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Joyojeet Pal’s 'Computers and Geeks as Cinematic Icons' Receives Best Paper Award

Joyojeet Pal, a visiting professor in the Department of Technology Management, received the Best Paper Award at the 2010 iConference in February. His award-winning paper, “Of Mouse and Men: Computers and Geeks as Cinematic Icons in Age of ICTD,” investigates how the depiction of technology in popular Indian films shapes and reflects larger cultural aspirations.

Pal asks: “Do you see too many American films where the aspirational hero is a software engineer? Unlikely. In comparison, it is almost commonplace now for one of the lead male characters in South Indian films to play some kind of a computer engineer.”

His exploration of technology on the big-screen originated when he was in rural India conducting his long-standing research on how new or improved technologies can create greater operational efficiencies or economic and social development.

“[I] found that people had an expectation that technology would be their path out of poverty, even when they had no direct experience using computers or no immediate evidence of people progressing economically through the use of technology from among those in their direct connections — whether in the village or their extended family ecosystems, ” explains Pal who “found that popular media is a big piece of what people turn to for their information about technology.”

Pal joined NYU-Poly at the beginning of the year and is teaching a course on the use of technology for social and economic development. He has already begun collaborating with the CATER program, a research group working on technology and low-income populations, based out of New York University’s Courant Institute.

Before joining NYU-Poly, Pal was a lecturer at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington’s iSchool. He received his PhD (city and regional planning) and master’s degrees (information management and systems) from the University of California, Berkeley. He is a NSF Computing Innovation Fellow.

The iConference is an annual event that brings together scholars, professionals, and students associated with or interested in the work of iSchools, institutions focused on the nexus of people, information, and technology. It began in 2006.


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