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Social Media and the Boundaries Between Work and Non-Work in a South Indian Setting

Venkatraman, Shriram; (2017) Social Media and the Boundaries Between Work and Non-Work in a South Indian Setting. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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This thesis is based on a 15-month ethnography conducted in a peri-urban area adjacent to the south Indian city of Chennai, Tamil Nadu. The fieldsite comprises of a newly established special economic zone catering to the IT sector and employing over 200,000 IT workers amidst a few rural villages with a population of around 30,000. A key consequence of the transformation of this area from agriculture to a knowledge economy is the varying scales of adoption of personal communication technologies and social media by its different socio-economic groups. As exploring the role of social media in the everyday lives of people of this area is the central focus of this ethnography, this involved an in-depth research of both their online and offline lives. This thesis presents the impact of social media in work and non-work settings such as home and education, which in turn are influenced by factors such as caste, age, class, politics, and gender. The ethnography made clear the degree to which social media usage was deeply rooted in local traditions and practices. This thesis explores how social media constantly undermines the modern workplace boundaries of work and non-work spaces. While taking work home is seen as a social conformance to the modern workplace expectations, managing non-work aspects at work is generally viewed as dissent. However, this thesis argues that such dissent is actually in conformance to the historical ideology of work in south India where such boundaries traditionally did not exist and constant interactions with the non-work space was considered a part of everyday sociality. The impact of social factors led to relative continuity between offline and online spaces. For example, with respect to gender, women belonging to certain castes were either barred from accessing social media or kept low online visibility under surveillance from families and caste networks, thereby reflecting offline patriarchy. Offline hierarchies of class and age were also reflected online. Families went further in using social media to showcase ideal in-group behaviour to the outside world. A direct reflection of the aspiration for social mobility in this area was in education. A key finding was that the symbolic interpretation of social media differed significantly based on the status and the resources that the schools possessed within the community and the socio-economic groups that the students belonged to. This also influenced the teacher-student relationships on social media. The ethnography presents evidence for these uses and consequences of social media both for villagers and the new class of IT workers.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Social Media and the Boundaries Between Work and Non-Work in a South Indian Setting
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1574691
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