June , 2020
Transforming digital space into an inclusive zone
00:23 am

Aritra Mitra

“With the lockdown, the people are binge-watching contents on the OTT platforms. Online concerts and webinars are taking place on Facebook and Instagram. But we wanted to do something where we can participate and contribute, instead of appreciating from a distance”, Aritra Basu, MPhil Scholar in English from University of Delhi told BE, while narrating how he and his friends came up with the idea of Quarantine Stories, an initiative where every week an audio story by renowned Bengali and English authors is released online. Recently, Quarantine Stories has come up with its own social media pages and YouTube channel called ‘Units of Entertainments’ which have attracted innumerable followers within a short span of time. Basu is supported by Reeswav Chatterjee, Shalini Chakraborty and Laboni Mukerjee in this initiative.  

With the lockdown, various people have engaged themselves in creating interesting and innovative contents and posting them on social media. According to media sources, there has been a significant rise in the home-made videos in YouTube, TikTok and Instagram. With the cinema halls and other centres of performing arts being shut down, social media platforms are reaching out to their creators in India to continue to make engaging videos during the lockdown as users turn to social media for entertainment.

Recently, Mind Share and Vidooly have released a report that stated that the time spent by an average user on social media has been four hours as compared to the previous one-and-a-half hour. As a primary video sharing platform, YouTube alone has garnered over 300 billion views in Q1 of 2020 which is more than 13% of the views in Q4 of 2019 and 11% more than Q1 of 2019. Though the millennials remain to be the most active group comprising of 70% of India’s viewership, the figures are also rising among the middle-age groups and home-makers, as the television channels are running old contents, on the other hand, these social media platforms have so much innovations to offer in terms of content rather than the cliched melodramatic family dramas.

Sujoy Prasad Chatterjee, actor and performing artiste feels that home videos are a great platform to nurture talents and YouTube provides a great platform. Reacting to the fact that the artistes can enjoy full freedom in the home videos, Chatterjee told BE, “Freedom and inclusivity are higher when you are o your own. But at the same time, one has to be worried about the funds. We need to move forward post lockdown to motivate corporate funding for arts going the digital way”. Speaking about his own YouTube channel SPCkraft, which has collaborated with GhoshCompany, a Montreal-based YouTube channel, he stated, “We are exploring different innovative content to understand the sensibilities of a digital audience.” Currently, SPCkraft is working on a project called ‘The Poet and the Pandemic’ that deals with the Spanish Flu of 1918 and how it impacted the works of Rabindranath Tagore.

Elixir, a digital trilingual magazine has started a series ‘Turn your lockdown creative’ where one creative video is posted from the magazine’s facebook page every day. Pramit Sarkar, an editorial member told BE, “The response to this initiative has been startling. Mothers of 22 years olds sent recitation videos to us after years of being out of touch.”  Rajarshi Banerjee, another member stated, “In the digital arena, a lot of serious works are taking place in the field of performing arts. What such endeavours need to aim at is to transform the digital space into an inclusive zone. We are glad that we have been able to accomplish something through our initiative.”   

Radio Quarantine Kolkata, an internet radio, is another landmark initiative that started from March 23, two days after the lockdown. Regarding the inception of the radio, Kasturi Basu, a member told BE, “With the lockdown, all the activities and social movements that we were involved with had to be stopped. So, we wanted to stay connected with the society and carry on with our activities through a cultural political space.” At present, a plethora of programmes run in this radio, ranging from social and political issues to entertainment. This initiative has aimed for a ‘boundaryless Bengal’ as performers from Bangladesh also collaborates with the radio for a programme called Bangladesher Hridoy Hote. Radio Quarantine has over 21000 listeners currently and is heard in Bangladesh, Canada, USA and UK.

When asked if this initiative will continue after the lockdown, Basu said, “After the lockdown we will be involved in various other engagements, so, we will not be able to continue with the present frequency but we will try to reach out to the grass-root levels to make their voices heard through this medium.”

With the internet penetration increasing substantially, it is expected that these innovative contents are reaching out to a vast multitude. It is expected that these contents will act as a catalyst in refining the tastes of the general public and prepare them to acknowledge more sophisticated contents in the field of performing arts.   



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