When the mouse was in my hand, the cigarette flew away

The Digital Humanities is a big tent, and includes analysis of how digital communication has affected traditional society.  I couldn’t help thinking about this as I was watching one of my favorite actors, Shammi Kapoor, in the process of putting his entire life online:

The Urdu bits translated:

:17 In my life, the computer has played a very big part.  I used to spend about ten or twelve hours a day at the computer, because it’s magic to me…

:53 Because I was on the computer…

1:00  …it’s 12 o’clock, are you going to eat something, are you going to drink something?

1:17  Whenever I was on the computer, my hand had the mouse in it, I didn’t have the time to smoke.  A man forgets to do that…

I don’t deal with this aspect of DH, and I’m allergic to social media (you won’t find me on Facebook or Twitter) but that doesn’t mean that I’m not in awe of the phenomenon nor unaware of the excellent work that people are doing with new media, especially in pedagogy. Joseph Kautz, the head of the digital language lab here at Stanford, welcomed the 2010 Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistants by giving them the opportunity to share their experiences and their songs using WordPress and Kaltura, and while there may not be any future Muhammad Rafis among them, the results were still amazing:

떴다 떴다 비행기 ( flying airplane)

Joseph and I spoke about this before and after, and there were two incredible things that I took away from it:  The first was a strike against my jaded view of the total penetration of digital media into global society, made clear by the remarks of students for whom this was their first exposure to the concept of “YouTube”.1 The second was a firm belief that for someone like myself, who was there when all these temples and black boxes were built and who knows that they’re simply the creation of people, there is a core responsibility of the university is to demystify social media, and demonstrate that a video-embedded and tag-clouded blog produced by a few neophytes was only different in scale from the seemingly monolithic Web 2.0 structures, not in kind.

1Or, as William Kamkwamba said in his interview on The Daily Show, “Where was this Google all this time?!”

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