I’ve just returned from a conference dedicated to “Digital Textualities in South Asia” at UBC. One of the main goals of the conference was to gauge what kinds of digital tools and resources are being developed in South Asian studies, and I noticed that many of the projects were basically concerned with textual criticism. One model that at least three presenters used was (1) transcribing large numbers of manuscripts of a given text; (2) semi-automatically collating these manuscripts using programs like CollateX; and (3) developing a stemma using phylogenetic software. I talked about something more general—strategies and standards in the production of digital texts, using literary anthologies as a test-case.
What about Indian Philosophy? How, if at all, has the transition to digitial media transformed our research? Most of the projects that I am aware with are concerned with making digital texts available. There is, first of all, the SARIT project, which has excellent coverage of Buddhist philosophical texts thanks to the direction of Birgit Kellner. (I can promise that more Mīmāṃsā texts are coming soon!) SARIT provides downloadable e-texts as well as a search interface for those texts. Then there is the digital Prasthānatrayam provided by the Advaita Śāradā at Sringeri, which provides a completely hyperlinked text of all of Śaṅkarācārya’s commentaries. Besides these general resources, there is an in-progress database of Fragments of Indian Philosophy run by Ernst Prets at the IKGA. This project is particularly exciting, first because it is a million times easier to keep track of fragments using digital tools than print resources, and second because the inherently linked and relational nature of fragments makes it very natural to treat them as “linked open data,” which has a number of exciting applications. (See the Leipzig Open Fragmentary Texts Series and Sharing Ancient Wisdoms.) Finally, there are teaching applications, such as the annotation software that Malcolm mentioned in a recent post.
That said, my impression is that philosophy and South Asian studies are among the least “digitized” academic fields/disciplines, and Indian Philosophy falls in the middle of this Venn Diagram of analog scholarship. I think there is still a lot we can do, and a lot of interesting projects to be designed. With this post I wanted to pose a couple of questions.
- What am I missing? What exciting digital projects are out there that have some relevance to the study of Indian philosophy?
- How, if at all, do digital tools and resources (like GRETIL, SARIT, etc.) change the way that we do our research on a practical level?
- How, if at all, do digital tools and resources change the questions that our research begins with?
- How can we use digital projects to change the “user base” of Indian philosophy? (i.e., can we get more people involved, either as readers, collaborators, annotators, etc.?)
- What would you like to see happen in this area? What kinds of projects would be useful or interesting to you?
Here is a running list of digital tools and projects that might conceivably be used to study Indian philosophy: