Digital Preservation of Indigenous Culture and Narratives from the Global South: In Search of an Approach
1.1. Literature Review
1.2.1. Rural India
1.2.2. West Bengal
1.3. Contextual Issues and Barriers
1.3.6. Digital Divide
2.1. Methodological elements
2.1.2. Critical Listening and Dialogue
2.1.4. Indigenous Perspective
2.2. Emergence and Description of the Process
2.3. Conducting a Community-Centered Research
3.1. Writing History
Interviewer: If history is written from my point of view; then, will that history be complete?
Rantu: No, it will not be complete …
Interviewer: Why not?
Rantu: Incomplete as in, you cannot know everything—what is going on in our community and in our families, how it is going on …
Interviewer: So, you are saying that if you tell your story then a more complete narrative will emerge …
Rantu: Yes. Suppose I tell my own story, he tells his own story. This way, gradually the entire story of the society will come up …
Interviewer: In this research, we want this to happen. Also, in this way, your stories are going to reach the people of different regions … right?
Rantu: Yes. Sure, it will reach, and by that way, something constructive will be going to happen …
Jitu: Let me tell you something—people of this place, they might look uneducated, but they have really sharp minds.
Interviewer: Sure. One more thing, do you think it is possible for non-literate people to use digital devices?
Jitu: Yes. Maybe there are more non-literate people, but there are a few partially literate and a few literate people as well. Therefore, if we will work together, then we will be able to write our own history.
3.2. Contextual Realities and Barriers
Interviewer: Have you ever used a computer or digital-tablet?
Sona: No, never.
Interviewer: Have you ever used a touchscreen?
Kanu: No. However, I have seen touchscreen in smartphones; some of my friends own them. Once, I took a group photograph using the touchscreen as they told me to do so.
Interviewer: And what about using the Internet?
Kanu: Never used personally. However, my friends use internet data to use Facebook.
Interviewer: Do you know the English language?
Sona: Not much … comparable to not knowing.
Interviewer: Do these pictures represent your culture and history?
Biru: These visual images are not like us. They need improvement.
Interviewer: OK, sure. Now, if I request you to create your own images, can you please participate in the process? I believe those images will represent you better.
Biru: Yes, sure.
3.3. Cultural Imageries Created by the Community
Interviewer: Now that you have participated in the process of creating images, can you please select the drawings which you liked the most?
Bhola: Can we choose multiple pictures?
Interviewer: Yes, sure.
Bhola: We chose these two pictures for this category.
Interviewer: Sure, no problem. As a next step, now we will re-draw these pictures using computers; then we will show you how to use them for the interface.
Interviewer: Who has clicked these photos? You … right?
Sarama: Yes, I have clicked them. My daughter taught me, and she also clicked some of the pictures. I did not know how to click photos, I learnt it on Sunday.
Interviewer: Tell me which picture comprises of what? For example, this wall painting of peacocks and snakes, what is its significance?
Sarama: Yes, two snakes and two peacocks are there in this picture. Snake oftentimes bite humans. Peacock are their enemies, and therefore friends of humans, as they eat snakes.
3.4. Understanding Navigational Aspects
Interviewer: Here, four features are presented as input options; do you think that everyone will be able to remember?
Bishu: People who can operate mobiles and the Internet, for example, our boys, they will be able to do that.
Tilak: And suppose, people like us who do not know the mobile functions—you are asking can we possibly learn and use them … right? Yes, we can surely learn them.
Tilak: We will not face any problems, particularly in this case, no problem.
Interviewer: Okay. Now check these four functions, there are square spaces. Now, can you write in those spaces? Please tell me if you face any difficulties. After the last meeting, we have removed the English letters; now everything is designed using Bengali language.
Seema: For writing purposes, it is certainly helpful; that is the Bengali feature is better …
Interviewer: And for readability, is it better?
Seema: No, in terms of readability, some problems are there.
Reba: If you can make them (fonts) larger, then it will be better.
Interviewer: Now, the font can be magnified; in fact, it can be enlarged quite a bit. Look at this. Now, can you read?
Kusum: Now I can read the letters, even those small letters.
Minu: That is very good. Everything is understandable, the images are more visible, and the writing too.
3.5. Accessing and Structuring the Contents
Sudha: As a performer of Santali songs, I noticed that indigenous songs were not given too much attention, and are not documented well. In ‘Adivasi jatras’ (indigenous rural theatres), we also use songs, and they are popular; however, here I am not talking about those songs. I am talking about individual or stand-alone songs, for example, songs of ulgulan (indigenous revolution against the British colonizers).
Interviewer: In this output screen, we have some options. Where do you think these songs should be kept?
Sudha: In this screen, you have kept History and Culture separate, so I would suggest that you could keep the songs of our ulgulan under History.
Interviewer: Are you facing any difficulty understanding this?
Barin: It is very much understandable from the pictures. The moment you see them you can figure it out. I have a suggestion: please improve the image of the scarecrow and the shovel.
Interviewer: Sure. Let me ask, in the case that illiterate participants are using these pictures to create a password, will they be able to remember their password or not?
Barin: Definitely, they will be able to… this will be perfectly alright.
3.6. Creation and Sharing of Contents
Ramu: So, the song we just recorded was based on our creation stories. What do I do next?
Interviewer: Just press the button and save it. The video will be stored in the device. Additionally, a few more things will be stored automatically like ‘media type’ and your ‘geographical location’ (ref. Figure 5).
Ramu: As you said earlier, we can add a short description before sharing it with others… can I do it later?
Interviewer: Of course, you can. One more thing, before sharing with others you have to choose two things—one, your preference of sharing… that is local or global audience, and two, the topic of the recording such as History or Culture.
Ramu: Yes, that will be OK.
Lata: If my teacher wants to watch my previous recordings, she has to visit the webpage. That I understand, and what next?
Interviewer: This is what the output screen will look like. Here is your video and the basic description you shared.
Lata: So, to play the video, she has to press the play button … right?
Interviewer: Yes. And later we will add transcriptions of the video in Hindi or English, so the outsiders can also understand the content.
3.7. Community Creations and Co-Learning
Interviewer: In the case of illiterate villagers, how much time do you think it will take to learn?
Shibu: If it is explained to them for two to three days, they will be able to understand.
Interviewer: In the next phase, if this research project appoints you to train less-knowledgeable participants for two to three days, will they be able to do it?
Shibu: Yes, they will be able to use it independently.
Dulal: Suppose you are singing or saying something, if you press ‘audio’ button, then your voice can be recorded and stored here. Afterwards, if you want to write something about the song…with this one you can write. Then you can send them together.
Sanjay: Ok. I understand.
Manik: Apart from recording audios and videos and labelling them, I have a question. Suppose … if I switch off this tablet, will they (the recorded file and the texts for labeling) still stay in the tablet?
Dulal: Yes. For sure. You need to re-open, and click to send them. The same thing will also apply for video recordings.
Dulal: One more thing—suppose someone is unable to digitally write in Bengali, he or she can write down his or her message in his or her own language on a piece of paper. Then he or she can simply click a photo of that writing to send it.
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Dutta, U. Digital Preservation of Indigenous Culture and Narratives from the Global South: In Search of an Approach. Humanities 2019, 8, 68. https://doi.org/10.3390/h8020068
Dutta U. Digital Preservation of Indigenous Culture and Narratives from the Global South: In Search of an Approach. Humanities. 2019; 8(2):68. https://doi.org/10.3390/h8020068Chicago/Turabian Style
Dutta, Uttaran. 2019. "Digital Preservation of Indigenous Culture and Narratives from the Global South: In Search of an Approach" Humanities 8, no. 2: 68. https://doi.org/10.3390/h8020068