[Reader-list] Sarai.txt 2.2 (text version)

Aarti aarti at sarai.net
Mon Jun 13 15:20:52 IST 2005

Sarai txt 2.2
1 May - 1 July, 2005
Also see: http://broadsheet.var.cc/blog for previous issues.


A blank audio cassette, CD, notebook is a medium of as well as testimony 
to multiple everyday acts of creativity; a tool and an impetus to the 
flow of needs, desires and friendships; a gift, and also a commodity. 
That which does not contain anything can take any form. That which does 
not have a fixed location finds itself constituting the rhythms of 
different relationships. It flows, leaving trails in the landscape.

These trails are lines of transmission. They could be the pre-configured 
circuits on which transmission rides. Or rewired circuits, as that which 
is transmitted seeks and finds new shapes, carriers, loops, in its path. 
And they are also eddies, of acts performed and journeys undertaken when 
that which is being transmitted spills over its destined routes.

Depending on how lines of power are drawn, and where we position 
ourselves, we experience and register blockages, barriers, risks, 
threats, fears and small moments of epiphany.


Content of the text version:
(Does not include the poster)

Anchor texts:

- Production of Newness (commons-law post by Solomon Benjamin)
- Forms of Technology Transfer (from public lecture at 'Contested 
Commons Trespassing Publics' conference, Sarai-CSDS and ALF, by Doron 
Ben Atar)


- PLAY: Even Before I have Stepped into The Station... (Meera Pillai, 
Sarai Independent Fellow)
- SHUFFLE: How to Build a Transmitter
- REPLAY: What it Is and What It's Called (from presentation at 
'Contested Commons Trespassing Publics' conference, Sarai-CSDS and ALF, 
by Jane Gaines)
- PAUSE: Long Distance Conversations (Shuddhabrata Sengupta)
- REWIND: The Censor and the Interpreter (from presentation at 'History, 
Memory, Identity' seminar at Sarai-CSDS, by Luisa Passerini)
- RECORD: The Map is Never Complete/Terracotta (Muthata Ramanathan, 
Sarai Independent Fellow, and Smriti Vohra)
- RELEASE: MGM Vs Grokster: "My Way" to "Our Way"

- Sarai[s] : Saraiki + frEeMuzik.net
- Forthcoming: Medianagar 02
- Credits

write to : broadsheet at sarai.net for print copies.

SIDE 01:

Subject: Production of Newness
Date: 19/03/2005
To: commons-law at sarai.net
Reply to: sollybenj at yahoo.co.in


I want to raise some questions and provocations about the 'production of 
newness' regarding settled understandings about modes of producing 
social goods, specifically in the context of the divide between research 
in the university setting and its application on the ground.
My observations come from a close look at three of India's large 
industrial clusters - one in Delhi, which in 1995 manufactured about 30% 
of the cables (23 family types) and conductors (both copper and 
aluminium) in the Indian market; and textile clusters in the cities of 
Kancheepuram (of 'high grade' silk sarees) and Ramanagaram (silk 
reeling, with Asia’s largest silk cocoon market).
Our studies in these areas have been to trace how these economies grew, 
paralleling macro-economic transformation, to demonstrate that very 
little, if not all, of the innovation came from non-university trained 
people, on the job. Not only is the range of innovations in all three 
places fascinating, but also, in the very short period of three months, 
a new fabric made out of silk waste found itself in the high-fashion 
markets of Milan, New York and Tel Aviv, via 'suitcase entrepreneurs'.
I would like to point out that there was no intellectual property regime 
to 'sustain and foster innovation', and no technical or management 
training by NGOs or government agencies. There were a few cases where 
there was an attempt to promote 'new technologies' - one by an NGO, and 
the other by the Tata Energy Research Institute - on silk reeling. These 
were total disasters, and the overqualified technicians doing their 
stints in the field were the laughing stock of the scruffy locals, who 
commented that the salaries would be better utilised in buying more 
As for 'basic research', one has only to visit the computers supplied by 
Japan Aid laid out in thick plastic sheets in a 'demonstration' Tata 
silk farm near Bangalore. I suspect that as part of a Nehruvian 
development argument, the issue of basic research in universities, as 
contrasted with 'slummy'/applied research innovation, reflects a 
politics of the ability to corner resources. Earlier, it was the select 
few in the IITs (Indian Institute of Technology); and now it's the 
multinationals, via complex contractual regulations and the 
international intellectual property rights asserted in their newfound 
I'll take the chance to mention here a very interesting document - the 
1912 Mysore Economic Conference by Sir Vishwaria, where the issue was 
technological innovation in silk production. The verbatim accounts of 
the discussions show that the big debate was whether to have research 
exclusively in laboratories, or instead for scientists to sleep out on 
the farms, and observe how farmers reared cocoons and made yarn. And in 
this way, test out their 'innovations' in the field, and move away from 
a framework of 'technology transfer' to a framework of 'technology, 
basic and applied'.
For those interested, we'll be happy to share this, perhaps in a more 
reflective piece. But for now, I strongly urge a look at accounts of 
historical and social processes like the 1912 conference! History may 
help us ask necessary questions about our assumptions and axioms.


Excerpted and adapted from a posting by Solomon Benjamin on the 
commons-law list.


- Forms of Technology Transfer

During the 18th and 19th centuries, there were three forms of technology 
transfer between the US and Europe. One was the knowledge itself, 
whichever way it came. It could come as something written or described, 
but this was problematic because descriptions lacked standard 
measurements. For example, when people registered for patents in the 
English Patent Office, they were required to describe the machine, but 
they always kept their accounts vague because they feared that if the 
descriptions were too detailed, the machine would be copied.
Another form of transfer was the machines themselves. But these were not 
of great use unless you knew how to operate them. Which brings me to the 
central agent, the people themselves, the carriers of skill and 
technological know-how, who were crucial to this process.
The migration of artisans and the dissemination of technical skills took 
place in spite of a concerted effort on the part of the British 
government to keep its trade secrets at home. As the imperial conflict 
between the patriots and the metropolis took shape in the mid-1770s, the 
British Parliament ruled that all people leaving for North America from 
the British Isles and Ireland, with the intent to settle, were required 
to pay £50 per head. After the United States won its independence from 
Britain, the act of exporting equipment for various industries, from 
textiles, leather, paper and metals to glass and clock-making, was 
prohibited. The Utopian Socialist thinker Robert Owen, recalling his 
earlier days in the English textile industry, reported that in the 
1780s, “Cotton mills were closed against all strangers. No one was 
admitted. They were kept with great jealousy against all intruders, with 
their doors being always locked.” A tactic that can still evoke smiles 
was that of employing Welsh speakers in certain mills. These people were 
‘safe’; they could not go anywhere or divulge anything, as no one 
understood their language.
The American ‘founders’ knew of these restrictions. But they also 
believed that for the United States to survive politically and 
economically, it had to close the technology gap. Framers of the US 
Constitution unanimously approved Article 1, Section 8, which instructed 
the government to promote the progress of science and useful arts by 
securing, for a limited time, for authors and inventors, the exclusive 
right to their respective writings and discoveries.
This was a significant break from the English system of intellectual 
property, which was itself founded on the promotion of piracy. In the 
14th century, the English monarchy lured European artisans to England by 
offering them a production monopoly. The English law of patents granted 
what are known as ‘patents of importation’ to introducers. ‘Inventors’ 
and ‘introducers’ are different categories; yet in the English system, 
they are not distinct.
The first United States Patent Act broke with the European tradition of 
patents of importation. It restricted patents exclusively to original 
inventors, and established the principle that prior use anywhere in the 
world constituted grounds for invalidating a patent. In theory, the US 
pioneered a new standard of intellectual property rights that set the 
highest possible standards for patent protection, that of worldwide 
originality and novelty. But the intellectual property laws Congress 
enacted in the first fifty years of its existence were a smokescreen for 
a very different reality. The statutory requirement of worldwide 
originality and novelty did not hinder widespread, and officially 
sanctioned, technology piracy.
William Thornton, who administered the American Patent Office for an 
extended period, did not insist on the oath of worldwide novelty. It is 
indeed entirely possible that most of the patent applications received 
were for devices that were already in use, since acquiring a patent 
required little more than the successful completion of paperwork. 
Moreover, the Patent Act of 1793 explicitly prohibited foreigners from 
obtaining patents in the US for inventions that had been put to work 
elsewhere in the world. This meant that while US citizens could petition 
for introducers patents in European nations, European inventors could 
not protect their intellectual property in America.
What seems to be emerging, then, is a new understanding of the proper 
arena for technology piracy. The young republic embraced a Janus-faced 
approach. In theory, it pioneered a new standard of intellectual 
property with the strictest possible requirements. A self-respecting 
government, eager to join the international community, could not flaunt 
its violation of the laws of other nations. But in practice, the state 
encouraged widespread piracy and industrial espionage.
In this process of theoretical distancing from/pragmatic embracing of 
piracy, the US had come full circle. The fledgling republic had become 
the primary technology exporter in the world. The years of piracy upon 
which the current stature was founded were, however, erased from the 
American national memory. The intellectual debt owed to imported 
technology did not turn the US into a champion of the free exchange of 
knowledge. As the diffusion of technology began to flow eastward of the 
Atlantic, America emerged as the world’s foremost advocate of extending 
intellectual property rights to the international sphere.

Excerpted and adapted from “US Path to Wealth and Power: Intellectual 
Piracy and the Making of America”, a public lecture by Doron Ben- Atar 
at the ‘Contested Commons, Trespassing Publics’ conference organised by 
Sarai-CSDS and the Alternative Law Forum (6-8 January 2005, New Delhi). 
The full text of the lecture can be accessed at: 
An audio file of the lecture is available for free download at: 




- Even Before I Have Stepped into the Station...

Spotting us from the corner of their eyes, the boys leap up and flee. 
Joseph calls out, “Hey, it’s us! Where are you off to?” They pause, two 
or three with a leg over the railings. Their faces split in grins, they 
wait for us to catch up with them.
“Did you think we were the police?” asks Joseph, his cheerful voice 
“We were playing bomma,” they explain. A simple game played by younger 
boys at Vijaywada railway station: tossing a coin, calling out heads or 
tails, keeping the coin if you call correctly. The keepers of law 
mistake this for gambling, and usually object.
Curious passersby slow down, stop to watch us talk to the children. 
There are seven boys aged 8-12 in this group, hanging out at the end of 
the handicapped-accessible ramp beside the broad steps of the station’s 
side entrance. Vijaywada is the largest junction on the South Central 
Railway. It services 135 trains and about 30,000 passengers daily. On an 
average, 23 children arrive here each day, having left their homes and 
families. Joseph and Basha, who trawl the railway platforms daily on 
behalf of a local NGO working with children in need of care and 
protection, are familiar figures to these particular boys. The fact that 
I am accompanying Joseph and Basha makes me ‘safe’, in the group’s 
“Does anyone speak Hindi? She can speak Hindi,” Joseph says. In my 
minimal Telugu, and with hand gestures, I explain, “Telugu raadu. I 
can’t maatlaadu, but if you speak to me, artham cheysukontaanu.”
All seven are amused at my incompetence, but generous about my effort. 
Three start talking to me in Hindi, and a fourth, we discover, speaks 
Tamil, so he and I have that language in common. Most important is their 
question “Tumhara gaon kahaan (Where is your village)?”
One of them has travelled to Bangalore, and asks me where the street 
children’s shelters are. “I looked for them, but I couldn’t find them.” 
I give him a quick tip on how to locate the shelters there.
A man comes by with a flask and tiny plastic “glasses” that can hold 
about two tablespoons of liquid. Within a moment, we are all sipping 
tea. The vendor is in a chatty mood. “I tell them they should also sell 
tea...I can help one or two. They can sell tea and make Rs. 50-100 a 
day. But they don’t listen.”
The boys ignore him. “Do you hang out here often?” I ask. They say yes, 
nod casually.
“And no one disturbs you?”
“No...Or if they come, we go there. Or there.” They point to the roof 
abutting the ramp, to the roof of the wide porch, to the space under the 
metal stairs leading from a footbridge to the road outside the railway 
station. “When we want to sleep, we go under those stairs. Or up there, 
when it is hot. We climb up that.” They point at a cast iron drainpipe 
along the side of the building.
“Is that difficult?”
They laugh. One boy leaps onto the railings. In a couple of seconds, he 
has shimmied up to the roof and back. “We can climb up that neem tree to 
the porch. Or use that pipe over there...or those pipes.”
I’ve not even entered yet, and already I’ve seen three non-standard 
living spaces that the Vijaywada railway station provides to its young 
residents. Spaces that I have never noticed there before. This was my 
second lesson in recent times. Earlier, three young men at the station 
had drawn freehand maps to indicate spaces they thought were ‘safe’ and 
‘dangerous’ for children who live there. In their sketch, a well-lit, 
modern food court and the railway reservation counter were marked as 
dangerous, and the roofs of footbridges and stairways connecting 
different platforms were marked as the safest - for rest, for play, for 
living. How the youngsters inhabiting the station perceived its spaces 
in terms of ‘security’ and ‘threat’ was in complete contradiction to how 
those same spaces were perceived by me, a middle-aged, middle-class woman.

Meera Pillai
mpillai65 at yahoo.com
Sarai Independent Fellow, 2004-05. Her research is titled “Food Courts 
and Footbridges: Conceptualising Space in Vijaywada Railway Station”.

Compiled from two postings, which can be accessed at:


Materials Required
ØA 1-megahertz crystal oscillator
ØAn audio transformer
ØA generic printed circuit board
ØA phone plug
ØA 9-volt battery clip
ØA 9-volt battery
ØA set of alligator jumpers
ØSome insulated wire for an antenna

How to Build a Transmitter
1] Flatten out the two metal tabs on the bottom of the transformer and 
glue them to the circuit board.
2] Insert and firmly secure the leads of the oscillator into the circuit 
board, placing it far to the right. Solder.
3] Insert the stripped end of the red wire of the transformer into a 
hole in the printed circuit board. Insert the red wire from the battery 
clip into another hole that is connected by copper foil to the first 
hole. Solder.
4] Insert the white transformer wire into a hole whose copper foil is 
connected to the upper left pin of the oscillator. Solder.
5] Cut one of the clip leads in half and strip the insulation from the 
last half-inch of each piece.
6] Insert the black wire of the battery clip into a hole whose copper 
foil connects to the lower right pin of the oscillator. Do the same with 
the stripped end of one of the alligator clip leads. Solder the two 
wires to the copper foil. The alligator clip will be the “ground” 
7] Insert the stripped end of the other alligator clip into a hole that 
is connected to the upper right pin of the oscillator. Solder to the 
copper foil. This is the antenna connector.
8] Open the phone plug, insert the blue and green wires of the 
transformer into the plastic handle. Put each of the transformer wires 
into holes in the plug. Solder.

Depending on the antenna, the transmitter can send voice and music 
across the room, or across the street. To get a good range, clip the 
ground wire to a good ground, such as a cold water pipe, and clip the 
antenna to a long wire. Choose your range. Transmit.



- What It Is, and What It’s Called

How many times can a joke be told if a joke be told more than once?
How many ways can a joke be told if a joke be told more than once?
What would a jester do if told that a joke dies with its first telling?
Would a joke remain the same joke if we only changed the spelling?

In 1895, the Lumière brothers in France made a film called L'Arroseur 
Arrosé, or The Waterer Watered. The plot was apparently simple, comic, 
almost slapstick. A gardener is holding a hose. A boy steps on the hose, 
choking off the flow of water. The gardener peers down the hose. The boy 
lifts his foot from the hose. The gardener is squirted.
Early films were in high demand; the period between 1895 and 1899 was a 
sort of Wild West of opportunity to reproduce at random and at large. 
Often the original negatives ran out, and the prints could only be shown 
about 60 times; by then they were reduced to shreds. In such instances, 
as with The Waterer Watered, the only option was to re-shoot, i.e., to 
‘re-tell’ the joke. So, like all jokes which grow and transform in the 
telling, this rudimentary plot changed with each version. Stylistic 
components such as depth of field were introduced; so were dramatic 
elements. The boy is spanked; the ‘watered’ gardener ‘waters’ the boy in 
turn; the boy is played by a girl...
 From 1896 to 1903 occurs what I call the moment of the too-too-many 
copies of The Waterer Watered. Through my research on this film’s 
multiple variants, we know that a film called The Gardener (Le 
Jardinier, 1895, Lumière Company) was shown at the Salon Indien in 
Paris. The film later becomes The Waterer Watered. This is further 
complicated, in that the Lumières made the same film, The Waterer 
Watered, more than once.

Making and Re-making:
Most textbooks record one version of The Waterer Watered, and possibly 
two. Only two textbooks from the 1930s refer to ten versions. I have 
actually counted up to sixteen versions. As we shall see, these versions 
were not just by the Lumières, the ‘original’ makers. In 1896, Méliès 
made his own version. Edison made an 1896 American version, Bad Woman, 
Bad Boy, in which both roles are played by women; this film is not 
extant. The British made The Bad Boy and the Garden Hose (Blackton and 
Smith), and The Gardener with Hose or The Mischievous Boy (W.H. Smith). 
Then we have two more French examples, one of them made by the pioneer 
woman producer/director Alice Guy-Blaché.
Most interesting to me is the mystery print, The Gardener and the Bad 
Boy, which was shown in New York in 1896, but had no mention of any 
exhibitor or distributor. The date of this ‘extra-legal’ screening does 
not correspond with the date that the Lumière company actually showed 
the first work in New York.

Prints and Titles:
The other question of the too-too-many copies, besides the number of 
copies, is also what you call the copies. Do the titles give us an 
indication of the prints? Because all we have to go on, in our attempt 
to do this kind of motion picture history, this history of copyright, 
are titles and prints in archives all over the world which have probably 
been misnamed. In addition to the multiple translations of the French 
L’Arroseur Arrosé as Waterer and Watered and The Waterer Watered, you 
will also see The Practical Joke and the Gardener, Watering the 
Gardener, The Sprinkler Sprinkled, and Teasing the Gardener. With all of 
these variations, where is the correspondence, if any, between the 
titles and the prints?
Some argue that The Waterer Watered is the first comedy, some argue that 
it’s the first fiction film. I have to tell you that I am not a believer 
in ‘firsts’. I am also on the warpath against ‘origins’. And what I love 
about this particular project is that it is impossible to really 
determine where the ‘first’ occurs, when the ‘first’ occurs, or if there 
is a ‘first’...

Excerpted and adapted from the presentation “Early Cinema, Heyday of 
Copying” by Jane Gaines, at the ‘Contested Commons, Trespassing Publics’ 
conference organised by Sarai-CSDS and the Alternative Law Forum (6-8 
January 2005, New Delhi). An audio file of the presentation can be 
accessed at: 


- Long Distance Conversations

I am a prisoner of phone booths. STD/ISD/PCO/FAX/Xerox By Japanese 
Machine booths. I am enthralled by their darkened glass panes, 
stencilled signage and plastic flowers, the late hours they keep, and 
the stories that gather on their wallpapers. Like an idiot hungry for 
tales of travellers who idled in the sarais of the Delhi sultanate, I 
waste my time in the phone booths of ‘90s New Delhi. Even when I have 
nothing to say and no one to call. I go there to eavesdrop on the world, 
to whisper in my head the magic of distant place names: Adas, Addagadde, 
Galsi, Gambhoi, Kanjirapuzha, Kalna, Zira, Zineboto. Or, I search 
further in the book of codes for cities with enchantments: Rosario, 
Uppsala, Valparaiso, Zauqa, Aqaba...and Sandnes...and Los Angeles.
...Phone booths in the city centre, close to railway stations and cheap 
hotels, are home to a floating population of tourists and travellers in 
various stages of fatigue and enthusiasm. They unbuckle their voluminous 
rucksacks, unzip their hip pouches to take out scraps of paper with 
phone numbers in Belgium or Germany, while imagining the prospects of 
return and mapping their future itineraries. Will it be Ladakh before 
Goa, or Dharamsala before Varanasi? These are the roving envoys of the 
lonely planet, invariably overcharged by smooth phone booth owners who 
hide their racism behind the complicated arithmetic of time and money 
...A refugee Afghan doctor and his wife come to ring up Kabul. I asked 
them once if they still have friends or relatives there. “No,” they 
said, “everyone is dead, or in exile. We call only to see if the house 
we left behind is still standing. When the phone rings, it means that 
the house has not been shelled.”
...Three Malayali nurses, exceptionally graceful, regularly call up 
family in their home town. After the change has been tendered, the boss 
of our phone booth, who lets the nurses move to the head of the queue 
(no one seems to mind), asks them searching questions about the 
Christian faith. Is the Holy Ghost a ghost? Was Jesus reborn after his 
death? Did the Virgin Mary have a normal delivery? Do Christians have 
caste? The nurses painstakingly answer these questions in halting Hindi, 
promise to try and find out from their priest.
...The night’s calls are nearly over, at 12.40 am. Along with me, 
there’s a backpacker still trying to get through to Barcelona, and the 
boss, staring at cable TV. The phone rings, but the boss and the 
backpacker have fallen asleep, and for the next twenty-five minutes or 
so, the shiny-shoed salesman who rushes in makes long-distance love to a 
married woman in Bangalore. Sometimes he breaks off from Kannada and 
begins talking about her long hair in English. He jokes about the 
sleeping husband, asks for news of the children, promises to see her soon.
...The boss counts the day’s takings and begins to roll down the 
shutter. I offer to drive the backpacker down to the all-night STD booth 
outside the Eastern Court buildings on Janpath. We drive in silence; we 
have things to say to the people we need to call, not to each other. 
Then my companion decides to tell me that his friend is dead and cold in 
a hospital morgue, that he is catching the next flight back in the 
morning with her body. When we get to the booth, he lets me wake the 
operator and get the cards with which to work the phones. He shuts the 
door tight behind him when he calls, and I cannot hear his voice. When 
he is done, he thanks me and leaves before I can ask him if I can take 
him to his hotel, or to the hospital.
...How did he say what he had to tell his friend’s family? “Flavia and I 
are coming home tomorrow, but she is not alive”, or “Flavia died this 
morning at 6.45 in her sleep”, or just, “Flavia is dead.”
Sometimes I think of all the telephone conversations that criss-cross 
the earth...Numbers don’t match, there is static interference, satellite 
links fail, people don’t know what to say, or are unable to say what 
they mean. Perhaps all that is unsaid collects each night and hovers 
above us like an unknown layer in the atmosphere, until it is blown away 
on the rare days when people find it possible to really speak to each 

Shuddhabrata Sengupta
shuddha at sarai.net

Excerpted from an essay first published in The India Magazine, 
August-September 1996; republished in Elsewhere, ed. Kai Friese, Penguin 
India, New Delhi, 2000. For full text see: 


- The Censor and the Interpreter

For an oral historian, the first major source is the encounter between 
two subjectivities, between the interviewee and the interviewer. But 
when I say two subjectivities, I mean not only the agency, the capacity 
to act. I mean also the world of ideas, imagination, thought, emotion, 
which inhabits the subject. And the source here is to be understood in 
the literal sense like the water which vivifies. The source is the 
meeting between human beings, and therefore the recognition between 
them, how they relate to each other and present each other, the 
understanding between them, and finally the actual emotion of meeting.
So this is the first source of oral history: the emotion of the meeting. 
Of course, there are other similar sources. I mean, there is a similar 
source in history also that does not use the oral at all, and it is 
called empathy. It is the empathy of the biographer; it is the empathy 
with the document. So this encounter is there, the encounter of feelings.
Why do I insist on the emotion? Not only because I think that it is an 
under-recognised topic and attitude in history, but also because I am 
thinking of Freud’s reference to the question of emotion when he says 
that the erotic drive is actually extremely flexible. It is much more 
flexible than the drive to eat, because you cannot eat just anything but 
you can become attached to anything. You can love anything.
This flexibility of sentiment is the first source of oral history.
Secondly, this encounter between two subjectivities is expressed in 
words, and therefore it gives rise to an inter-subjectivity of dialogue. 
It is this inter-subjectivity that is taped on the tape recorder.
This ‘tape’ is a very strong censorship. It is the censorship of 
everything that is not a word. The tape recorder does not include the 
image, does not include the body. (It does, however, include laughter, 
chuckles, cries...).
But the very censorship it operates through also forms the tools through 
which we work. The taped interview is the source I always send my 
students back to. They cannot go back to the original situation but they 
can go back to the taped interview.
The transcript, which is the third source, is only a shortcut: a 
shortcut for analysis. But the transcript is already the translation of 
the oral into the written. So it has undergone a huge transformation.
And then there is a fourth transformation, which is interpretation. Here 
one uses all sorts of disciplinary tools, from folklore, from 
anthropology, from media studies, from economics, and so on.
Then there is the question of temporalities. I would say that in the 
oral interview there are three temporalities at least. One is the time 
in which one does the interview – the present. Another is the time 
period of the narration. A narration, for instance, can refer to Fascism 
in the 1930s, between the two world wars. And the third is the 
temporality of the narration itself. The narration can very well have 
centuries-long roots. It can have roots in other traditions of narration 
– a tradition of narration that exists since a very long time or that 
comes from different spheres, for instance TV shows, and so on.
Operating through these three temporalities, the inter-subjectivity of 
the encounter produces something that can constitute very different 
collections. It can constitute an oral archive, it can become the basis 
of a community project or it can undergo literary treatment, or it can 
become a radio programme, or it can become a source for history.
These are ways in which oral material becomes a source...In order to be 
transformed into a source, oral material has to undergo specific 

Excerpted and adapted from a talk by Luisa Passerini at the ‘History, 
Memory, Identity’ workshop organised by Sarai-CSDS (14-16 January 2005).


- The Map Is Never Complete

This project is an attempt to extend critical understandings of the use 
of spatial technologies (remote sensing and GIS) that typically focus on 
institutional and instrumental aspects. My research includes documenting 
my observations of the actual processes of technological practice.
I argue that we should pay attention to the spaces and actors involved 
in the technical stages of knowledge production, and maintain the 
linkages from the phenomenon to be represented (e.g., the agrarian 
landscape) to the objects of representation (e.g., a land use map) and 
the manner in which these are utilised.
During my ongoing interactions with the technical staff of the NGO that 
I have been associated with for this work, I have noticed a specific 
culture of learning/practice.
I accompanied a soil scientist on a soil mapping field trip. To 
familiarise me with his approach to soil classification and mapping, he 
handed me a soils manual and asked me to read it on the day before our 
field visit. It contained information about soil characteristics such as 
texture, depth, and colour – specifically, definitions of different 
classes of texture, depth, etc. Later he gave me a quick overview of his 
field methods.
These methods were based on the interaction between soil 
characteristics, and this information was not contained in the manual. I 
asked him about this as we drove to the site the next morning. He 
replied that while writing the manual, he had made a deliberate choice 
to not include the information about the interactions. He also refused 
to tell me about it in the jeep. He described this as a question of 
style that he had developed over the years. In his opinion, if he ‘told’ 
me about it, broke it down into steps, it would not help me in the 
least. I would not develop my own style or understanding, and would 
instead practice a simplistic method of soil mapping.
We spent nearly two days traversing the fields, classifying soils and 
mapping their distributions. During this, he shared many insights. 
However none were prescriptive; instead, they were (some rather 
slippery) building blocks.
This seemed to me a specific epistemology and approach to learning. 
There is no absolute soil class or soil map for a region. Much is based 
on interpretation and making tough, but informed, choices on the ground. 
In order to impart this kind of knowledge, my ‘teacher’ chose to provide 
me with the basics textually, and then chose to show the way differently 
through ‘practice’.
I had to learn to make these choices myself as I stood on a plot of land 
and looked around – how to situate myself with respect to the local 
topography, interpret the local geology, triangulate it with standing 
crops (if any) in the area, the slope of the land, the colour of the 
soil. The map is never complete, stage by stage, inch by inch – a choice 
you make down the line might still influence a choice you had just made.

Muthatha Ramanathan
muthatha at u.washington.edu
Sarai Independent Fellow, 2004-05. Her research is titled “Tracing 
Spatial Technology in the Rural Development Landscape of South India”. 
Her posting can be accessed at:


Terracotta, known locally as peeli mitti (yellow earth), is of a 
recalcitrant grain, its rough beauty fretted with stones, roots, twigs, 
sharp edges of buried fragments, gritty seams of resistance willing 
their own annihilation.
To prepare this clay for use, soak it in a bucket overnight. Pour off 
the water that collects on the surface of the sediment. Vigorously sieve 
the dense slurry through a close-latticed mesh. Free of detritus, liquid 
silk falls through, so fine that it coats the skin without nudging the 
alignment of a single hair.
Allow this yield to dry to the preferred consistency, turning it over 
occasionally to make sure it is evenly exposed.
Technically speaking, if the slurry is kept adequately moist and left to 
“sour” in the bucket for an extended period, the clay later proves 
stronger, as well smoother and more supple, to the potter’s grip.
smriti at sarai.net


- MGM vs. Grokster: “My Way” to “Our” Way

In October 2001, Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer and twenty-eight of the world’s 
largest entertainment companies took the makers and distributors of the 
Grokster, Morpheus and Kazaa softwares to court, alleging secondary 
copyright violation. They held that the distributors of the software 
were directly responsible for the infringing activities of users of the 
system. MGM vs. Grokster came up for hearing before a bench of the US 
Supreme Court on 29 March 2005. Arguments are currently in progress, and 
a decision is expected by the end of June this year.
Grokster, like other P2P softwares such as Kazaa, Limewire and 
BitTorrent, enables users connected to a network, such as the Internet, 
to share files with each other. These could be music files, video files 
and even digitised books. The industry has traditionally been suspicious 
of technologies that enable the circulation of cultural material in ways 
and forms that cannot be controlled by the owners of the copyright on 
that material. An anxiety ratcheted up by the immense transformative 
possibilities opened up by new media and digital technology tools on the 
one hand, and a parallel tightening of an international intellectual 
property regime on the other. The Grokster case is not the first 
instance of such a suit. In 1999, AGM music filed a similar suit against 
the makers of Napster, a similar file-sharing software.
At the juridical level, the Grokster case is a question of technological 
innovation and its limits, when situated within a regime that places an 
equally high value on the protection of the intellectual property of 
other innovators, such as artists, authors, musicians, etc., which 
technologies like Grokster are seen to threaten, violate and undermine. 
A precedent had been set in 1984 with Sony Corporation of America vs. 
Universal City Studios, or the Betamax case. The US Supreme Court ruled 
that a company was not liable for creating a technology that some 
customers may use for copyright infringing purposes, so long as the 
technology lends itself to substantial, commercially viable 
non-infringing uses.
However a consideration of the Grokster case would have to take into 
account the fact that this is as much about the ‘case’ and all that 
surrounds it as a cluster of transmissible signals, as it is about the 
bare facts of the case itself.
The many avatars of Grokster – a posting on a list, an announcement on a 
website, a transcript in an archive, an entry in a blog, perhaps a 
conversation between a judge and his teenage grandson – gesture to the 
cumulative effects of what happens when something enters a network 
capable of allowing the simultaneous exchange of information between an 
ever-expanding constituency of interested parties.
Ideas multiply and go places. And so does the simple idea of file 
sharing. From a court case to a web log to a posting to the words in the 
paper that you hold in your hand to the next set of hands that hold the 
paper, and so on.
A lawsuit against a technology of transmission itself becomes the object 
of transmission along the byways of the Net. Information travels across 
the neurons of the Net sparking off connections, sometimes at random. A 
Washington lawyer who attended the oral submission before the Supreme 
Court describes this on his blog, an artist who uses file-sharing 
software to upload and share his music with peers features news of the 
case on his site, a website begins a countdown of all the technologies 
that would be retrospectively prohibited if the Court rules against the 
technology, a law school decides to upload the oral transcripts in pdf 
format on its portal. A group of artists get together and file amicus 
curiae (friends of the court) briefs in favour of Grokster, just as 
other artists signed by the recording labels file briefs against it. A 
critical mass gathers around the case, so that regardless of whether the 
final judgment is in its favour or not, it (and along with it, the idea 
of file sharing) has nonetheless entered the accretive memory of the 
The circulation of things is crucially about the patterns of usage that 
emerge around them. Circulation builds cultures and contexts of 
sociality, in which things are gifted, shared, transformed, repurposed 
and remixed. In a network, Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” is open to becoming 
“his way” and “her way”. Sometimes maybe even “our way”. Then, these 
‘ways’ enter the everydayness of discourse and practice and it becomes 
difficult to create barriers to block them.

For more information on this case see:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MGM_Studios_v._Grokster and 
To download a full text version in pdf format of the oral submission 
before the United States Supreme Court, see:



- Story: Saraiki


In medieval South Asia, sarais (inns) were constructed at strategic 
distances all along intersecting trade routes, providing free food and 
lodging for travellers, and grain and fodder for their weary horses, 
camels and pack animals. Sarais were junctions where those on the road 
-– merchants, traders, artisans, seekers of fortune, scholars, pilgrims, 
vagrants, beggars, priests – could find shelter, sustenance and 
companionship. Magicians, dancers and musicians lived around the sarais 
and performed for its floating clientele.
Sarais functioned as crucial hubs in an extensive communication network 
that used horse mail and itinerant human couriers to cover huge 
distances. Messages passed along the length and breadth of the South 
Asian subcontinent, from Kandahar and beyond in the far north-west, 
bordering Afghanistan and the Baluchistan deserts in the west, to the 
Irrawaddy basin in Burma in the east, and from the Tibetan plateau in 
the far north to the far southern tip of the Deccan peninsula.
Even today, the map of Delhi is inscribed with at least twelve locations 
that include the word sarai.
A transit point suspended between departure and arrival, the sarai was a 
site for the exchange of news, stories, gossip, trade secrets and useful 
information. Many tongues carrying their own subtle inflections and 
unique cadences jostled for space here. From this eloquent din emerged a 
strange, polyglot creation, an unruly mix of Persian, Khari Boli, 
Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto and Turkish. It was called Saraiki: the language 
of the sarai.


Welcome to frEeMuzik (http://www.freemuzik.net/). This is a digital 
intervention, a collective where musicians can interact and create 
recordings without commercial pressures. It aims to foster an open 
cultural space for the expression and documentation of musical forms 
that are
ignored/neglected in the market, and are threatening to disappear. All 
music on the site can be freely downloaded.
Artistes are invited to improvise, experiment and freely contribute to 
frEeMuzik.net, which will focus on genres across the musical spectrum, 
including Indian and Western classical/folk, Latin, Indigenous and 
With its alternative, non-profit approach, and without soliciting 
funds/promotion from music companies or corporate sponsors, 
frEeMuzik.net intends to establish a record label and recording studio, 
and build an audio library by collecting old and rare records as well as 
new CDs. We will also be working with Internet radio towards 
broadcasting frEeMuzik.net in the public domain.
We welcome participation from photographers, musicians, sound 
recordists, mixing/mastering experts, studio professionals, software 
coders and people interested in contributing to the frEeMuzik.net 
resource base in any way.
Contact ish at sarai.net

FORTHCOMING: Medianagar 02
Medianagar is the annual Hindi publication of the Publics and Practices 
in the History of the Present project, in Sarai. Medianagar 02 explores 
the dynamic and fluid networks of the production, distribution and 
circulation of diverse media forms. It attempts a creative exploration 
of the forms, trends and representations of media in the contemporary city.




Editorial Collective:
Aarti Sethi
Iram Ghufran
Shveta Sarda
Smriti Vohra

Editorial Co-ordinator
Monica Narula

Design (print version): Mrityunjay Chatterjee
Photographs: Monica Narula

Write to
broadsheet at sarai.net

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