Say 'Digital Humanities' One More Time: Technology, affect and learning in emerging information societies
One of the ironies of the local-global divide is that certain practices within the local sphere often precede the global nomenclatures that are assigned to them. ‘Digital Humanities’ is a prime example of this phenomenon where a clutch of practices which emerged with the rise of digital technologies and their integration into the national policies on higher education and learning, are now retrospectively understood as ‘Digital Humanities’. So even as the term was gaining currency in the European and North American context, becoming one of the buzzwords through which new conditions of pedagogy and education were imagined within the Universities in the North-West, it had almost no takers in the emerging knowledge industries of South Asia in general, and India in particular.
Within this context, it has now become natural, for all talks about education to eventually veer towards infrastructure. There is enough reason for that, when we look at the pitiful lack of resources in the country vis-à-vis the size of the population, and many of the larger problems endemic in higher education today, are tied down to this massive infrastructure deficit.Simultaneously, there has always been a severe fragmentation and compartmentalisation of knowledge systems within the academia, which is not restricted to only the Humanities which is increasingly facing the pressure to make itself relevant and produce work-forces for a global finance driven market.
The questions of professionalising and mainstreaming humanities and social sciences education are almost universal right now, and indeed, one of the ambitions of Digital Humanities projects which are seeking to find validity for education that does not prepare a global information work-force. The realignment of the market with the education system, has been critiqued by theorists of neo-liberal globalisation, who have pointed out how it enables state disinvestment from education and the privatisation of learning resources. However, even in these existing critiques of Digital Humanities (whether they use that term or not), there seems to be a consensual agreement that infrastructure building is necessary and must happen.
This talk, critically examines the implications of adopting Digital Humanities as a principle in emerging information societies, and drawing from experiments with students in 9 undergraduate colleges in India, examines the ways in which it needs to reconsider its relationship with the more accepted ideas of infrastructure, usage, adoption and learning.