This week, I read Dr. Sharma’s “The Third Eye: An Exhibit of Literacy Narratives From Nepal” from Stories That Speak to Us: Narratives from the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives. A literacy narrative is a way for someone to discuss and describe his or her relationship to reading, speaking, and writing (Sarah). The Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives has 2750 digital recordings. According to the Archive, “The DALN is an ever growing collection with few rules. The curators refuse to define ‘literacy’ or ‘narrative’ for those they interview and record, they allow as much or as little time as each person wants, and they struggle to index the files minimally and in ways that impose as lightly as possible categories and characterizations” (Bloome). Considering these very relaxed guidelines, it becomes a challenge to categorize and index these thousands of videos. There is a danger of content being lost, for one thing. For another, people want some form of organization. Modern operating systems are flexible in that there is more than one way to complete a task (e.g. right clicking a mouse to cut and paste text vs. using Ctr-C and Ctr-V). This has led to multiple pathways to finding information. Whether through human or algorithmic curation, or a combination of both, indexing and cataloging this information becomes very important.
Dr. Sharma does this in “The Third Eye,” but not just for the sake of cataloging these videos. The narratives he has chosen are short videos of Nepalese scholars discussing their experiences with learning English as well as an overall view of the education system in Nepal. Dr. Sharma’s text and the video narratives of his subjects come together to build a hybrid using a scholarly article as a framing device for the video narratives. At first, I had some difficulty navigating through the digital narrative; there was a lot of information and I really didn’t know where to start. Bloome’s article helped to give some guidance. I decided to take an approach that centered on watching the videos and reading Dr. Sharma’s commentary. The videos gave an authentic voice to what these scholars experienced and the text gave not only historical and cultural context, but provided a narrative thread itself that discussed the state of education in Nepal.
For instance, the first literacy narrative we see is from Prof. Jai Raj Awasthi of Tribhuvan University. Prof. Awashthi’s narrative is rather short as he discusses being a young child in a remote part of Nepal. He went to school with his brother and, up until the 4th grade, his village didn’t even have a school building. The narrative shows the importance placed on education and is personal. As we continue, we are then introduced to Gita Neupane, a sociology scholar at the University of Hawaii. She also provides personal anecdotes as Prof. Awasthi did, but also comments on the quality of the education she received, stating that doing well in school was seen as a family obligation, not a personal endeavor. She also stated that school was more about competition than it was about learning.
This trend continues with the other scholars and we get to Dhruba Neupane, who finishes his literacy narrative by criticizing the need for English as a mandatory requirement for graduation altogether. He talks about hos learning English was a mixed blessing, as it freed him from a lower socioeconomic status in Nepal but keeps others down. His personal narrative talks about how he had access to family members with educational proficiency and how this asymmetrical access to educational resources is not fair to others in Nepal. By ending with this narrative, we see that Dr. Sharma’s curation leads to a description of Nepal’s education system that is less heavy handed than if it were written as purely text because we, as the audience, get to experience the voices of those who went through the system firsthand. As a practical matter, these videos also form a series that can be viewed in any order.
I chose to follow the order laid out by Dr. Sharma and read the text I found related directly to the videos. What would happen is someone viewed the videos only, or if they viewed them in a different order? I also wonder what the effect would have been if there were no videos at all and I read this on a computer? There is a certain fatigue factor when reading on a computer screen. This also brings to mind the question of how much does an author of a digital narrative have to know about designing a user interface? In old media, an author didn’t have to know how to publish a book. Now, how much of a barrier is design to publishing (design as in designing the structure of the linking of the story, the user interface, and so on).
Overall, I liked the flexibility and authenticity of reading this narrative.
Bloome, David. “Five Ways to Read a Curated Archive of Literacy Narratives.” Stories That Speak to Us: Narratives from the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives. Computers and Compositional Digital Press- Utah State. 2017. Web. 18 Feb 2018. http://ccdigitalpress.org/stories/chapters/bloome/
Sarah. “College Writing Tips: Write a Good Literacy Narrative.” Letterpile.com. 23 Sept. 2016. Web. 18 Feb. 2018. https://letterpile.com/writing/Write-a-Good-Literacy-Narrative