Digital Indological Dream?

Dominik Wujastyk ucgadkw at
Mon Oct 16 22:58:22 UTC 1995

In the longish message that follows, I ask you to consider the future
possibilities and directions for computer-based resources of use or
interest to indologists.  Please don't bother to read on if this does
not interest you.  I am just fishing for ideas and opinions, and I 
fully understand that you may be too busy for this.  (I am!)   :-)

As a member of INDOLOGY, you are familiar with the *sorts* of things
that are currently possible using computer technology.  Especially if
you have used INDOLOGY's associated Web pages and gopher.

You may also have used a CDROM.  Many computers these days are sold with
Encarta pre-installed.  Or maybe you secretly play Myst with your
children.  Would the application of any of this technology, or anything
similar, be useful or attractive to you in the context of indology,
either for scholarship or for recreation?  

In what follows, when I say "CDROM", you could equally read "online
database".  (There are differences, however.  Would one means of
presentation be preferable to another?  Why?)

I should like to ask what computerized INDOLOGICAL resource(s) you
would like to have, if you could have whatever you wanted.  :-)

Would you want to be able to buy a CDROM with lots of transcribed
Sanskrit, Tamil, or other texts on it?  What sort of software would you
need to make use of such an archive?  Would you want a CDROM with
images of many Indian manuscripts on it (like having a library of
microfilms)?  Would you like network access to images of manuscripts?
Would that be thousands of manuscripts? Or just selected ones?  Which

Would you like a CDROM with the transcribed text of a work, alongside
images of a manuscript(s) of the work, perhaps also with the text being
read or chanted (if you have a multimedia PC)?

Would you like a CDROM (or online database) of photographs of
manuscript illustrations (but not text)?

Would you like to be able to buy the library catalogues of major
libraries on CDROM (you would probably want to subscribe).

Would you like to be able to search all the main indological libraries
with a single search command?

Do you think that multimedia presentations of Indic manuscripts,
paintings, music, would be useful, attractive?  What sort of thing
would appeal to you.  Today, one can buy a CDROM containing wonderful
virtual tours of the National Gallery or the Louvre, or an introduction
to Greek classical culture, architecture, and language (Perseus).
Would a CDROM multimedia treatment of Indic history, culture, arts, be
attractive?  What would you want along these lines?

In short, given a chance to do a bit of "blue-sky" imagining, what sort
of computer-related indological resources would you like or expect to
see becoming available in the next five or ten years?

I am asking these questions just in case opportunities arise to promote
projects in these areas.  It would be good to have an idea of what
people would *really* like to get their hands on.  I have seen some
preliminary experiments with some of these ideas, both at the Asiatic
Society in Calcutta, and at the IGNCA in Delhi, and I'm sure others
elsewhere are thinking about the future possibilities in this area.

A lot of the above ideas straddle the divide between scholarship and
entertainment.  What do you think about this?  Can any of these
computer-based ideas really be of serious use to top-flight
scholarship, or are they at their best when pitched at the level of the
undergraduate or the general public?

Dominik Wujastyk


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