Towards a portal for the verse of the unheard

  • Who to listen to?
    • Rural women poets
    • Poets who spend the bulk of their lives trying to eke out daily wages, yet find time to write
    • University students whose primary focus is a career but who still have an inexplicable urge to write poetry
    • Unlettered poets
  • Guiding rails
    • Aim for the poetic lull behind the noise – the statistical asymptote – of unheard voices; here is where databases, categorization and visualization come in
    • Chime with global and historical well-lit poetry of oppression/dissent:  Latin American;  black (esp. Africa and US); feminist; Bhakti etc.
    • Work with mainstream poets, esp. regional ones, without highlighting their work
    • Along the lines of A.K Ramanujan’s collection of Indian folktales and P.J Sainath’s people’s archive of rural India but for verse
  • Where to look for?
    • Rural spaces where marginalized poets speak
    • Universities
    • Katchi abadis
    • The unlit mushaira/gathering of poets
  • Who to work with?
    • Regional poets with social justice sensibilities
    • Social justice activists with poetic sensibilities
    • Academics with social justice and poetic leanings
  • Challenges
    • Creating effective quality filters which are open to the myriad voices without damping them down
    • Identify the spaces in ‘Where to look for?’
  • Nuts & bolts
    • Blog/wiki for poetry collection
    • A platform for data collection via browsers and phones using the tools I have built (if blog or wiki is not up to the task)
    • An incremental portal that learns its categories from the data collected

New Visualization/Portal Ideas

  • Bhakti, Race & Gender: black poets esp. US (Audre Lorde, Gwendolyn Brooks), feminist poetry; early South Indian movements/saints/poets all the way till fifteenth century North Indian Kabir, try and put their work Indian/regional/global historic context, esp. that of movements and dissent
  • Towards a portal for the verse of the unheard
  • Visualize Hamza Alavi’s work
  • Making complex math and physics concepts accessible to 12 year olds
  • Medical/public health portals in regional languages

ramping up to programming

    • Scratch :Scratch helps young people learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively — essential skills for life in the 21st century.Scratch is a project of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. It is provided free of charge.
    • Pre-processors for writing code in one’s native language: should be possible, I think, quite easily. In principle, each keyword and syntax contruct would map to its corresponding version in the “actual” language.

For example:

عمر = ۱؛
جب تک (عمر < ۱۲) {
لکھو "میری عمر " + عمر + " سال ہے مگر میں بڑا ہو کر بڑا آدمی بنوں گا! "

Unfortunately, to get all the characters I needed, I had to use both the “standard” Urdu keyboard and the phonetic one.

Or, in French:
âge = 1;
jusqu_a(âge < 12){
écris(“quand je serai grand, je serai un grand homme!”);
This, oddly enough, turned out to be non-trivial as keys like < and > as well as the plus sign are not easy to find in the French keyboard (too many keys taken over by their accented keys, in my opinion!)
It’s much worse in Urdu as WP’s display mechanism, at some point, totally screws up text direction.

  • Junaid teaches the “intro to computing” at Namal using a set of resources called Computer Science Unplugged. The idea is to introduce learners to “thinking like a machine” – a process which is non-intuitive (especially serial processing) before even getting into programming (though they do go there). To quote at some length from their site:

The primary goal of the Unplugged project is to promote Computer Science (and computing in general) to young people as an interesting, engaging, and intellectually stimulating discipline. We want to capture people’s imagination and address common misconceptions about what it means to be a computer scientist. We want to convey fundamentals that do not depend on particular software or systems, ideas that will still be fresh in 10 years. We want to reach kids in elementary schools and provide supplementary material for university courses. We want to tread where high-tech educational solutions are infeasible; to cross the divide between the information-rich and information-poor, between industrialized countries and the developing world.
There are many worthy projects for promoting computer science. The main principles that distinguish the Unplugged activities are:

1 No Computers Required
2 No Computers Required
3 Real Computer Science
4 Learning by doing
5 Fun
6 No specialised equipment
7 Variations encouraged
8 For everyone
9 Co-operative
10 Stand-alone Activities
11 Resilient

But how is that relevant to our work? I’m not entirely sure, but as we’re building a repository of ideas, I thought that these go together in terms of making information processing skills accessible to a larger number of people.