Humaniora Digital dan Warisan Budaya


The hall of the Faculty of Cultural Studies (FCS) Universitas Brawijaya (UB) Building B was filled with lecturers who were very enthusiastic to join workshop with the theme “Digital Humanities and Cultural Heritage” on Friday (1/26/2024). FCS UB invited Dr. Miguel Escobar Varela, a researcher and lecturer in digital humanities at the National University of Singapore, to share his extraordinary knowledge and experience, particularly in digital humanities research and teaching.

The event, which started at 13.00 local time, was opened with remarks from Fatimah S.Pd, M.Appl.Ling., Acting Vice Dean for Academic Affairs at FIB UB. She warmly welcomed all participants by expressing gratitude and many thanks for the opportunity to learn from Dr. Varela. Dr. Fatimah underlined the importance of digital humanities development as the main focus of FCS UB. FCS UB’s efforts to integrate digital humanities and artificial intelligence into the curriculum were also conveyed, with the hope that Dr. Varela could provide advice and input for the implementation of the plan.

Humaniora Digital dan Warisan Budaya Fatimah

“Since last year, FCS UB has intensively moved to the direction of digital humanities as the center of excellence. Especially right now, all study programs at FCS UB are conducting curriculum development. We also want digital humanities and artificial intelligence to be included in the curriculum. Later we will also need advice from Dr. Varela who has tremendous practical experience in that field. We need to know how to develop the curriculum in digital humanities,” said Fatimah.

The remarks from the Vice Dean for Academic Affairs were followed by the handover of souvenirs as a token of appreciation from FCS UB to Dr. Varela. The token of appreciation, the official FCS UB plaque, was handed over by Nanang Endrayanto S.S, M.Sc., Vice Dean for General Affairs, Finance, and Resources, and Yusri Fajar S.S, M.A, lecturer in the English Literature Study Programme (SP) FCS UB.

Shortly after, Scarletina Vidyayani Eka S.S, M.Hum., lecturer of English Literature as well as the moderator, opened the main event by greeting Dr. Varela and the participants. The workshop session began with information of the speaker’s short profile.

Dr. Varela opened his presentation by explaining that the concept of digital humanities can be interpreted in many different ways by researchers, but the most important thing is to understand the context. In terms of using data to answer complex questions about culture, he gave an example of a project his team undertook. Using data visualization techniques such as the “hotspots map,” they were able to gain deep insights on how common wayang performances were held over a period of time.

“A few years ago, we had a project. We took all the mentions of wayang performances in all places from social media, from Facebook, Twitter, and other websites. We could see how many wayang performances per year. There are about 5,000 wayang performances per year. In Malang District itself, there are some performances, but more in other areas. In May-June, there are not too many performances. Can you guess why? Yes, because of the fasting month. Later, in August, there are many more performances. Why? Because that’s when the celebration of Indonesian independence take place,” said Dr. Varela.

Humaniora Digital dan Warisan Budaya

Dr. Varela also discussed the potential use of artificial intelligence (AI) in cultural analysis, such as annotating wayang images to develop wayang character detector. He also mentioned some of his projects that present information about wayang in an interactive way through video and data, with the intention to attract students and the general public’s interest in cultural heritage. One of them is the Interactive Wayang Screen that has been exhibited at Tembi Gallery, Yogyakarta. In the project website, the visitors can control the video of a wayang performance on the screen by practicing the puppeteer’s movements using equipment that has been fitted with movement sensors.

He also shared his teaching experience at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and how the model can be adapted to the local context. The learning experience at NUS emphasizes the importance of the project’s impact on students’ experience, which are similar to the MBKM program in Indonesia. Through these projects, students collaborate with community organizations or institutions in Southeast Asia to apply the knowledge they gain in the classroom to real-world situations. In the previous year, they had collaborated with Gadjah Mada University (UGM), and now they are planning a more detailed collaboration with UB.

After the presentation session ended, the lecturers were very enthusiastic to ask questions, one of the most interesting ones came from the lecturer of Anthropology Study Programme (SP), Irsyad Matias S.S, M.A..

“In the past, Geographic Information System (GIS) was difficult to access because ArcView was very expensive, requiring a license. But now there are many free one (software) so I don’t think tools are a problem. When I studied anthropology, I only dealt with anthropology. But integrating to digital humanities requires collaboration. My question is, what are the steps to initiate interdisciplinary collaboration both in terms of tools and knowledge?” he asked.

Humaniora Digital dan Warisan Budaya Dr. Miguel E. Varela

Dr. Varela explained that one of the quickest ways to get out of these limitations is to attend interdisciplinary conferences. He mentioned an example of his meeting with Dr. Pohjonen from Finland, who was also a guest lecture speaker at FIB UB, at a digital humanities conference in Denmark.

“There are some academics who often chat with others, who all come from the same background. The quickest way to get into collaboration is to come to an interdisciplinary conference,” he explains.

In addition, he also suggested creating your own interdisciplinary seminar on campus as a first step to building collaboration. According to him, the most important thing in building collaboration is through face-to-face meetings.

“For me, the most important thing is not bureaucracy, but coffee. So we can have a relaxed dialog with people from various backgrounds,” he said. [trans.acl/ed.vidya/PR FCS]