Team

Payal Arora (PI/ Founder of Catalyst Lab) 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, and HP and has given about 200 talks in 52 countries including a TEDx talk. She is the founder of Catalyst Lab, a digital storytelling organization and is a 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.

Mohammad Sahid Ullah (Senior Researcher)Mohammad Sahid Ullah 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).

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 was incubated by the Cambridge Social Ventures Programme, Cambridge Judge Business School. He and his team work at the interface of law, policy and design, and they have developed several projects, including an E-Book of Illustrated cases of the Supreme Court of India as drawings which was recognised as one of 50 Innovative projects by the UN- Sustainable Development Solutions Network – Youth. Siddharth is also a PhD researcher at Humboldt University Berlin, and works on the politics of legal indicators in rule of law promotion and their implications for contexts of legal pluralism. He was 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. He has studied Law in Delhi and Cambridge.

Sai Amulya Komarraju (Junior Researcher)is a doctoral researcher in the Department of Communication, University of Hyderabad. Her research interests include feminist media studies, feminist cultural studies and digital culture. Her doctoral research explores how Hyderabadi millennials learn about gender, gender politics, feminisms, and feminist parenting in India. She has co-authored over three papers and a commentary piece. She worked as a Rapporteur for a Consultation on social norms enabled transformation organized by UNICEF & NIRDPR. She was a 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. In her free time, she follows fan wars on social media.

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.

Rawshon Akhter (Junior Researcher)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).

René König (Junior Researcher, Social Media Coordinator)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).


Affiliates

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 FemLab.co 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 Stakeholder Analyst at Rådgiver Oslo, Norway.

Pallavi Bansal (External Researcher) is 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 empowering low-income women healthcare workers through the gig economy.

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. 

Shweta Mahendra Chandrashekhar (External 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.

Samarth Gupta 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.