Multimedia Archiving of Technological Change in a Traditional Creative Industry: A Case Study of the Dhokra Artisans of Bankura, West Bengal
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- Smith, D. & Kochhar, R. AI (2002) 16: 350. doi:10.1007/s001460200028
Many recent studies of technological change have focussed on the implementation of computer-based high technology systems. The research described here deals with the introduction of a new but ‘low’ technology into an ancient craft tradition in India. The paper describes a project to capture and archive aspects of the tacit knowledge content of the traditional cire perdue brass foundry (Dhokra) craft of Bikna village, near Bankura, West Bengal. The research involved collaboration between the Indian National Institute for Science, Technology and Development Studies (NISTADS) and School of Art, Media and Design, University of Wales, Newport, UK in the context of the EU-India Cross-Cultural Innovation Network Project. NISTADS were proposing to introduce a new fuel-efficient furnace technology in place of the traditional form used in Bikna. It was expected that the introduction of the new furnace would catalyse major changes in the entire dhokra craft at Bikna. What was not anticipated, however, was the speed and extent of this change, to the extent that the old traditional way of doing things was changed within the space of a few months. A Multimedia record of the craft and the process was developed. These technologies make it possible to develop adequate representations of skilled performance mediated by the craftsman him- or herself. Particularly valuable in this respect is the capacity of multimedia systems to use a full range of modalities of description, including video, sound, still image, conventional text and technical diagrams. This enables the presentation of very complex information in a variety of formats and contexts. The context and process of developing this knowledge archive are described.