Digital Technology and Tibet: A New Paradigm for Knowledge

Digital Technology has revolutionized many sectors of our society in the brief three decade history of widespread use of personal computing and the internet, and yet higher education has been typically conservative and slow to assimilate the revolutionary implications of these new capacities. As a collective, and as individuals, we in higher education are quick to shift rhetoric but painfully slow to shift practices. Digital technologies offer us an opportunity to engage in a historical reassessment of our basic paradigm for knowledge in colleges and universities - its creation, its refinement, its transmission, its publication, and its socially engaged uses. The talk will present a decade-long experiment at exploring such transformative possibilities in relationship to a specific region of the world (Tibet and the Himalayas), and conclude with reflections on how such experiments might be mainstreamed into the academy.

David Germano, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Religious Studies, University of Virginia

David Germano teaches and researches Tibetan and Buddhist Studies at the University of Virginia, and is director of SHANTI (Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts Network of Technological Initiatives, www.shanti.virginia.edu), the Tibetan and Himalayan Library (www.thlib.org, THL), and the Tibet Center (www.uvatibetcenter.org). His personal scholarship focuses on the history of Tibetan culture and religion from the ninth to fourteenth century with a special focus on esoteric religious movements.

At present, he is working with other faculty and staff at UVa to establish SHANTI as a faculty governed center focused on integrating and coordinating various digital initiatives with a humanistic focus at UVa, as well as strengthening the dynamic interconnections between innovation and mainstream activity involving digital technology amongst faculty and students. This involves establishing a new approach to learning management systems, incorporating powerful digital technologies into the University digital ecology, digital humanities-focused social networking portal, task forces focused on mainstreaming and broadening access to digital technologies for faculty and students, and greater peer to peer networking and support systems.

In THL, he has built an international digital library for facilitating interdisciplinary, collaborative, and engaged scholarship in Tibetan Studies. It uses technology creatively to help support bridges between academics and development projects, and to enable local communities to use modern tools as vehicles for their own self-expression and empowerment. This participatory movement aims to redefine the notion of “scholars” and “scholarship” to include local communities across the world in a truly distributed production of knowledge.