A Belated Blogpost: The Digital Humanities Workshop at Presidency

1 comment
Another year in India and already so much has happened while I try to keep the ship of Digital Culture Studies afloat. My alma mater Jadavpur University has launched its Digital Humanities diploma course, more students now read on tablets and I was even invited to a colloquium on developing DH in India, quite recently as readers of Ludus Ex will know. For me, formal academic discussions on DH started off in India with a bang at the first Indian DH conference held at Presidency University, last year.  Jadavpur’s Bichitra project and other key archival initiatives had already made key contributions to some aspects of the Digital Humanities; the DH conference was a suitable forum to take this forward on a national and international level.

Liz Losh on Facebook: 'Me near the home of Thackeray. (And -- yes I have read Henry Esmond, not just VF)'

In keeping with the plan for developing DH in India, this year I organised a smaller event at Presidency. Three talks on the rather varied topics of digital archiving, e-portfolios and how DH relates to hacktivism, feminism and play formed part of the workshop. These were followed by a question-answer session where many expressed their concerns about and support for the newly emerging field. The speakers were Elizabeth Losh (from the University of California, San Diego), Amlan Dasgupta (from Jadavpur University, Calcutta) and Shiladitya Raychaudhury (from Auburn University, Alabama). The abstracts can be found here:

Dr Elizabeth Losh. ‘Whose Digital Humanities? Activism, Hacktivism, Feminism, and Play’

The digital humanities is sometimes called the “digitized humanities” in Europe and North America, because DH efforts still tend to privilege print culture and to overlook born-digital objects of study, such as video games, online video, digital images, or computer programs.  National digital humanities organizations also often ban political engagement or controversy in funded projects, on the grounds that neutrality is a paramount value for cultural heritage projects. This talk provides an overview of recent trends among #transformdh participants, who are bringing more seemingly subversive practices to the digital humanities field from queer theory, feminism, human rights activism, hacking, game studies, and critical making communities.

Dr Shiladitya Chaudhury, ‘The role of multiple representations in building 21st century scientific literacy’

Scientific literacy in the 21st century requires the learner to master fluency in moving between different representations of information - be it graphical, diagrammatic, symbolic, numerical, textual or verbal. The learning sciences offer us some clues on how to structure instruction to best utilize these representations. Modern technological tools are also making it easier for learners to both deconstruct existing representations (e.g. a physics video of an accelerating object) as well as generate their own representations (e.g. graphs of position versus time of the object).  New forms of assessment, such as ePortfolios, offer a mechanism to allow students the opportunity to demonstrate competency in these various literacies. My talk will present a couple of examples to illustrate these points and open the door for discussion on exploring the different types of literacies that are implied in mastery of a particular type of content knowledge. 

Lady Bracknell.  [Shaking her head.]  The unfashionable side.  I thought there was something.  However, that could easily be altered.
Jack.  Do you mean the fashion, or the side?
Lady Bracknell.  [Sternly.]  Both, if necessary, I presume. 
 Oscar Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest, 1894
The presentation considers the question of digital surrogacy in archival practice. Does the digital file at some point stop being a "surrogate" of a physical "original"? If so, when, and under what conditions? The question seems to be of importance in conceptualising image and audio-visual archives. 

Liz Losh, of course, is a well known name in Digital Culture circles and I was very happy to get to meet her at last. We went for a walk down Esplanade all the way up to Free School Street where I showed her William Makepiece Thackeray’s birthplace (the present-day Armenian College). Liz proudly announced that (pace all critics of DH who think we DH researchers haven’t read books) she had not only read Vanity Fair but also Henry Esmond. I must confess I haven’t ever ventured near the latter! The conversation veered on to the status of DH in academia and how she felt that the time of ‘Digital Humanities’ as opposed to ‘Digitizing Humanities’ (or that understanding of DH that sees the field as being about creating digital texts only). The issue of digital surrogacy, brought up by Amlan Dasgupta was also something that came up a few times. It is important that such questions are being asked in the early days of DH in India and that our students are beginning to engage with them. For me, it was a treat to have such a discussion yet again in my home city and to have experts from the field advise us on how to develop the area further.

1 comment :

  1. Sounds like it was a wonderful workshop. I am fascinated by the question of the digital object's surrogacy of an "original" text. The privileging of text as the originary unit of analysis is further problematized by the notion of a digital humanities that consciously moves away from the mere digitization of texts to be more inclusive of born digital and non-textual media. It is a proposition that is difficult to assimilate for someone like me who works primarily with texts (and their digital surrogates) and thus forces me to rethink the constantly shifting boundaries of the so called digital humanities.