I have a keen interest in studying political communication through cultural texts. In my doctoral dissertation and my first book I explored the experiences of one of India’s most active theatre groups who have been practicing street theatre for almost five decades. One of the insights that emerged from this work was the need for political art to be dynamic beyond the formal characteristics of print and transcend a society where mechanical reproduction was the dominant form of reproduction and distribution of art.
While performance art lies at one end of the print spectrum, the digital universe is emerging on the other. Indeed, digital creations bear a striking resemblance to the performative in being malleable, unique and ephemeral. However, in many other aspects, particularly the reach and speed of the digital distribution this new medium is very different from the world of performance. The tools and methods that are effective in the close analysis of performance and literary art forms, become inadequate in studying the sheer volume of material that is churned out everyday in the digital domain. Though, if looked at in its entirety, the human creative output has continued to increase exponentially since the invention of print, with machine reading it is possible today to retrieve and analyze literary, artistic and other textual data at an unprecedented scale. Hence, over the last few years I have tried to move towards computational text retrieval, data wrangling, analysis and visualization.
The first DHAI conference in 2018 was a wonderful experience where I got together with many of my colleagues in the first DHARTI Executive. Conceptualizing and hosting the first DHARTI Twitter Conference (have there been other Twitter conferences in India before this?) in January 2020 not only foreshadowed the virtual conference boom to be witnessed later that year, it also unleashed the relevance that digital humanities holds in a multilingual multicultural space like India.