The Universe of Knowledge 2022
In the framework of the Ranganathan Project, the Indological Society «Luigi Pio Tessitori» is planning a meeting to be held on 21 October 2022 in Udine to honor Shiyali Ramamrita Ranganathan on the fiftieth anniversary of his death. The working title of the meeting is The Universe of Knowledge: Celebrating Shiyali Ramamrita Ranganathan (1892-1972) on the 50th anniversary of his death.
The meeting’s purpose is to explore cultural and philosophical roots of Ranganathan’s work in order to provide new insights on his epistemological outlook. The meeting is also aimed to investigate how the Ranganathan approach to knowledge organization is still impacting digital humanities broadly and library and information sciences specifically, in a world increasingly shaped by computational advances and machine learning.
Rather than attempting to paint — so to speak — any sort of overall picture, our aim is to investigate elements and aspects that lie, in a sense, at the heart of Ranganathan’s work and still remain little known. Our objective is therefore to explore the soil in which the roots of his work grew, by investigating the educational background, cultural ties and social context that may have influenced Ranganathan’s activities as a librarian and scholar. In so doing, we wish to espouse a more inclusive understanding by examining his legacy within the larger frame of digital humanities. What follows provides a roadmap to the major topics that will be explored in this meeting. From this it clearly follows that our overall objective is to set the stage for further research.
Topic 1: The Five Laws of Library Science
First published in 1931 and republished in 1957, The Five Laws of Library Science contains evident references to ancient Indian tradition. A closer examination of this work may bring clarity to some important premises of theory of knowledge that underlie Ranganathan’s thought. This investigation aims at gaining a better understanding of the method behind this important contribution to librarianship.
Topic 2: Kuppuswami Sastri and Vedic Studies
Professor of Sanskrit and Comparative Philology at the Presidency College of Madras as well as curator of the collections of oriental manuscripts, Kuppuswami Sastri (1880-1943) was also the publisher of some masterpieces of Indian literature and renowned scholar of vedānta, mīmāṃsā, nyāya, vyākaraṇa and sāhitya. In his early formative years, Ranganathan was indebted to this illustrious figure of scholar for an epistemological perspective based on a unitary conception of knowledge (ekavākyatā), which betrays a clear and manifest Vedic matrix.
Topic 3: Remembering Srinivasa Ramanujan
During his formative years and early as a mathematics teacher, Ranganathan was fascinated by the brilliant mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887-1920), to whom he dedicated a biographical monograph after his death. It is certainly noteworthy that apparently neutral technicalities, such as the notion of subject and his concept of infinity, can be appreciated and revalued in a different cultural perspective on the basis of interpretative keys that have their roots in this context of knowledge and mathematical doctrines.
Topic 4: Intellect and Intuition
In his works Ranganathan distinguished between intellect and intuition: the former is related to the ordinary process of thinking, the latter to a trans-intellectual, trans-sensory, trans-emotional, and trans-memory mode of directly knowing anything-in-itself. In Classification and Communication, published in 1951, he specifies that the term used in Sanskrit tradition to denote this faculty is divya cakṣus, literally “divine insight” and relates it to a state of profound absorption, called samādhi. He also mentions the word tapas to indicate the means by which this mode of knowledge is developed.
Topic 5: Ranganathan on Mysticism
One of the criticisms levelled at Ranganathan’s theories in the West was that he would overemphasize the role of mysticism in a domain that should instead be reserved for rational and scientific enquiry. However, there are some clear elements that prove how his approach was influenced by philosophy rather than religion. Among others, the idea that mysticism is rooted in intuition and the fact that the main class Δ (spiritual experience and mysticism) is positioned between the sciences and the humanities, which amounts to considering mysticism as the source of all knowledge.
Topic 6: Absolute Syntax and Seminal Mnemonics
As a brahmin, Ranganathan certainly was aware of the contributions of the ancient Vedic grammarians. An important concept defined by him was that of “absolute syntax”, an idea free from the linguistic variations of the individual tongues, proposed on 11 June 1966 at the international symposium on Relational Factors in Classification (University of Maryland). Previously he had formulated the notion of “seminal mnemonics”, which refers to the capacity to denote something independently of its verbal designations in a domain ruled by pure intuition, beyond intellectual understanding.
Topic 7: Facet Analysis and Digital Humanities
Digital humanities are an interdisciplinary field of research and teaching positioned at the intersection of digital technology and humanities. Since the early 2000s, the Web has undeniably represented the privileged information landscape, where humanistic subjects have been increasingly reshaped by digital tools. In this regard, Ranganathan’s approach to knowledge organization, also known as facet analysis (FA), has proven well-suited for information system design. Exploring how FA was and is still impacting information architecture on the Web can provide a critical lens for a better understanding of the role of digital humanities in the new configuration of information and knowledge occurring in the global online ecosystem.
Topic 8: Artificial Intelligence and Neurosciences
Over the past few years, machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms have been used to solve many problems in science. Deep-learning architectures have been applied to several fields including computer vision, speech recognition, natural language processing, machine translation, etc. In neuroscience this paradigm has already produced significant results, allowing us to better understand how cognition can be implemented in the brain.
Nalini Balbir, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3
Giuliano Boccali, University of Milan
Andrea Cuna, University of Udine
Fausto Freschi, Società Indologica «Luigi Pio Tessitori»
Giorgio Milanetti, Sapienza University of Rome
Alessandro Passi, University of Bologna
Antonio Rigopoulos, University of Venice
10.30 Greetings from the authorities
Chair Nalini Balbir
11.00 Andrea Cuna & Fausto Freschi
Indian studies and the digital humanities: An introduction
11.30 Antonio Rigopoulos
S. Kuppuswami Sastri and the exegetical principles of ekavākyatā and samanvaya: Their influence on the epistemology of Shiyali Ramamrita Ranganathan
12.00 Giuliano Boccali
S.R. Ranganathan: Reflections between epistemology, linguistic communication and aesthetics
Chair Giuliano Boccali
14.30 Andrea Cuna & Fausto Freschi
LPT Project: Development of a digital library for the manuscript collection and private archive of L.P. Tessitori
15.00 Marco Franceschini & Giovanni Ciotti
From colophons to material analysis: A comprehensive approach to the study of palm-leaf manuscripts from Tamil Nadu
15.30 Nalini Balbir
JAINpedia: An inclusive website
Via Daniele Manin, 18
33100 Udine UD (Italy)