Developing Open Knowledge Digital Resources in Indian Languages

Posted by Tejaswini Niranjana at Feb 20, 2015 12:00 PM |
The Centre for Internet & Society's Access to Knowledge team (CIS-A2K), in collaboration with the Centre for Indian Languages (CILHE) at TISS Mumbai, conducted a two-day workshop at English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU) at Hyderabad on January 28-29, 2015. Titled ‘Developing Open Knowledge Digital Resources in Indian Languages’, the workshop was the third in this series during 2014-15.
Developing Open Knowledge Digital Resources in Indian Languages

Participants at the workshop at EFLU


The first workshop, focusing on Bangla, was held at Jadavpur University, Kolkata, in August 2014, and the second, focusing on Marathi, at Savitribai Phule Pune University, Pune, in September 2014. The EFLU workshop participants were drawn from Telugu and Malayalam backgrounds.

The objectives of the workshop was to familiarize student volunteers and their faculty with (a) tools of collaborative knowledge production on the internet, and (b) methods for generating new online content in Indian languages. The workshop had 19 student participants, from EFLU and TISS Hyderabad, along with 4 faculty members from these two institutions.

After opening remarks by Prof. K.Satyanarayana and Dr. Uma Bhrugubanda of the Department of Cultural Studies, the local hosts at EFLU, Prof. Tejaswini Niranjana of CILHE-TISS and Advisor to CIS-A2K spoke about the importance of creating new digital resources in local languages for both teaching and research in higher education. She stressed that students should not remain passive consumers of knowledge but instead participate in creating new knowledge resources. Vishnu Vardhan of CIS-A2K then elaborated on the theme of ‘Building Open Knowledge Resources in Indian Languages via Mass Collaboration on the Internet’. After this, the participants were introduced to some basic principles of editing on Wikipedia, and worked on establishing their presence as Wikipedia editors by creating their Profile pages, etc.

In order to familiarise students with the key Telugu and Malayalam terminology in their areas of study (cultural studies, linguistics, education), an exercise was conducted in which each participant tried to describe a few of the concepts without using the term itself. A successful description would draw attention to the intellectual work done by the concept, and establish its usefulness in the relevant language context. Animated discussion took place around concepts like public sphere, labour/work, human rights, feminism, caste, culture, etc. In a second exercise, the denotative meaning and connotative meaning of selected key terms were discussed, with a view to understanding how they could be used in Indian language writings. Following this exercise, participants also attempted to map the cluster of concepts associated with their chosen concept so they could comprehend the larger cognitive context of each term. They were then introduced to how hyper-linking and giving suitable references are a significant part of Wikipedia editing strategy. Participants ended the day by shortlisting topics for entries they wanted to create on Wikipedia.

Day Two began with an exercise that aimed to explore translation challenges on Wikipedia. Since one way of increasing Indian-language content was to translate or transcreate existing Wikipedia articles, students needed to be aware of the problems this task could pose, and the possible solutions that could be adopted. Workshop participants were asked to choose English Wikipedia entries on one person, one book, and one concept each, and report on the difficulties they encountered while attempting to translate the English content, at the level of terminology, conceptual framework or subject matter. The ensuing discussion was useful not only in consolidating strategies for translation but also in drawing attention to the problems of creating Indian-language content in areas of knowledge which have become familiar to us through the modern university curriculum.

In the last phase of the workshop, participants focused on creating their entries in Telugu and Malayalam. A few succeeded in creating three entries each, while the others managed to do at least two. The faculty of EFLU and TISS Hyderabad who were present at the workshop have agreed to meet with their students once a month to do production sprints for new content, thus ensuring that those who were merely digital users have indeed become digital authors.