IRC17, Bengaluru, March 03-05, 2017


11. #IndicLanguagesAndInternetCohabitation

Last updated on Nov 07, 2016.


Description of the Session

This session proposes to explore challenges and opportunities that the internet poses with respect to the survival, growth and / or reach of Indic languages. We believe that the language one thinks in, shapes our modes and manner of communication. Language represents hundreds if not thousands of years of cultural development. With the preponderance of the written word and global acceptance of knowledge systems structured in particular ways, the value of oral traditions specific to Indic languages, become key in valuing traditional knowledge. Oral traditions are not merely lesser forms of literate systems. They are often completely different ways of creating, sharing and valuing knowledge itself. Specifically, each language can be seen as a repository of traditional knowledge and the decline and death of a language is not merely a loss to linguistic diversity, but an irrevocable loss of this body of knowledge.

The advent of internet has led to several debates; believers argue that the internet has opened up opportunities for integrating Indic languages with other languages of the world, especially English. Historically, knowledge creation in Indic languages didn't match that of English or acquire the nature of, say, Chinese-Mandarin (which did not cede its place to English), leading to knowledge asymmetries. Digital medium, it is argued, can bridge this gap. Skeptics, on the other hand, argue that the hegemony of dominant languages is likely to kill the so-called minor languages. We argue that these debates, while valid, remain superficial. While common wisdom simply looks at 'uploading' existing works onto a digital platform, this poses unique challenges specific to Indic languages. How does one capture oral histories, traditional knowledge, etc., that are embedded in our languages? Does the digital world offer solutions or is it yet another obstacle in the survival of our languages?

Session Plan

The session will be structured as a panel comprising of 3-5 members who think in a major or minor Indic language. The organizing team will initiate the panel discussion by articulating the provocations. Each panel member will be given five minutes to respond to these provocations. The next 10 minutes will be a moderated discussion between the panelists following which, will be a moderated response session involving the audience. Members of the audience will be encouraged to participate in the language in which they think. Translators will be sought from within the audience to the extent possible. The panelists will be once again asked to respond to the audience. The session with conclude by the organizers bringing together the various debates in 5-10 minutes. The session will deploy oral and audio-visual modes.

Documentation Plan

We feel that the best way to capture the nuances of a language, thinking in that language and the attendant modes and manner of communication would be through audio-visual modes. We will therefore video graph the session and upload the contents with subtitles.

Paper Abstracts

Not applicable.

Details of the Team

Mohan S Rao and Anjali K Mohan are the chairs and organisers of the session. Sreedhar Kallahalla and Ranjeet Kumar are the proposed panelists. The session is likely to include more panelists.

Mohan S Rao is a Bangalore based environmental designer and landscape architect. His interests are natural environment and cultures and is specially interested in traditional knowledge systems and deploys these in his works when addressing contemporary challenges..

Anjali K Mohan is a planner by training with a PhD in e-governance. Her broad areas of practice and research include public policy, organizational and institutional frameworks, governance and ICTD. Her work with governments is largely informed by stakeholders who think and operate in Indic languages.

Sreedhar Kallahalla is based in Teerthahalli. An agriculturalist, architect and an activist, Sreedhar describes himself as a modernist who appreciates memories embedded in his heritage. Sreedhar is actively engaged in questions of culture, language politics and development. His chosen language of expression and engagement with the world is Kannada.

Ranjeet Kumar is a Bangalore based researcher, Spanish translator, linguist, humanist, atheist and leftist. He is a faculty of Spanish at the Bangalore University and currently enrolled for a PhD at the Mahatama Gandhi Hindi University, Wardha, Maharashtra. Ranjeet also teaches Spanish here. For Ranjeet, English is his fourth language after Magahi, Hindi and Spanish.