Prof. Amlan Das Gupta, Jadavpur University
Few would dispute today that the way in which we experience the humanities is strongly mediated by digital technology. This has not only to do with whether we are comfortable using computers for our everyday work: quite obviously the methods of research and study are themselves shaped and enabled by such means. As such we inhabit what might be called a condition of digitality, as constitutive of our work as students of the humanities as those created by earlier revolutions in the technologies of knowledge: the coming of the printed book for instance, or earlier media for mechanical reproduction of sound or image. There may some justice in thinking that one is born into a certain state of technology and shaped by it: newer incursions upon our habits and patterns of behaviour are confusing and difficult to adjust to. The question it becomes obvious is not just one of media or objects. The digital mediation of knowledge may be now impacting the very way in which humanities research is thought of, affecting as David Berry says “the epistemologies and ontologies that underlie a research programme”.
This paper deals with some of the questions of addressability and usability in digital collections, focusing on the digital repository of the Famine and Dearth Project.