Twitter and Facebook have become default resources for journalists, newsrooms and ordinary citizens during news events, but where does Instagram fit into that picture? That was the question a team of researchers at CUNY’s Graduate Center asked while watching the protests in Ukraine unfold this past February. After months of analyzing more than 13,000 Instagram photos shared by around 6,000 people in the central square of Ukraine — known as the Maidan — the team has recently released the study “The Exceptional & the Everyday: 144 Hours in Ukraine.” It’s the first project to analyze the use of Instagram during a social upheaval.
Instagram is known as the visual social network, but according to Lev Manovich, a computer scientist and the lead researcher for the project, it’s much more of a “communication medium.” Whereas newsrooms might scour Instagram for photos to showcase breaking news, the study found that ordinary Instagram users detail how they’re relating to news as well — which may be just as important.
The new Indian leader is as controversial as he is popular, and many still remember his inaction during 2002 riots.
If Indians living in the United States had been allowed to vote in this year’s Indian elections, says Bharat Barai, “Narendra Modi probably would’ve gotten an 85-to-90-percent vote — far better than he got in India.”
Barai is the chief organizer of a reception for the new prime minister, to be held at New York’s Madison Square Garden on Sept. 28; the free tickets were snapped up in a matter of weeks. This will be Modi’s first visit to the United States since the U.S. Congress denied him a visa in 2005 for failing to protect religious freedom during riots in 2002 in the western Indian state of Gujarat, during which more than 1,000 Muslims were killed. The visa decision was reversed earlier this year after Modi’s political party, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, swept the Indian elections in May.
Now Modi’s upcoming visit is exposing a political divide in the Indian-American community. While the Indian American Community Foundation, the organizer of the Madison Square Garden reception, is pulling out all the stops for the event — which will have upward of 20,000 attendees and live telecasts in Times Square and online — a coalition of progressive South Asian and civil-rights groups is planning a protest outside the venue. For most Indians in the United States, Modi’s ascent signifies a more powerful role for India on the world stage, especially economically. But a determined minority is keeping the memory of the riots alive and raising questions about what a divisive government means for India’s secular identity.