Published: January 21, 2018 | Times of India
The distinguished professor and director of Mica, discusses the disruption that digital and social media have brought to old media structures
Q. What is the future of traditional media in the age of digital and social media?
A. Disruption of old media structures is a reality. What we witness today is the breaking down of old markets with the creation of digital market platforms which connects most of us in the most analytical, digital and effective way. This is only hastened by the disruptive power of the internet, where we see the disaggregation of traditional news. US presidents Barrack Obama, Donald Trump and even Prime Minister Narendra Modi made us realize that conventional gatekeeping media can be bypassed to communicate with the masses directly. What matters today is your ability to create a narrative and these leaders have successfully shown that. This is also true for the corporate sector, if they have anything interesting they can ‘viralize’.
Q. How central is creating a narrative for an overarching reach?
A. Thanks to the digital age, the last decade belongs to the word “narrative”. Politicians have narratives, organisations and brands have them, a foreign intervention will need one. Social media platforms have empowered individuals to huddle up to form micronarratives, which stems from this human need to make sense of a situation, strengthen belief systems in a complex, connected world. People watch different channels say on YouTube for instance, to explore new forms of cooking, spirituality, gardening, surgery, medicine, music and even hardcore separatists have channels. Such micronarratives have made it possible for leaders like PM Modi and president Trump to work around them to formulate a grand narrative.
Q. You are mapping the 2,600-year history of universities across the world. Tell us something about it
A. Very few scholars, have dared analyse the 2,600-year history of world universities. You will be surprised to hear that almost 1,800 years belonged to India, 700 years belonged to Europe and only 100 years belonged to the US. Nobody has told this story. Over the last seven years my team is putting together a digital library and writing a connected institutional history. We collated 7,000 books and papers. I have come across works about how in the ancient world people thought of academic freedom, free speech, secularism. For some of these we even came across epigraphic evidence in Chinese.
Q. What distinguishes our current universities from those in the US ?
A. What makes US universities take a lead is that most of these institutions have allowed their alumni to run them. This has been my research in US. This paper was shared as a policy paper with the Indian government as well. Today’s institutions like IIMs have begun involving the alumni in the decision-making process.