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The first two days of December 2000 witnessed the unfolding of a fascinating event held under the banner of the "Conference on Multimedia Technology for Culture" in Pune, India. Fascinating perhaps not so much for pure content, but certainly more than so on account of it being held indirectly under aegis of the Ministry of Information Technology, Government of India.

The host was CDAC (Centre for Development of Advanced Computing), through it's wing The National Multimedia Resource Centre (NMRC).

CDAC's Executive Director, Mr. R. K. Arora, set the ball rolling with a welcome address after initial words from Dinesh Katre, the man behind the whole show as Group Coordinator-NMRC. This was followed up with an address by the Guest of Honour, Mr. N. Gopalaswami, Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission.

With the keynote address however, things moved into higher gear in the experienced hands of Dr. Sugata Mitra, well recognized amongst the prime messiahs of India's Information Technology revolution across the late 20th Century and presently Senior Vice President, Centre for Research in Cognitive Systems, NIIT. In a talk accompanied with images and video, Dr. Mitra presented fascinating perspectives on culture as well as several of the many activities he's been up to as one of the IT front-men of India. Amongst these, an informal experiment involved embedding a net-enabled, joystick-driven and continuously online computer into a public wall of a rural village setting. Occasionally returning thereafter to see how things were going with the local kids who began to use the device, Dr. Mitra was delighted to discover and report that -amongst other progress- they'd even started learning how to understand, read, write and speak a bit of English through using the facility!

Speaking after this was the Chief Guest, Mr. Vinay Kohli, brand-new Secretary at the Ministry of Information Technology (Government of India), who made it charmingly clear that he was still a bit raw to his assignment and would therefore speak little,.. but nevertheless managed to put an interesting twist to the whole notion of the conference itself with a concept of "bringing culture to the people".

A vote of thanks was then proposed, before the gathering retired to a tea break, allowing the VIP guests who'd addressed this "Inaugural Function" to quietly depart, never to be seen again through the remaining course of the event.

SESSION 1 (Emerging Trends and Concepts) ~ Chair: Dr. Mukul Sinha

The first actual presentation of the conference came ~as so often seems appropriate for matters of all description in India~ from a holy man, Shri. Sakhare Maharaj, who spoke on 'Sanskriti' (literally 'Culture'). His address was presented entirely in chaste old Marathi, or Sanskrit, or some mixture of the two, but seemed to have been reasonably well understood by most present. Most interesting however, was that he spoke not just as a religious one, but also as something of a multimedia person too, having recently guided Dinesh Katre and his team at NMRC through creation of their "Nrityamanajari" CD-ROM.

Following directly upon this tough-act-to-follow just happened to be Shankar Barua, editor of The IDEA, who took upon himself the mouthful of 'New Cultural Matrices Emerging from the Creative Empowerment of Individuals through Technology'. Since the Maharaj's presentation before him had eaten quite a bit into his time, Shankar has taken the liberty of cracking out the sense of his presentation independently in this issue for whoever may be interested (see Contents ~ 'Me_PPT')

With his presentation on 'Globalization and the Cultural Context,' Prof. Kirti Trivedi (Industrial Design Centre, Indian Institute of Technology-Mumbai) managed to convey a wonderful academic air to the proceedings with thoughtful perspectives on design and iconography. An interesting point he made, for example, with regard to the globalization of symbols and icons was how the ubiquitous coke-symbol is precisely the same everywhere, while the Buddha in statuary and images is never quite so across cultural borders and boundaries (e.g. India/Tibet/China/Japan).

Dr. Gautam Bose (Sr. Technical Director, National Informatics Centre, Delhi) followed on this with a dense presentation on 'Applications of IT in Museums' ~ stuff we can expect to soon see going on-stream across the country.

'Cyberspace & Heritage Studies' was presented by Dr. Lachman Khubchandani (Director, Centre for Communications Studies, Pune) around an effort being made by his institution to culturally link up the Sindhi Diaspora in new ways, with a focus upon evolving holistically into the future as a global community.

LUNCH

SESSION 2 (Digital Content Creation and Structuring) ~ Chair: Prof. Kirti Trivedi

Dr. Anil Athle (Chief Coordinator, INPAD, Pune) followed immediately upon lunch with a presentation on 'The Making of the Marathas - A Digital Experience' (The Great Marathas CD-ROM). An ex army-man, a historian and a Maratha, Dr. Athle also amply represented the new kind of creative individuals we are and will increasingly be seeing ~ who present their works wonderfully in digital forms without even attempting or pretending to be digital-professionals themselves.

In overview, 'The Project of the Critical Edition of the Mahabharata' (Mahabharata CD-ROM), seemed also to be a similar case in some ways. Presented by Prof. M. G. Dhadphale (Honorary Secretary, Bhandarkar Institute, Pune), this however represented a much larger institutional effort based upon extensive and ancient archives, but still in an early stage of development and (substantial) fund-raising. Mr. Abhijit Devale presented the technical side of the undertaking as Project Leader, Spectrum Business Support Ltd. Pune, who're doing the multimedia development.

'Kumar Vishwa Kosh' (Multimedia Encyclopedia in Marathi), presented by Ms. Aparna Ghogale (ET, NMRC, Pune) was entirely missed by us ~ sorry.

'Digital Audio Content Creation', presented by Mr. Ravi Vedant (Partner, Music Byte, Pune) could not however be missed by anyone. Beginning with basic digital-audio effects repeatedly wrapped around a soft-sell audio file of his company, Ravi gradually moved on to rocking and rolling the establishment with MIDI loops and grooves that had the chair finally call a halt to it, to move on ~ great stuff!

Dr. Mukul Sinha (MD, Expert Software Ltd. New Delhi) came on after this to put the big crunch on proceedings with his highly professional presentation on 'Approach to Cultural Content Structuring'. Itself structured around a CD being developed by Dr. Sinha's company for the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), the presentation succinctly put through how the demands of domain experts on subjects being addressed could lead to vividly user-friendly though intensely dense matrices of information. The subject of the CD was a stream of ancient Indian temple architecture and philosophy.

What with talking of domain experts, it was more than appropriate that Dr. Gurpreet Maini from New Delhi followed this with views upon 'Content Structuring for Indian History' from the perspective of teaching at the school and college levels.

TEA

SESSION 3 (Multimedia CD Title Creation), Chair: Dr. A. B. Saha

'Multimedia Title Development' ~ Mr. Asif Khan (Creative Director, Munsai Multimedia, Pune) made a presentation of the CD on "Shree Ganesh ... an auspicious beginning", produced by his company for the Indian and NRI marketplace. (reviewed in this gazette; see contents)

'Use of Modern Technologies in propogation of India's ancient wisdom' ~ Mr. Ram Pipariya (Chairman, Aridhi Hi-Tech Industries Ltd. Mumbai) made a presentation of the CD on Bhagavadgita produced by his company for the Indian and NRI marketplace. (reviewed in this gazette; see contents)

'Raagmala' (Tourism CD Titles) ~ Mr. Ravi Dugal (Chairman, Reality Information Systems, Pune) made a presentation of the CD on Indian Ragas produced by his company for the Indian and NRI marketplace. (reviewed in this gazette; see contents)

'Festivals of India' (Lalita Sahasra Nam and two other CD Titles on religious topics) ~ Mr. Kamal Bijlani (Project Leader-Multimedia, Mata AmritanandMai Institute, Coimbatore) made a presentation of a couple of religious CD titles.

2 Dec 2000-Day 2

SESSION 3 contd.

'Khana Khazana' (Multimedia CD-ROM on Indian Cooking with Chef Sanjeev Kapoor) ~ Mr. Nitin Urdhwarshe (Director, Digikore Design, Pune) presented a CD developed about three years ago, when his team and he were very fresh out from the Industrial Design Centre of IIT-Mumbai. Having finally gone into the black with this production allowed a good look-back at the downsides of association through royalty commitments.

'Multimedia Authoring for Nrityamanjari CD Title' ~ Mr. Subrata Mukherjee (Jadavpur University, Calcutta) presented a brilliant portrayal of how government spending so easily goes down the pipe.

SESSION 4 (Internet Centric Multimedia Applications) ~ Chair: Dr. Gautam Bose

'Multimedia Technology for Indian Heritage (Vastu Shastra, Vastu World) ~ Presented by Mr. Mayank Bharjatya (Chief Architect, Vastu Tectonics Pvt. Ltd. Indore), this was about an attempted Dot.Com niche-grab by a young professional, of a territory on which there has lately been a run in India. Vastu is an ancient architectural science based on holistic planning by certain principles laid out according to the points of the compass, landscape, neighbourhood and climate, etc.

'Pune Ganesh Festival Website' (Indian Heritage Specific Content on the Net) ~ Presented by the very charming Ms. Shaivalini Medhekar (Marketing Manager) and Mr. Parag Sane (Technology Manager) of Wavefront Technologies Pvt. Ltd. Pune, this was missed entirely by us.. sorry!

'Architecting a Digital Library Solution' ~ Mr. Piyush Jain (MTS, Digital Library Group, C-DAC, Bangalore) went rather a bit too deep into a proposed architecture for a data-management and access system ~ essentially to do with separating the user-end from an administered back-end.

TEA

'Indiatravels.com' ~ Mr. Ravi Harlalka (CEO, Elixir Netcom Solutions, Mumbai) presented one the Dot.Com stories of the turn of the millennium.

'Sakal Newspaper' (Marathi site) ~ Mr Chandrashekar Vispute (Project Leader, Octon, Pune) presented an overview of the newspaper website being administered by his company.

SESSION 5 (Multilingual and Multimedia Technologies), Chair: Dr. Lachman Khubchandani

'Multilingual Technologies for Cultural Computing' ~ Kala Sriram (Team Coordinator, GIST Group, CDAC, Pune) gave a presentation we missed entirely.. sorry!

'Multimedia based Language teaching' ~ Also missed Dr. Hemant Darbari (Group Coordinator, AI Group, CDAC, Pune).. sorry!

LUNCH

'Authoring Tool for Computer Based Training' ~ Presented by Mr. Ashish Paranjape (Executive Director, Harbinger Knowledge Products Pvt. Ltd. Pune), this was about "CBT-PRO 4.0" a multimedia authoring program geared particularly towards creating corporate and institutional training-modules. Pretty impressive tool, with pretty impressive clients already using it,.. at a pretty impressive price per piece.

'Complex Geometry in Heritage Monuments' (Fatehpur Sikri walkthrough software) ~ Mr. Dinesh Sikhare and Mr. Bipin Patwardhan of NCST, Mumbai, got together to present their fantastic interactive 3D rendering of the famous old abandoned fortress-palace of the Mughals near Agra. Certainly the sort of stuff that'll increasingly find tourists and travellers test waters before -decreasingly- leaving home.

'Virtual Reality Authoring' ~ As Manager-Marketing at Rahul Commerce, Pune, Mr. Anindya Potdar perhaps shouldn't have surprised us as much as he in fact did, by using the opportunity to present sales-videos and other such material.

'QMM Album Authoring Tool' ~ The very wonderful Mr. Dinesh Katre (Group Coordinator, NMRC, CDAC, Pune), who'd organized the conference, won everyone's sympathy with the computer presentation system crashing early on in his exposition of the friendly authoring tool recently developed by his organization. Full marks for taking it smilingly and very competently in his stride. (this software was used to present the conference report to participants on CD a couple of weeks later, from which the images with this page have been adapted)

SESSION 6 (Cost Effective Multimedia Solutions) ~ Chair: Dr. Ram Pipariya

'Effective Approach to Multimedia Content Creation' ~ A heady and highly cerebral presentation from Dr. A. B. Saha (Director, Ministry of Information Technology, GOI, New Delhi), who's prime focus lies in making computer-based information and communications locally relevant and accessible at the grass-roots level across rural India.

'Brief Overview of Initiatives and activities' ~ Mr. Dinesh Katre (Group Coordinator, NMRC); Mr. Subrata Mukherjee (MTDRC, Jadavpur Univ.); Dr. R. S. Khandpur (Director General CEDTI, Mohali)

SESSION 7 (Panel Discussion) ~ Chair Dr. Mukul Sinha

Panelists:

Dr. Gautam Bose, Sr. Tec, Director, NIC, New Delhi
Prof. Kirti Trivedi, IDC, IIT-Mumbai
Dr. A. B. Saha, Director MIT, GOI, New Delhi
Dr. Sashank Pujari, Programme Coordinator, GIST, CDAC

VOTE OF THANKS/CONCLUDE

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for more information, contact:
Mr. Dinesh Katre
Group Coordinator
National Multimedia Resorcce Centre - CDAC
Agriculture College Campus
Near District Industries Centre, Shivaji Nagar
Pune - 411 005 (India)
tel: (91-20) 553 7564, fax: (91-20) 553 3250
E-mail