Payal Arora (PI) is a Professor and Chair in Technology, Values, and Global Media Cultures at Erasmus University Rotterdam. Her expertise lies in digital experience and user values among low-income communities worldwide and comes with more than a decade of fieldwork experience in such contexts. She is the author of a number of award winning books including the ‘Leisure Commons’ and most recently the “The Next Billion Users” with Harvard Press. Forbes named her the “next billion champion” and the right kind of person to reform tech. Several international media outlets have covered her work including the BBC, The Economist, Quartz, Tech Crunch, The Boston Globe, F.A.Z, The Nation and CBC. She has consulted on tech innovation for diverse organizations such as UNESCO, KPMG, GE, UNHCR, and HP and has given about 200 talks in 62 countries including a TEDx talk. She is the section editor for Global Perspectives, a new University of California Press journal. She lives in Amsterdam.

Usha Raman (PI) is a Professor in the Department of Communication, where her teaching and research interests focus on digital culture, feminist media studies, civic engagement and media pedagogy. Before moving into academia, she worked for several years as a freelance journalist and health communication practitioner. Her PhD, from the University of Georgia, explored the role of new communication technologies in the formation of scientific communities. She has over 30 research papers and book chapters and is author of Writing for Media (Oxford University Press, 2009). She has consulted with UNICEF-India on several health communication projects and is currently an honorary professorial fellow of The George Institute for Global Health. In 2013, she was the recipient of an International Collaborative Research Grant from the University of Sydney, Australia and in 2016, she was a Fulbright Faculty Fellow at the Comparative Media Studies program at MIT, where she engaged closely with the Center for Civic Media at the MIT Media Lab. In November 2019 she was a visiting fellow at the ZeMKI Centre for Media, Communication and Information Research at the University of Bremen, Germany. She edits Teacher Plus, a monthly magazine for school teachers, and is a columnist for The Hindu, one of India’s largest newspapers.

Sai Amulya Komarraju (Junior Researcher) is a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Development Management and Communication, MICA, Ahmedabad. She is the recipient of a six-month research grant from the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies that fosters innovative research on the role of digital technologies in reshaping the world of work(ers) in the global South. Her research work spanning feminist communication studies, platformization and future of work, and global digital cultures has been published in international journals including Feminist Media Studies and Media, Culture, & Society. Her doctoral research offers a glimpse of everyday feminism as rhetoric, micropolitics, and practice in non-traditional spaces of activism– the home. She has worked as a Rapporteur for a Consultation on social norms enabled transformation organized by UNICEF & NIRDPR. She was the research facilitator (Hyderabad) for the Connectors Study that looked into the emergence of children’s everyday practices of participation in circuits of social action, funded by the European Research Council. She is also currently engaged in an MHRD-SPARC funded project on digital expression of the selfie. She loves gardening and makes terracotta jewelry in her free time.

Siddharth Peter de Souza (Junior Researcher/Founder of Justice Adda) is the founder of Justice Adda, a legal design and storytelling social venture in India that works at the interface of law, policy and design. A portfolio of their work is available here. Siddharth is a Post Doctoral Researcher at the Global Data Justice Project at Tilburg Law School. He completed his PhD in Law at Humboldt University Berlin where he worked on the politics of legal indicators in rule of law promotion and their implications for contexts of legal pluralism. He was previously a German Chancellor Fellow at the Max Planck Foundation for International Peace and the Rule of Law, Heidelberg and a Judicial Clerk at the High Court of Delhi.

Chinar Mehta (Junior Researcher) is currently a doctoral scholar at the Department of Communication at the University of Hyderabad, looking to work on cultural & gender bias embedded in web design. Working as a student assistant, she aided in organizing roundtables related to online hate speech and gendered violence, commissioned by Facebook India. She has presented her papers at Imagine a Feminist Internet, Negombo, Sri Lanka, and at Frames of Reference, TISS, Mumbai. With an interest in media production, she has also been involved in making two documentary films; “Ghutan”, which is about a slum rehabilitation colony in Mahul Gaon, an area unfit for human settlement due to high air & water toxicity, and “The Dancing Lion of Mazgaon”, about the Chinese temple in Mazgaon, Mumbai. With training in information & communication technology, she has also worked as a web developer at Sprinklr Solutions Pvt. Ltd., Gurgaon, and has experience with technologies like Javascript, PHP, and Python.

Pallavi Bansal (Junior Researcher) is an External PhD Candidate at Erasmus University Rotterdam and an Assistant Professor at the Times School of Media, Bennett University, India. She has done her MSc in Media, Communication and Development from the London School of Economics and Political Science and has worked with the United Nations in Geneva and The Times of India in Delhi. Pallavi specializes in digital journalism and has written several women-centric articles and blogs advocating their rights. She delved into the world of mobile apps and journalism after working with a France-based news aggregator app News Republic. She was awarded the Gold Medal for securing the first position among seven colleges of the Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Delhi in the graduation course. Her current research focuses on feminist design of location-based digital labor platforms in India.

Shruti Singhal (event organizer/editor) is a content and communications professional with nearly 7 years of
experience in writing, editing, and podcasting.
She has written thought leadership articles for experts in various fields, authored in-depth features, and undertaken end-to-end operations for two podcast series. She completed her Masters from the Department of Communication, University of Hyderabad, and had the opportunity to coordinate the IAMCR 2014 Conference in Hyderabad, India, and curate content for two UNICEF Projects in Andhra Pradesh/Telangana.

Daniela Jaramillo-Dent (media coordinator/director) is a Doctoral Candidate in Communication at the University of Huelva (Spain) and Erasmus University Rotterdam (The Netherlands).  Her research focuses migratory narratives and platformed creative practices of othering, belonging, identity, and minority celebrity. She has participated in various projects related to social media platforms and the opportunities and risks they afford to immigrants and other disenfranchised communities. She has published her research in New Media & Society, The European Journal of Communication, and Media and Communication and has forthcoming publications in the International Journal of Communication, and chapters in various edited books. 

Shweta Mahendra Chandrashekhar (Junior Researcher) is currently an Assistant Professor (Sociology) at the ILS Law College, Pune, Maharashtra, India. She has completed her B.Com from the Symbiosis College of Arts and Commerce, Pune and MA in Sociology from the Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) with a specialization in Globalisation Studies, Sociology of Media, Human Rights and Social Justice. She is currently pursuing her PhD at the Department of Sociology, SPPU. Her research has delved into the practices and lifestyles of heartland migrants in Pune. Her current research project focuses on the reconstituting of mobility and migration relations for women workers of the informal sector in India and how digital technologies are mediating these relationships.

Ezgi Aktuğ (Digital Campaign Manager / Mar-Dec) is currently a research master student in the Sociology of Culture, Media and the Arts at Erasmus University Rotterdam. Her research interests include but are not limited to digital cultures and new media as an emancipatory tool for social change. She previously worked for many different organizations in Turkey as a content writer and editor.


Manisha Pathak-Shelat is Professor, Communication & Digital Platforms and Strategies at MICA, Ahmedabad, India and Chairs MICA’s Centre for Development Management and Communication. She has taught and worked as a media consultant and researcher in India, Thailand, and the US. She has a Ph.D. in Mass Communication with a minor in Gender and Women’s Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA and in Education from the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, India. Her research interests are communication for social change, gender, young people’s media cultures, new media, civic engagement, transcultural citizenship, and media literacy. She has shared her research globally as guest speaker and through her books, journal papers in New Media & Society, Journal of Youth Studies, Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, Communication Inquiry, Journal of Children and Media, Communicar, Media Asia, Journal of Consumer Behavior and book chapters. Awards and fellowships include The Soviet Land Nehru Award, Shastri Indo-Canadian Faculty Research Award, The Salzburg Seminar Fellowship, TATA Fellowship for the Study of Contemporary India, and MICA AGK Award for meritorious service. She is also the editor of the Journal of Creative Communications published by Sage with MICA. She has led several capacity building programs for non-profits, various state governments, corporate sector, and international organisations and she is an active member of the Leadership Forum for Vaccine Confidence.

Siddhi Gupta is is a Design Consultant with Justice Adda. She is pursuing an MA in Visual Communication from the Royal College of Art, London. Her interests lie in exploring illustration as a tool for disseminating information, especially in education. She completed her Bachelor’s from National Institute of Fashion Technology, Delhi with a thesis project that focused on integrating cultural knowledge and overcoming barriers to creative learning. 

Upasana Bhattacharjee (Junior Fellow, May-October 2021) is an interdisciplinary researcher working at the intersection of cyberculture and digital labour. She holds a Masters in Development Studies from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, India. She was a fellow at the Global Center of Spatial Methods for Urban Sustainability, Technische Universitat Berlin. Her Master’s Thesis was a multi-sited ethnographic research project on labour and community formation in open technology communities in India. Trained in qualitative methods, her research interests lie in hacker culture, community-driven innovation and digital cultures in South Asia. 

Soumita Basu is the founder CEO of Zyenika Inclusive Fashion, a company that designs clothes for all body types and physical abilities. Her work at Zyenika has been recognised with the Entrepreneurial India Award, 2021. She is the India Inclusion Fellow, 2020 and recognised as an Industry Disruptor by DO School, Berlin, UNWomen and the European Union. Soumita started her career as a journalist and then specialised as a social development practitioner and researcher, particularly in the domains of livelihoods, governance, and heath. Soumita’s focus has always been on cross-cutting issues like gender, inclusion, and equality. She is waiting for the publication of her reimagination of popular fairytales with a feminist lens. Soumita has earned a PG Diploma in Journalism, from Asian College of Journalism, and a Masters in Development Studies from ISS, The Hague, Erasmus University Rotterdam. She was awarded a fellow position at the Netherlands Fellowship Programme.

Sharmi Surianarain serves as the Chief Impact Officer, Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator in South Africa.  Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator develops African solutions for the global challenge of youth unemployment. Sharmi is an activist for opportunity creation for young people, particularly women. She is an Aspen African Leadership Initiative Fellow, Class of 2020 and sits on the Boards of Emerging Public Leaders, Ongoza, Metis, Instill Education and is on the Advisory Council for the NextGen Ecosystem Builders Africa 2020. Sharmi holds a B.A. from Harvard University, a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Laura Herman (Fellow) is a User Experience Research Lead for Creative Cloud & Emerging Products at Adobe and a PhD student at the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute. Her research at both institutions aims to unpack how technology-based design affordances influence artistic output and creative access across the globe. Her PhD research, in particular, examines the role of algorithms in artistic curation, perception, and creation. Previously, Laura studied cognitive neuropsychology at Princeton University, where her research on artistic perception was awarded the George A. Miller Prize in Cognitive Science, and she has also held positions at Intel and Harvard University, where she researched topics ranging from ubiquitous computing to afrofeminist technologies. Laura aims to bring an inclusive approach to researching and designing the next generation of creative affordances for populations in the Global South.

Past affiliates

Paula Wittenburg (intern, Sept-Dec 2021) Media and Communications student at the Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands. She is interested in sustainability, CSR, and transformation. Her working experience spans across engagements for a pro-bono student consulting organization to support start-ups in development countries, as well as an internship in corporate sustainable development.

René König (Project manager/media editor, Jan 2020- Dec 2021) is a sociologist and a PhD student at the University of Stuttgart. He is interested in online knowledge hierarchies and societal transformation processes related to the internet. He has conducted research on topics such as the platformization of scholarly communication (related book: Nentwich, M. & König, R., 2012, Cyberscience 2.0. Research in the Age of Digital Social Networks. Frankfurt/New York: Campus), the politics of Google’s web search (related book: König, R. and Rasch, M., eds., 2014, Society of the Query Reader. Reflections on Web Search. Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures) and decision-making processes in the Wikipedia community. He has worked for over ten years in the interdisciplinary field of technology assessment, first at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, then at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany where he was part of a large project on the implications of Big Data (ABIDA – Assessing Big Data, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research).

Mohammad Sahid Ullah (Senior researcher, Jan 2020-Dec 2021) is a Professor in the Department of Communication and Journalism at the University of Chittagong, Bangladesh. He has more than 50 academic publications and book chapters on new media and public engagement, journalism education, media laws, community radio, communication and social change, political economy and empowerment. His work has been published in the International Communication Gazette, South Asia Research, Asia-Pacific Media Educators, Journalism Studies, Journal of Science Communication and Media Asia. Ullah was the best paper winner in the first World Journalism Education Congress (WJEC) in 2007, worked as SAGE-Tejeswar Singh Memorial Fellow and visiting scholar at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore and Jonkoping University, Sweden. Ullah holds a Ph.D. from the School of Media and Arts, University of Queensland, Australia and served Co-Chair and Vice Chair of the Law Section of the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) for a decade (2006-2015).

Rawshon Akhter (Junior researcher, Jan 2020-Dec 2021) is a Doctoral Candidate in Media and Communication Studies at the University of Malaya, Malaysia. She is also working as an Associate Professor at the Department of Communication and Journalism, University of Chittagong, Bangladesh. Prior to her academic career she worked for different vernaculars in Bangladesh as Reporter and Consultant editor including the largest circulated daily Dainik Prothom Alo and Dainik Kalerkontho. She published in the Journal of Science Communication, Mass Communicators, and Journalism Studies. She worked for Worlds Journalism Studies (WJS).

Nahal Sheikh (Junior Fellow, June-December 2021)  is an Amsterdam-based journalist and researcher covering projects focused on social and cultural impact. Her journalistic work has centred around gender, art and culture writing for both international and Pakistani publications. She is currently completing her Research MA in New Media & Digital Culture at University of Amsterdam specialising in post-colonial media, misinformation, surveillance and technology in South Asia. Her recent research focused on how certain surveillance technologies in India reinforce religious discrimination within the country; and the circulation of Covid conspiracy books on Amazon. She was selected in Global Investigative Journalism Network’s (GIJN) Top 10 Data Journalism list for her article on the history of persuasive cartography and its relation to contemporary visual data biases.

Linnea Holter Thompson (Junior Researcher 2018-2019) is the lead author of the article ‘Crowdsourcing as a platform for digital labor unions’ with Payal Arora that served as an inspiration for the project. The article argues how global complex supply chains have made it difficult to know the realities in factories. Their existing structure obfuscates the networks, channels, and flows of communication between employers, workers, nongovernmental organizations and other vested intermediaries, creating a lack of transparency. Factories operate far from the brands themselves, often in developing countries where labor is cheap and regulations are weak. However, the emergence of social media and mobile technology has drawn the world closer together. Hence, this article examines how crowdsourcing platforms are used for both gathering and sharing information to foster accountability and maps the challenges in designing and implementing new monitoring systems on platforms that can pave the path for new forms of unionization and corporate social responsibility beyond just rebranding. She is currently a CSR Specialist for the Norwegian fashion retailer Varner.

Brinda Gupta (Intern, April-May 2021) is a 2nd-year student currently pursuing the five-year Integrated Programme in Management at IIM Indore. Having been brought up in Delhi, she believes to have grown up seeing both sides of the world. This exposure built her aspiration to bridge the gap between the two from an early age. In the social sector, she has previously worked for children with disabilities in association with Not-for-profits based out of Delhi. At IIM Indore, she is now helping under-privileged students obtain merit-based scholarships and clear standard examinations. Her interest lies in exploring ways to uplift the lives of workers, especially women employed in India’s vast informal sector. 

Samarth Gupta (Intern, July-Dec 2020) is a college senior pursuing M.Sc. Mathematics and B.E. Computer Science from BITS Pilani, India. His research interest lies in the fields of Computer Vision and digital humanities, particularly in exploring how technology can be leveraged for social good. He has diverse experience in the fields of Artificial Intelligence and humanities through internships at Indian Institute of Public Administration New Delhi, Indian Institute of Science Bengaluru and IIT Roorkee. He has won several awards and honours like the prestigious KVPY fellowship, Western Digital Scholarship and Summer Research Fellowship awarded by Indian Academy of Science and Government of India. He has a strong desire to develop innovative technology for social inclusion and exploring how different platforms can embed human values in them.