#TCND (The Cellphone Named Desire, July 19, 2014):

SynTalk thinks about the Cellphone (the object & the metaphor). The links between multiple human identities (avatars) & social spaces, (terrestrial) fantasy, boredom and ‘shape-shifting’ performative aspects of life are explored from the lens of the Cellphone. SynTalk also examines if there is an addiction-like neurological (pathological) phenomenon afoot as we interact with our phones almost continually, and whether it is possible to understand the rise of ‘Selfie’. The concepts are derived off / from Rizzolatti (mirror neurons), Dunbar (Dunbar’s number), Human-Computer Interaction (HCI; ‘HHI’, UX, Usability), Granovetter (social networks, weak ties-strong ties), neuroscience (labile memory, somatosensory cortex, PFC, Dopamine, Oxytocin), McLuhan (medium & the message), Proteus Effect, and ‘technology appropriation’, among others. We also discuss if there is an epigenetic change happening in our memory. Is it possible for our brains to trust the computer? Does a Cellphone reduce or accentuate alienation in the society, and with one self? Has the Cellphone become a fetishistic object? Where and why is texting popular? Is not forgetting okay? What is the future? Will a new grammar evolve of dealing with Cellphones and other people? The SynTalkrs are: Biju Dominic (cognitive neuroscience, Final Mile Consulting, Mumbai), Prof. Anirudha Joshi (human computer interaction, IIT Bombay, Mumbai), Dr. Vidita Vaidya (neurobiology, TIFR, Mumbai), & Paromita Vohra (film making, Mumbai).

SynTalk is pleased and privileged to have hosted the following SynTalkrs (in alphabetical order) on its #TCND show.

Biju Dominic (cognitive neuroscience, behavioral economics, design, sociology) is a leading intellectual in the field of ‘Behaviour Architecture’ which combines two powerful sciences of cognitive neuroscience and behavioural economics. In a nutshell, he has developed the theory of how the science of cognition like attention, emotions, memory, learning, reasoning, problem solving affects human decision-making and behaviour. He practises behaviour architecture through FinalMile Consulting, which he cofounded in 2008. In one of the interesting pilot projects, he experimented with cognitive neuroscience to reduce number of deaths caused due to people crossing railway tracks. His profound understanding of human behaviour stems from his long-standing association with the marketing and advertising industry. In the past, he has had experience at Lintas India, Mudra Communications and DMA Branding. As Biju says, ‘To change human behaviour, you need to understand what happens in the human brain.’

Prof. Anirudha Joshi (computer science, artificial intelligence, design, logic, engineering) is a faculty member at the Industrial Design Centre, IIT Bombay, Mumbai. He teaches and does research in the field of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) design. His research essentially focuses on designing the interaction or interface between the product and the person who is going to use the software. For example, in one of the projects, he is trying to develop new designs for mobile device interfaces which are user-friendly, inexpensive and can transcend many boundaries – geographical, social & educational. He believes that it is imperative that design is not only creative but also meets the needs of the users and solves their problems. He conducts workshops on HCI for IT professionals where he helps them to institutionalize HCI in their organizations. He undertakes consulting assignments in user studies, interaction design and usability evaluation. He has authored papers relating to HCI for Indian and international conferences and journals.

Dr. Vidita Vaidya (neuroscience, biology, chemistry, psychology) is a leading intellectual and is presently an Associate Professor at the Department of Biological Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR, Mumbai). Her work includes understanding the neurocircuitry of emotions and its modulation by experience. Through her research she attempts to answer complex questions as to how the molecules (essentially chemicals) in the rodent brain shape their mood and behaviour and how the influence of environment, experiences on these molecules change brain circuits and functions. How life experiences have profound impact on the brain? Is reversal of feelings like depression & anxiety possible, and where are they encoded in the nervous system? Her research work also takes deep cues from the science of psychology.

Paromita Vohra (literature, film, sociology, arts) is a filmmaker (owns a film production company called Devi Pictures) and a writer. In her documentaries (latest is Partners in Crime), she explores subjects like urban life, pop culture, gender, politics & art. Her films have been screened in festivals, galleries & popular screening spaces. She has written the screenplay of the award-winning feature film Khamosh Pani. Her fiction and non-fiction writings have been included in anthologies such as Bombay Meri Jaan: Writings on Mumbai, Recess: The Penguin Book of Schooldays, and First Proof: Penguin New Writings from India. She also teaches scriptwriting as visiting faculty in numerous universities in India & abroad. She writes the column Paro-normal activity (in Mid-day) and ‘How To Find Indian Love’ (in Mumbai Mirror).

Note: Any & all errors in the brief profiles above are SynTalk’s own.

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