that encompasses an inter-disciplinary research programme, a platform for critical reflection, a screening space, a convivial context for online and offline conversations, and a media lab.

Over the last five years, Sarai has emerged as one of the most prominent and productive platforms for research and reflection on the transformation of urban spaces and contemporary realities, especially with regard to the interface between cities, information, society, technology and culture. Located at Delhi, Sarai sustains a media lab which produces wide range of media, including print, video and web. Sarai mainly researches the urban experience, the city, the publics and practice of old and new media, information society, free and open source software  language, digital cultures, the interface between urban transformation, contemporary culture, and development. Sarai is creating a network of independent researchers, practitioners and students all over India through fellowships and stipends. Over the last five years, Sarai has supported more than 400 independent researchers from all over the country. Many of these researchers are from small towns of conflict ridden area like Jammu & Kashmir and the North East.

In promoting the FLOSS programme in India, Sarai has announced fellowships for projects related to FLOSS activities. This year, Sarai has partnered with the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF) who are providing support for work in the specific area of computing, and localisation in five Indian languages, namely, Assamese, Hindi, Kashmiri, Oriya, and Urdu. Some of the free and open source software developed by Sarai are following:

NewsRack:
NewsRack (http://newsrack.in/) is a highly customisable tool for tracking news on specific topics and archiving them for long-term use. With the tool, users can specify what news sources, kind of news items to look out for and how the tracked news to be archived.

ApnaOpus: ApnaOpus (http://apnaopus.var.cc/) also abbreviated as APNA OPUS ('Our Own' OPUS) is a tool specifically designed to facilitate collaborative creation and peer to peer sharing of media data for communities gathered together on a local or enclosed network. APNA OPUS works for any context where people want to collaborate on creative media projects either in one class room or media lab, in a cluster of classrooms or media labs.
OPUS: OPUS (www.opuscommons.net) is a tool, which allows users to view, create and exhibit media objects (video, audio, still images, HTML and text) and make modifications on work done by others. With the use of this tool, each media object can be archived, exhibited and it can be made available for transformation within Opus carriers.

Sarai boasts of a track record of more than two decades of work in the field of critical pedagogy and community mobilisation in poor neighbourhoods of the city in collaboration with Delhi based non-profit organisation, called  'Ankur' Society for Alternatives in Education. Under the project, Cybermohalla (Cyber – Neighbourhood) researchers can create digital works, animations and installation, write texts, publish wall magazines and broadsheets, and edit books and maintain discussion lists and blogs in partnership with practitioners and interlocutors in Sarai.

In one of its major project, e-Culture, Sarai is integrating Information and Communition Technologies into the primary process of production, presentation, preservation, and re-utilisation of cultural expression. Under this project, Sarai is deeply investing in Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) initiatives. Sarai has an active and ongoing FLOSS research programme that is interested above all in localisation, pedagogy and critical social usage of FLOSS products and processes. e-Culture has taken the shape of an intensive project called 'Publics and Practices in the History of the Present' (PPHP), which shows how different media spaces, networks and markets (cinema, cable, telephony, telegraphy and assembled computers) make the urban fabric.

In another initiative, Sarai regularly holds screening and discussion of curated programmes of fiction, documentary and experimental films and videos. Sarai creates its own convivial context for online and offline conversations through mailing lists and blogs in English and Hindi. Sarai is also engaged with the Hindi/Hindustani public domain through publications, translation, lists, web content, software localisation, events and workshops. The organisation is also producing media (video, audio, print and web) and contemporary art works, CDs, radios and software, at the Sarai Media Lab.   

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