The machine to aspire to: The computer in rural south India


  • Joyojeet Pal University of Michigan



India, laptops, children, cinema, aspiration


This study examined the perception of technology from the frame of aspiration in rural India. We argue here that the idea of technology as a critical part of modernity has been deeply tied to India’s discourse of development, and that this was in turn a portrayal of technology in a range of outlets in the public sphere. In villages of rural south India, we found an environment of great expectations from technology to reduce poverty and open urban opportunities, including from those who had never used a computer before. Specifically in schools, where this research was conducted, we found that computers played a much larger role than just as a delivery mechanism for digital educational material since they represented an aspirational artifact to children and parents alike. With historically low performance records at public schools, the computer frequently has been seen as a device offering a cure to systemic educational problems. Children, in part imbibing a discourse of technology from their own parents and media, have seen the computer as a critical part of their schooling experience. The device, and its mastery, then became an affirmation of pecking order among children themselves, and influenced the way that they interacted with fellow students.

Author Biography

Joyojeet Pal, University of Michigan

Assistant Professor, School of Information




How to Cite

Pal, J. (2012). The machine to aspire to: The computer in rural south India. First Monday, 17(2).