Relevance of digital technology discussed at webinar in PU
The highly informative and incisive lecture was followed by a Question-Answer Session
Chandigarh: Department of History, Panjab University, Chandigarh organized today a Web Lecture by Prof. Divya Bansal, Dean Alumni, Corporate & International Affairs, Punjab Engineering College (deemed to be University) . The faculty and research scholars of social sciences and engineering departments of Panjab University and affiliated institutions, participated in the Web Lecture which continued for about 1.5 hours.
Prof. Divya Bansal, the distinguished speaker delivered her lecture on the theme, “Contribution of Digital Technology to Social Sciences and Its Relevance During the Present Pandemic” as a part of Series, “Pandemics Across Ages” initiated by Department of History in April, 2020 in a comprehensive and candid manner. Her detailed, fact-based and critical presentation on how digital technology has become an integral part of our social lives, especially in the present COVID era, was immensely informative.
Professor Anju Suri, Chairperson, Department of History was the Director of the Webinar, Dr. Priyatosh Sharma, Associate Professor, Department of History was the Convener and Dr. Veenu Mangat, Associate Professor, UIET, was the Co-Convener of the Webinar.
PU Vice-Chancellor, Professor Raj Kumar was the inspiration and driving force for conduct of this webinar. It was his encouragement that has led to this endeavour to connect the social sciences with the CRIKC institutes. The benefit of this collaboration is that in the future, it can lead to multidisciplinary research which utilizes the strengths and competencies of researchers from both areas, which will be more fruitful for the society.
Professor Anju Suri, Chairperson welcomed the esteemed Speaker and the participants. In her introductory address, while underlining the purpose of organizing the Series, ‘Pandemics Across Ages’ by the Department, she said that it helps to sensitise the present generation to understand the causation of Pandemics and the huge devastation brought by them. This enables us to collect socio-political responses for our preparation to deal with the pandemics effectively. Prof Divya Bansal’s talk shall help to understand the usefulness and limitations of digital technology to the teaching and research in social sciences especially during Covid-19 and further enable us in responding to the pandemic.
Dr. Veenu Mangat, Associate Professor at UIET, PU introduced the invited speaker Prof. Divya Bansal by highlighting her research achievements in terms of international collaborations and awards. Prof. Divya Bansal has been instrumental in ICT projects of the state police and drafting of policies related to information security.
Prof. Divya Bansal, began her insightful talk by defining sociology as the study of society, patterns and behaviour. She then deliberated how technology plays a key role in each of these aspects. She asserted that digital technologies like other material cultural artefacts are part of human behaviour.
She provided various examples to illustrate how technology can help in providing deeper understanding of various aspects of human behaviour. Nowadays, digital and mobile apps monitor and mediate almost all aspects of sociology ranging from our movements, likes, dislikes, spending habits, political opinions, personal preferences, interactions with relatives and friends, interactions with colleagues, communities we are a part of, etc. These pervasive technologies collect and analyze huge volumes of data for every individual. As an instance, a company like Google through its multitude of apps such as Maps, Wallet, YouTube, Contacts, Search, etc. can easily mine and integrate the data to build a comprehensive profile of each user including his personality, interactions, movements, behaviour, etc. Another example is of wearable devices such as Fitbit which collect health related information of users. Such information can aid pharmaceutical companies and the healthcare industry to study demographics and in diagnosis, prognosis, development of treatments, etc. But most of these technologies are privacy invasive. She touched upon how some database marketing companies sell user information to potential buyers. There should be strict laws in place to avoid misuse of users’ data. Prof. Divya beautifully expressed how sociology and technology are interrelated by saying that life is digital nowadays. Sociology should make the study of digital technologies central to its scope. She spoke about digital social research and digital traces being the behavioural traces. Prof. Divya later spoke about how in present COVID times, there is a compelling need to turn setbacks into comebacks. She discussed a few psycho-social issues that have arisen out of the present pandemic situation and how technology can be used to address them. This requires human factors in addition to tools provided by technology. She ended her lecture by saying that we should rediscover ourselves in this current period and be aware of both the pros and cons of digital technology.
The highly informative and incisive lecture was followed by a Question-Answer Session conducted by Dr. Priyatosh Sharma of the Department of History. It was a vibrant session with participants engaging speakers to comment on issues like privacy, addiction to social media and need for human touch. The lecture ended with the formal vote of thanks delivered by Dr. Rani Mehta, Chairperson, Department of Sociology, Panjab University, Chandigarh.