The digital highway is as yet an exclusive neighborhood-let’s just say that there are no traffic jams on there just yet. This disparity is of course not lost on the practitioners of digital humanities and several conversations pointing out this disparity have emerged in the last few years. Whether it is Postcolonial Digital Humanities (DHPoCo), gender algorithms experiments, the articulations of marginalizations spilling over to the digital space have all been part of this discourse. Various projects have also attempted to understand, articulate and bridge the gaps of representations. This panel too is concerned about that gap and discusses different projects that specifically address issues in countries where bandwidth and connectivity is not optimal as in the more advanced nations. How do we harness digital technology so humanities research can be innovative and access to them is not behind a pay wall or a “bandwidth” boundary?
Alex Gil’s sx: Archipelagoes project sees to channel the rich and diverse theoretical engagements of the Caribbean with the Digital by providing an innovative two-tiered platform to support digital scholarship in, for and about the region and its diaspora. He proposes a minimum-computing model that can make humanities scholarship in low bandwidth countries longer lasting and easier to access. Alex will also argue for the moral imperative of DH scholars to make that access easy and useful.
Rahul Gairola’s & Arnab Datta’s project focuses on the theory and practice of electronic education for the under-privileged in India. With their respective humanities and engineering backgrounds, their paper will discuss the imperative of reaching digital technology to the rural population of northern India. As their paper points out, Internet access has still not reached large chunks of the population in India. However, according to Government of India statistics, nearly a billion people will have subscription to mobile phones by the end of the decade. In this context, despite the difficulty of hypertext-based learning in rural areas of India due to lack of internet availability, the solutions can be provided through portable data transfer and convenient access by means of flash memory chips readily available in mobile phones. While many digital archives to date use DVDs and CD-ROMs for archival data storage, no research to date engages alternative data storage and retrieval in rural India archives. State of the art memory technologies support novel technological trends in Postcolonial Digital Humanities – not only in terms of the resources, but also for efficient archival of them. This will make digital literacy in rural India feasible in the immediate future rather than relying on bandwidth sensitive Internet connection.
Nirmala Menon makes a similar case for the dissemination of humanities research and access to it for higher education in India. MAP (Multilingual Academic Publishing) is a new publishing project from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), India. MAP has two specific features that address the research needs of students and established researchers of humanities in India- 1) it will be an open access platform that will allow access to students of universities across the country and 2) it will publish both original research and translations from and into different languages of India. For this, the project associates are in the process of developing translations software that will be efficient and will aid translations into multiple languages. Nirmala will also argue for the imperative of Digital Humanities to support projects in different postcolonial languages. While there are now DH initiatives in India, a lot of the discourse is still in English even if the projects themselves engage in conversations between different languages. This publishing project ambitiously aims, in the long run, to allow knowledge productions and disseminations in multiple languages.
Together, all three papers address specific problems of the global south and envisage projects that will enable a more diverse global Digital Humanities conversation. The specific examples in these papers are of places that are part of the DH conversation but the geographic locales of the discourse pose challenges that are different from those of EU or US. Each of the projects discusses ways of enabling humanities research and researchers to go from the digital driveway to the highway within the constraints of connectivity and capability.
Small Axe: Archipelagos: A minimal computing model for a digital humanities journal for Caribbean Studies
The Caribbean is the site of some of the most radical and diverse theoretical and material engagements with the digital. The archipelagos project seeks to channel that activity by providing an innovative two-tiered platform to support digital scholarship in, for, and about the region and its diaspora. Each layer of sx: archipelagos will contribute something new to both Caribbean Studies and to the digital humanities, first via the creation and documentation of a new cost-efficient workflow for the production of text-based scholarly outputs; second, the production of digital humanities project reviews attached to the traditional workflow of book reviews; and third, via the creation and support of a flexible multimodal environment for the production of unique works of digital scholarship that can be ultimately preserved by integrating their components into the university repository. This paper will combine an outline of the specific technological stack needed to run the journal with low resources, and an argument for the moral and practical imperatives to adopt such a model. In brief, I will argue that a minimal computing model can make publication in the humanities longer lasting, easier to access in regions of the world with low-bandwidth and ultimately more transferable to new generations.
Democratic Digitality: Theory and Practice of Electronic Education for the Underprivileged
Rahul K. Gairola & Arnab Datta
This paper is the first co-authored study that deploys questions of gender equity and rural literacy in Literary Studies with electronic memory and communications platforms in the field of Electronics. Our goal herein is to combine our disparate fields to examine, from multiple perspectives, the haunting problems of electronic access to literary/ pedagogical tools in rural India. These problems of access are the consequence of poor infrastructure that demonstrates, as such, the complimentary relationship shared between the humanistic nature of the literary arts and the technical nature of electronics and communications platforms. We would moreover insist that research trends in our individual fields combined allow us to tackle one of South Asia’s most pressing issues in the 21
st century: digital literacy in rural India. By “digital literacy” here, we do not limit our definition simply to knowledge of knowing how to use digital devices. Rather, we mean the hypertexts, databases, and resources that comprise the soft materials for education and research, and also the required hardware and infrastructure needed to support them. Here, there are significant problems of electronic access to literary/ pedagogical tools in, for example, the requisite data storage and retrieval of digital archives. In principle, these have been realized through the implementation of internet-based hypertexts that facilitate a seamless exchange of knowledge.
However, in the Indian context, the Internet has not yet reached rural areas, and hypertext-based implementation of digital archives is hence not viable. According to the Government of India, nearly a billion users will be subscribing to mobile phones in the coming decade. This is in stark contrast to the growth rate of Internet subscriptions in India, which is projected to be nearly half the growth of mobile phone subscribers. In this context, despite the difficulty of hypertext-based learning in rural areas of India due to lack of internet availability, the solutions can be provided through portable data transfer and convenient access by means of flash memory chips readily available in mobile phones. While many digital archives to date use DVDs and CD-ROMs for archival data storage, no research to date engages alternative data storage and retrieval in rural India archives. State of the art memory technologies support novel technological trends in Postcolonial Digital Humanities – not only in terms of the resources, but also for efficient archival of them. This will make digital literacy in rural India feasible in the immediate future rather than relying on bandwidth sensitive Internet connection. We believe that advanced research and implementation of portable memory devices has the ability to disseminate the resources of the world to the four corners of the earth and improve digital literacy in rural populations.
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