Dissertation Research: Following infrastructural changes in the story of India's development through Aadhaar
Can a state empower its citizens by uniquely identifying them? This question is central to debates about registration of Indian residents in the biometrics-based national identification project called Aadhaar (translation: Foundation). This dissertation advances public understanding of biometrics-based bureaucratic practices by examining the tension between the promise of empowerment and the challenges of achieving it by producing an ethnography of the legal, administrative, and technological controversies over the design, implementation, and use of Aadhaar. The Indian government is proselytizing Aadhaar enrollment by emphasizing the benefits of being made accountable to state sponsored programs. However, critics express skepticism not only by invoking potential for surveillance enabled by Aadhaar, but also by articulating state accountability as a promise that goes beyond unique identification. The dissertation research specifically focuses on distinctive forms of citizenship that emerge in relation to the differential ability of residents in leveraging Aadhaar to make social welfare claims. Its aim is to extend the reach of Science and Technology Studies (STS) scholarship to sites and practices that are key to the emerging real-worldly challenges of using biometrics for citizen empowerment.
Grant: Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant, STS Program, Division of Social and Economic Sciences, National Science Foundation (NSF)
Restoring Credit: How people understand and interact with credit scoring systems
(since Sep. 2017)
While there is growing awareness of the implications of credit scoring systems for social and economic inequality, little is known about how those who are concerned about their credit scores interpret and engage with them. How do ordinary users make sense of scoring systems that appear to be inscrutable? What kind of strategies and tactics do they use to remedy the situation? What is the role of tools and intermediaries, such as credit repair consultants, in this process? Drawing on work in science & technology studies (STS), sociology, and information science, this project will explore these questions through a longitudinal qualitative study of people’s credit repair practices.
Grant: Small Grants Award, Institute for the Social Sciences, Cornell University.
Researchers: Malte Ziewitz (Principal Investigator) and Ranjit Singh (Co-Principal Investigator)
Life of a Tuple: The Assam NRC as an Infrastructure of Reform in Citizen Identification
(since Nov. 2016)
This research investigates whether the Indian state can effectively differentiate between citizens and non-citizens through computational means of determining citizenship. It focuses on the updation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam where the state government is updating the list of all Assamese Indian citizens in order to differentiate them from Bangladeshi immigrants. This process involves building a genealogical database of citizens to confirm with the jus sanguinis system of Indian citizenship wherein a person acquires citizenship through their parents or ancestors. Situated at the intersection of Information Technology (IT), Law, and Society, this project leverages the Assam NRC exercise to articulate how specific information infrastructures enable particular modes of representing populations and the emergent challenges of building a document-based genealogical database of citizens in India.
Grant: Research Grant Programme, Azim Premji University, Bengaluru, India.
Project Site: Life of a Tuple—Researchers at Work (RAW), Center for Internet and Society (CIS), New Delhi and Bengaluru, India
Back to the Future: Situating 'Technology' in 'Science, and Technology Studies'
(May 2013 - June 2014)
This project explored the historical context within which the discussion paper on Social Construction of Technology (SCoT) emerged and the professional and discursive efforts of STS practitioners to sustain the eventual shift in focus of STS as an academic discipline from socio-cultural explanations of science to those of science and technology. Taking the SCoT paper as an exemplar of this turn to technology, this project traced the drafting, publication, and reception of the SCOT approach between 1982 and 1987 to provide insights into the development of STS as an academic discipline and extend the notion of boundary-work to professions beyond the sciences. Making a claim for expanding disciplinary boundaries is not a singular event in time. Boundary-work is a continuous practical accomplishment of professional practitioners who use accountably rational criteria of intelligibility to determine the boundaries of their professional work. An expansion claim, thus, is only as good as the work done to maintain it.
Supervisor: Michael Lynch
Award: The Sheila Jasanoff Prize for Academic Excellence in Science Technology Studies for the best graduate student paper within the previous three semesters (May 2015)
Invited Talk [Keynote Speaker]: Ranjit Singh, 'Back to the Future: Situating the 'T' in 'STS'', at the Workshop on Social Construction of Technology Coming of Age: New Challenges and Opportunities Ahead, (Trondheim: Norwegian University of Science and Technology, 3-5 June 2014).
Locating Publics: Co-Production of the Bt Brinjal Controversy and Publics in India
(Jan. - July 2011)
This project traced a sequence of historical events between 2005 and 2010 that led up to the National Consultations on Bt Brinjal in January and February, 2010 organized for the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). It evaluated the persistent notions of science governance in India and placed them within the historicity of the controversy. On 9th February, 2010, the then Indian Minister of State for Environment and Forests (MoSEF), Jairam Ramesh, imposed a moratorium on the agricultural production of Bt Brinjal after organizing a set of public consultations on the issue. The moratorium not only portrays the possibilities inherent within a public debate, but it also marks another significant event in the continuous evaluation of science and its impact on the developing economy of India. Right from the modern Chipko Movement of the early 1970s initiated as a protest against deforestation for industrialization to Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save Narmada Movement) since late 1980s against the construction of Narmada Dam, the public conversations on science in India are marked by distinct peaks of criticism within the generic troughs of belief that development through science is equivalent to progress of the country. In this project, I explored the the Bt Brinjal controversy as yet another critique of this belief system around science-led development in India.
Presentation: Ranjit Singh, 'Testing for the Post-normal age: Investigating Scientific Risk Assessment in Bt Brinjal Controversy', at the Science Studies Reading Group Meeting (Ithaca: Department of Science and Technology Studies, Cornell University, 15 April 2013).
Institution: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASoS), Maastricht University
Vaacha: A Tribal HealthCare Management System
(Jan. 2007 - July 2008)
This project focussed on building a healthcare information visualization system of patients who came to the health camps organized by Bhasha, an NGO working on the study, documentation, and conservation of marginal languages in the tribal belt of Gujarat. It was an investigation of the circumstances which lead to disease outbreaks in the tribal belt of Gujarat and an intervention in evaluating contexts and devising healthcare policy using data visualization as a tool. In addition to creating a reference index of support systems for patients suffering from various diseases, the project set out to experiment with techniques to represent statistical indicators on quality of life of such patients. My attempt was to visualize health as a way of life.
Supervisor: Binita Desai
Publication: Ranjit Singh and Ravi Kiran Atluri, 'Democracy and Policy Games: The New Information Panchayats', in Journal of Creative Communications, Vol. 2, no. 3 (2007), pp. 329-344.
Institution: Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology (DA-IICT)
This was my final year research project towards completion of my undergraduate studies in BTech in Information and Communication Technology at DA-IICT.