Analysis of Institutional Partnerships: University of Mysore and Guru G Learning Labs
University of Mysore considered to be one of the most prestigious institutions in the country has been famous for its innovative pedagogic techniques and opening up for students various avenues of knowledge acquisition.
The Kannada Encyclopedia project that was taken up by the Kuvempu Kannada Adhyana Samsthe, (KIKS), Manasagangothri, Mysore was one of its kind during its inception. It is safe to say that though Kannda has seen many other projects and attempts towards compiling encyclopedias, to this day the Vishwakoshas produced by University of Mysore are among the top picks regarding quality of the content, scope of the information and its reach with the general public. Many other encyclopedia projects such as “Bala Vignana Kosha” compiled by Shivaram Karanth, “Jnana Gangothri” by Niranjana, the “Kananda Sahitya Vishwakosha” from the Kannada University, Hampi have provided encyclopedic content to the Kannada readers.
The idea of the University of Mysore complied Vishwakoshas was simple. It seeked to provide basic and elemenatry information about key topics all around the universe (physical, spiritual, material, cultural, social, behavioural, political and many other domains of knowledge) to the general public. The intention was to make information accessible and easily understandable. It was not expected to educate or assist people in gaining profieciency regarding a certain topic but was expected to provide salient features, brief history and concise introduction.
Rationale for Institutional partnership:
The compilation of topics that were to be part of the Vishwakosha was done alphabetically and till date 13 Vishwakoshas have been produced along with one Kannada Vishaya Vishwakosha which exclusively deals with matters pertaining to Kannada land, language, literature, politics, culture, entertainment and other aspects of Kannada life. The Vishwakosha project was a method to democratise the process of production of knowledge. People from all walks of life were invited to contribute to the Vishwakosha along with the academicians and researchers. The submissions were then scrutinised by the review committee and was edited, information added as per the requirements. As this was not a text only Vishwakosha many attempts were made to source images as well. These were not used as ornamental or page filling purpose but was also informative in its own way with adequate meta data.
These encyclopedias have been extremely popular with the Kannada audience both for the content and for its competitive pricing. Prasaranga, the publication division of University of Mysore had also offered an discount for people who would purchase the entire set of Vishwakoshas at a special rate. The Vishwakosha project faced many problems and the last volume of the Vishwakosha was released in the year , while the first volume was released in . University of Mysore has also digitised the Vishwakoshas and made it avaialable for general public on a CD.
Plan of Action:
Access to Knowledge team sought to bring these treasure troves of Knowledge onto the digital platform and update the information available on these Vishwakoshas. It was a shot in the arm for the activities being conducted by CIS-A2K when University of Mysore agreed to re-release all of its encyclopedias under free licence for the benefit of larger Kannada community. University of Mysore also agreed to handover soft copies of the few encyclopedias (that were already digitised) to create and redirect content towards Kannada Wikipedia.
A2K team has conducted three skill building and Wikipedia orientation workshops with the students of University of Mysore in order to kick start the content generation activities. These workshops were received very positively by the students. However due to lack of an active community and serious infrastructural issues the students could not continue with the activities that had been planned. Due to the inactivity of these new volunteers we have witnessed a decrease in the activity of content generation effort as aimed earlier.
CIS-A2K facilitated extracting the legacy text from the soft-copies, converting them to Unicode, distributing the files among volunteers and Christ University interns and uploading them to Kannada Wikisource. These articles will serve as primary material for new content generation on Kannada Wikipedia. CIS-A2K celeberated Open Knowledge Day in collaboration with University of Mysore.
The non availability of infrastructual requirement, administrative difficulties such as scheduling of academic calendar offered the A2K team many invaluable lessons towards fostering an institutional partnership. A2K team adopted corrective measures and has been using the encyclopedias donated by University of Mysore as a primary reference for the subsequent edit-a-thons. A2K has also created a project page on Meta to attract Kannada Wikimedians towards content generation.
Outcome and Output:
A2K team utilised its institutional partnership with Christ University in the initial stages and digitised volumes of Kannada Encyclopedias. These were used both as references for the edit-a-thons conducted by CIS-A2K and as a primary reference material that was curated into an independent article on Kannada Wikipedia. Many Kannada Wikimedians have joined hands with A2K in acheiving this. This is an on-going activity.
Plans for Future:
As University of Mysore has rich archival collection particulalry in Indian Languages, A2K team intends to talk to individual departments to bring this content to Open Knowledge repositiries.
A2K team would like to involve various Departments to dedicate some staff on an hourly basis towards speedy completion of the project.
The existing MoU is understood as a one time activity of content donation (print and e copy of Vishwakosha) where as A2K would like to continue this activity as a long term engagement that will facilitate in building research skills and writing skills.
A2K team intends to request to University of Mysore should select/suggest some student volunteers for the digitisation project. With the inclusion of Kannada PA A2K team would collaborate with key Departments at the University of Mysore to conduct digitisation and translation sprints that will be facilitated by and other Wikimedians.
A2K team would like to collate all the new articles created with the help of the content donated by University of Mysore and circulate it as a newsletter on a monthly basis and sent to the Kannada community and University of Mysore.