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MediaShala: Data visualization in India

This post, by Maria Grabowski, was originally published by the engine room.

This is the third in a series of posts to profile resources that are featured in the Social Tech Census. The engine room’s Social Tech Census is an online, searchable database of support for advocates around the globe looking to make better use of digital media and mobile phones. The Social Tech Census identifies a variety of resources for the use of technology in advocacy.

MediaShala, meaning ‘Abode of Media’ in Sanskrit, started five and a half years ago with a group of students eager to take their newly-acquired skills to a different level. Part designers and part engineers, they agreed that data visualization and design was the key to make important use of technology and started what is today a combination technology company and design research firm. Currently, the team mainly consists of commercial and fine artists, IT Engineers, Telecom engineers, Interaction designers and researchers.

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MediaShala aims to be the best go-to resource for data visualization, said co-founder Himanshu Khatri when he spoke with us recently from Bangalore, India. “What always amazes me, it that this (red. design and data visualization)  is something so simple, and yet it is something so often missing in many corporations and NGOs who are handling such rich data. Good design can really help them reach goals much more effectively.”

Himanshu explains that the essence of MediaShala’s work is to balance complex data with aesthetics and, at the same time, maintain a playful and explorative approach to technology. “Our skill is to see the larger view of a complex problem or complex data, distill an architecture out of it, and to make a simple and understandable resource out of it. I believe that data visualization can really propel any cause to the mainstream conversation – and that is exactly what we’re trying to do.”

Six Questions from the Engine Room

1. How do I find MediaShala?

We are always glad to have people over and contribute – the best way to know us is to see our detailed online portfolio. In our work one can see application of the design process to the visualization of data for easy dissemination to social and/or commercial audiences, and to highly complex, more industrial new media outlets.

2. How do I engage in MediaShala?

The diversity of our work demands our own engagement with a variety of talent – artist, designers, techies, copywriters, even heritage researchers. Needs are mostly project based – for instance, currently we are in dire need of someone with ‘social enterprise PR & sales strategy’ expertise for our www.gaatha.com initiative. Is that you? Get in touch.

3. What kind of resources do you offer?

Because we are largely unfunded we’re able deploy new projects very fast. We have two decently equipped small office spaces in Ahmedabad (Gujarat, India) and one small one in Bangalore (Karnataka, India).

4. What are your biggest challenges?

One is the typical difficulties which any small start-up would face: ongoing technical issues and funding. Another is finding interesting work. Sometimes we have to accept types of work that…haha, well, in the future we would like to be able to choose ourselves which topics we touch. So the challenge has been not only to keep the funds rolling, but also making sure that they come from interesting threads.

5. What possibilities do you see in using tech for supporting and mobilizing civil society?

After observing the tech evolution curve and the social reaction and engagement in the past 16 years, the current phase seems to be about issue dissemination and comprehension. We are only still beginning to understand the nature of issues around us by leveraging the abundant connectivity and sharing more and more info. The reactions, if you notice, however are at mostly marches, gathering, petitions, workshops etc – there is still a clear exclusion from policy making, which really is the most potent instrument of change. We think that platforms where completely democratic policymaking leverages the power of secure and authentic connectivity are the future.

6. How may the Social Tech Census be useful for you in your work?

We have been struggling with our PR strategy and getting the message out about our work. The heads down approach has worked well till now in the development stages of various threads, but now time is ripe to focus on outreach. Social Tech Census and the engine room may perhaps be that key match maker between us and a group out there with a suitable problem or project to work on, or for individuals to know about us and work with us.

In the future it would be great to have a ‘idea-share’ section on this platform where we can put forward our ambitious dream and others can come forward and collaborate, fund etc.

Learn more about MediaShala…

For questions or comments about the Social Tech Census, please email the project address: resources [at] socialtechcensus.org or comment on this post.

 

1 comment

  • […] MediaShala: Data visualization in India – Meaning ‘Abode of Media’ in Sanskrit, MediaShala tries to make complex data simple and understandable by balancing it with aesthetics, a mix of design and engineering coming out of India. Most recent post in our collaborative publication series with the Social Tech Census. […]

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