DER Documentary

Coding Culture

launch preview watch a preview of July Boys

by Gautam Sonti in collaboration with Carol Upodhya
color, 85 min, 2006

Non-profit, K-12, and Individual pricing also available
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The Indian software outsourcing industry has emerged as a key node of the global economy. The series of ethnographic films, Coding Culture, explores the cultures of outsourced work and the moulding of a new workforce to cater to this global high-tech services industry. Each of the three films focuses on a single company, representing one of the major types of software company found in Bangalore: a medium-sized Indian-owned company software services company (Mphasis: The 'M' Way); the offshore software development centre of a U.S.-based IT company (Sun Microsystems: Fun@Sun); and a small 'cross-border' startup company that produces its own software products and markets them to global customers (July Systems: July Boys). All three companies are engaged in the production of software products or services for markets outside of India, but the nature of their work and their position in the global economy differ, producing significant variations in their cultures of work. Each film revolves around a distinct theme that is central to the outsourcing industry as a whole, but that also has wider sociological significance: the systems of time and people management that are typical of these new global workplaces; the functioning of multicultural 'virtual teams' and the absorption of Indian software engineers into a global corporate culture; and the new identities that are emerging in this highly transnational sector of the Indian economy.

Fun@Sun: Making of a Global Workplace (29 min)
An inside look at work and work culture in the software development centre of a large American multinational company, Sun Microsystems, located in Bangalore (Indian Engineering Centre, or IEC). The film highlights the multiple ways in which 'culture' operates as a management tool in the new global economy. In offshore centres such as IEC, work is organised through 'virtual teams' comprised of software engineers and managers located in Bangalore and Santa Clara, U.S.A. To integrate their employees and sites across cultural and geographical space, Sun attempts to initiate the Indian software engineers into Sun's corporate culture. The film depicts the techniques through which this American-style work culture is transplanted into the Indian subsidiary, such as induction programmes and 'soft skills' training programmes.

The film also points to the contradictory ways in which 'culture' is invoked in the global corporate workplace: while cultural sensitivity training programmes validate cultural difference, Indian software engineers are expected to conform to the dominant model of global corporate culture by learning appropriate communication and behaviourial styles.

The 'M' Way: Time + People = Money (30 min)
The 'M' Way was shot inside MphasiS-BFL Limited, a medium-sized Indian IT services company that typifies this highly competitive business, in which the provision of high quality and low-cost service is key to attracting and retaining customers. The film focuses on two teams - a software development team and a quality control (testing) team - that work on a project for a U.S.-based customer. The candid footage and interviews convey the high-pressure work atmosphere that prevails in this industry, especially due to the need for tight control over the work process and for coordination of activities within and between teams and with the customer site.

Two main themes are foregrounded in the film: the complex systems of time and quality control through which software projects are managed, and the techniques of people ('resource') management that are employed - especially how software engineers are motivated to identify with the company's goals and to work longer hours.

July Boys: New Global Players (26 min)
July Boys focuses on a small 'startup' company in Bangalore that designs and produces software products for cellular service providers in Europe and the U.S. Turning the tables on the usual outsourcing story, July Systems has leveraged U.S.-based venture capital and Indian technical expertise to break into the latest high-tech markets.

The film explores the creation of a Silicon Valley-style work culture within this 'cross-border' company that has one leg in Bangalore and the other in Santa Clara, California. It also highlights the emergence of new kinds of identities (global, transnational, cosmopolitan) that incorporate and transcend pre-existing identities such as the national and the regional. But the narratives of the film's characters reveal a tension between their assumed global subjectivity and their nationalist pride in July's achievements as a company founded and run by Indians that makes 'cutting edge products' for the global market.

For more information:

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Viscult Festival of Visual Culture, Joensuu Finland, Sep 2007
Bangkok International Film Festival, Bangkok, Thailand, 2007
Days of Ethnographic Film, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 2007
Tartu Festival of Visual Culture, Tartu, Estonia, 2007
American Anthropological Association, San Jose, 2006
International Ethnological Film Festival, Belgrade, Serbia, 2006
One Billion Eyes, Chennai, India, 2006
Bollywood and Beyond, Stuttgart, Germany, 2006
Nordic Anthropological Film Association, Bergen, Norway, 2006
Gottingen International Film Festival, Gottingen, Germany, 2006
Montreal Ethnographic Film Festival, Montreal, Canada, 2006

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Supported By Massachusetts Cultural Council National Endowment for the Humanities National Endowment for the Arts