While the digital storage and presentation of cultural material is becoming increasingly important of late, there is no comprehensive course anywhere in India offering training in its basic principles and methods. At best, students are trained in the limited skills needed for a particular job such as data entry or copy editing. More often than not, even this is not done, leaving workers in this field to pick up the skills as they go along. Alternatively, students from a technical background are hired to work on humanities data, but because of their unfamiliarity with the needs and tools of the discipline, the results they produce are often not user-friendly, efficient or sometimes even correct.
There is urgent need for courses that will (a) cover the range of basic notions and skills needed for cultural informatics and, more fundamentally, in the entire field of digital humanities; and (b) offer an integrated conceptual and methodological overview of the entire field, relating practical skills to their intellectual basis. Such a course can only be offered at the degree level; optimally, at or after the Master’s level, after students have acquired basic training in a traditional humanities discipline (literature, history, art history, music etc.) or a broad-based scientific or technological field.
Keeping these things in mind, a PG Diploma in Digital Humanities and Cultural Informatics is being proposed by the School of Cultural Texts and Records, Jadavpur University in collaboration with the core departments of the Faculty of Arts and other interdisciplinary schools and centres of the university.
Of all institutions in India, Jadavpur University may be the best equipped to offer such a course, as it has a rare combination of a strong Faculty of Arts and an equally strong Faculty of Engineering and Technology existing side by side. There is thus unique scope for a synergy of cultural and technological perspectives. Moreover, the university is located in the vibrant cultural centre of Kolkata, and can draw upon the collections, expertise and ambience of its many galleries, museums, libraries and archives, and its intensive programme of cultural activities.
This course, supported by the UGC Innovative Programmes Scheme, uses both the formal methods and techniques of digital humanities and cultural informatics and also provides for hands-on practice in applying the principles of this field to real-world situations. The programme is able to equip students not only for further research at the doctoral level but also for work in publishing, museums, libraries, business and the public services.
(The course is scheduled to begin in July 2013ce. Watch this blog-space for regular updates.)