Conceiving Do Din
In the middle of 2013, we began to conceive of a city wide event that could bring together a wide range of people into the same space. As we tossed around the idea among friends, we began to receive many different ideas. Processing these ideas and crystallizing them into a set of principles took us several months. At the end of it, the following were some of the ideas that got crystalised.
It should be an event which can lead into long-term happenings/projects in and around the city
It should be fully supported and carried out by the people working and living in the city of Hyderabad
The main idea is not about consuming existing research or initiatives but about getting involved and contributing
Showing not only negative aspects of the existing structures or data base of the city but also talking about positive examples of successful projects
Talking and discussing about challenges which a fast and rapid changing city faces now and in the future
Using creativity and also art as a medium which reaches people and connects them to their environment
Getting knowledge about different tools and sources which are available and accessible and learn how they work
Promoting the advantages of community-based data contribution for either the city as a whole or the individuals living in the urban space
Celebrating the city as a multi-cultural space
Creating awareness in case of certain topics and encouraging people to change them
Finding and encouraging people to share their knowledge to create a working basis for future projects.
The following report written in retrospect speaks to many of these principles. Do Din 2014 will build on the learnings from Do Din 2013.
Do Din 2013
At the closing of Do Din , actors in a short-play about a community and its political representative emphatically declared:
हम प्रजा नहीं , नागरिक हैं ..
We are citizens not subjects…
This declaration comes closest to capturing the essence of Do Din . It’s not just a slogan of empowerment, but also an affirmation of belonging in the city and of concern for the city. But the agenda of Do Din incorporated more. It set out to resignify the established notions of city, citizenship, community and even politics. Do Din was envisioned as a platform that could be an intersection point for the multiplex of urban realities. It also did not limit itself to the city of Hyderabad alone, it extended to the very concept of “the urban”.
One fact driving the idea of Do Din was that cities, across their historical and geographical expanse, generate massive amounts of data. However, much of the data regarding a city’s history – in the form of anecdotes, legends, rumours, topical jokes – are stored in the memories of people and not in any formal archive. Also, the “authoritative” data on a city generated by its government suffers from being completely a-spatial and generally inconsistent. There is also possibly a large amount of data that is privately owned and thus inaccessible to the public. The challenge taken up at Do Din was to bring together a group of people that would be representative of the diversity of “the urban” and through that encounter to spark deliberations and perhaps even innovation on how to bring to light, generate or use these different kinds of data. The central conviction being that, once generated, this data – it could be in the form of maps, oral histories, archives of old letters, memoirs, photographs or any other – can improve how we perceive, conceive and live in our cities.
Do Din envisaged a particular kind of politics. It is not a politics that relies on vociferous symbols to convey its agenda, rather its politics is immanent in the finer details. Take for instance the choice of venue. A location in the Western part of Hyderabad would have easily attracted the techno-elite of the city. However, locating the event nearer to the centre of the city allowed for an audience that was far more representative of the diverse groups that populate the city. Also, the effective de-centring of Hyderabad from focus fostered a platform for activists, planners and scholars from different cities to exchange knowledge and to share their experiences of working on various issues. The result was a surprising play of associations with discussions that touched upon sanitation in Chennai, bus-routes in Hyderabad, homeless workers in New Delhi, adivasi-padas in Mumbai and community mapping in faraway Kibera, Kenya.
Do Din, in the image of the city, attempted to be a multiplex event. The programmes embarked simultaneously in 4 different spaces. These spaces were broadly classified as follows:
1. Geo-hack Space – This was to be a space for learning and brain-storming. There were workshops to introduce attendees to digital mapping toolkits. There was also a real-time forum where hacktivists and social activists put their heads together to come up with innovative solutions to urban problems.
2. Talk Space – This was a space for lectures and discussions along 4 major themes, viz. Water & Waste, Mobility, Heritage and Municipal Accountability.
3. Film Space – A selection of films that portrayed, documented and contemplated the urban process.
4. Exhibition Space – While the Film Space also departs from relying predominantly on words for expressing one’s thoughts on the urban, the Exhibition Space presented a whole range of possible expressions. There were installations, plays, interactive performances, photographs, narratives, etc.