By Tiffany Fox, (858) 246-0353, firstname.lastname@example.org
San Diego, Calif., Oct. 15, 2009 — Emissaries from India's Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) recently paid a visit to the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) at the University of California, San Diego, to forge a path for future collaboration.
The missions of both IGNCA and Calit2's Center of Interdisciplinary Arts for Art, Architecture and Archaeology (CISA3) share in common an interdisciplinary approach to research in the arts that bridges the gap between the sciences and humanities. A focus of both centers is cultural informatics, which refers to a range of quantitative and analytical methodologies drawn from the natural and social sciences for studying culture.
Calit2's ongoing efforts in cultural informatics include multidisciplinary collaborations between experts in the areas of digital media and cultural theory with researchers in computer science and distributed human cognition. IGNCA, for its part, has emerged as a world-class documentation unit for digitizing cultural artifacts, including a National Databank on Indian Art and Culture, computer-aided learning for children, and a collection of CD-ROMs that include works on India's famed Davadasi Tradition, Muktesvara Temple and the epic of Devnarayan.
"We have a very important and fairly significant digital arts program, and in India, we are pioneers in the cultural informatics field," notes IGNCA Joint Secretary Aditi Mehta, who says she foresees a broad partnership with Calit2. "What we've seen at Calit2 in particular is the kind of cutting-edge technology that we don't have access to in our country, so the idea is to try to attempt to marry our needs with some of the capabilities we have seen here."
It was through the work of Archaeology Professor Thomas Levy (of the UCSD Department of Anthropology) that IGNCA first became acquainted with the work of Calit2 and CISA3. Levy, who is the associate director of CISA3, has conducted ongoing research in the town of Swamimalai in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu, to research and document the bronze-casting traditions of hereditary sthapathis ("artisans" in Tamil). This project led to an ethnographic study of the sthapathis that is co-sponsored by India's National Folklore Support Centre, which has close ties with IGNCA.
During their three-day visit to Calit2, Mehta and her cohort from IGNCA, Director of Cultural Informatics Pratapanand Jha, expressed particular interest in another of Levy's projects: The Digital Archaeology Atlas of the Holy Land (DAAHL). DAAHL, which Levy has termed a "database without borders," is the first node in a seamless, highly detailed online network (MedArchNet) that will link temporally diverse archaeological sites around the Mediterranean region. Members of MedArchNet will be able to share large datasets by being members of the cyberinfrastructure.
"IGNCA has been looking to expand their activities in digitizing various art forms, including performing arts," remarks Srinivas Sukumar, Calit2's community program director. "They are interested in creating a technical framework similar to DAAHL that deals with what they call tangible and intangible art — music, dance, folk stories — and archiving and storing these things, making them available to a broad range of people."
While in San Diego, Mehta and Jha were also introduced to another of Calit2's projects — a collaboration between CISA3 and the San Diego Museum of Art (SDMA), where CISA3 founding Director Maurizio Seracini and his team are conducting diagnostic imaging and analytical testing of paintings, sculptures and other artifacts. Sukumar says the demonstration provided the representatives from IGNCA with a good idea of how they can "leverage Calit2 technologies for their projects in India."
The planned partnership between IGNCA and Calit2 will initially focus on two areas: capacity building and prototyping small projects that can eventually evolve into larger efforts. The first step will be to organize a workshop to elaborate on the technologies Calit2 has to offer and discuss the contexts in which they can be applied. Training opportunities, contingent on IGNCA's funding, might also emerge from the workshop.
"Calit2 has something that is very dear to us: The active integration of science and the arts," says Mehta. "It is very important for us to make the leap into the sciences, but it can be very difficult to integrate the humanities with the sciences. For this to be successful, it will involve us basing our own internal conversations with institutes of technology like Calit2 and other institutes in our own country."
Tiffany Fox, (858) 246-0353, email@example.com