During filming of 2019 documentary “Remosam” in Mudulipada, Koraput district, Odisha, India.
I have found myself playing with a radio and a cassette recorder as a child, and rediscovered years later as an educator in a journalism school, and working closely with its professors. Media, particularly the study and practice of multimedia have always excited me. As a lifelong media practitioner, I have studied the role of media as a democratic tool, its low availability for many communities worldwide, and the lack of participation of native speakers of different low-resource languages. I grew up in the analog era. The first thing connected to media that I broke was a radio that my dad had built. Using media as a tool for both tech and social innovations was—and still is—an area of interest in my formative years. I currently discuss more how media, particularly multimedia, acts as a disruptive tool and impacts community sovereignty and the larger geopolitics. Access to media and the ability to create media as inequity factors are some areas I am currently studying.
I have produced and directed over eight documentary films and have published all of them under fairly open licenses (CC-BY or CC-BY-SA Licenses). The first project that I had led were two two web educational series—in the Hindi and Kannada languages—to teach anyone new to Wikipedia how to create and edit articles.
I became a National Geographic Explorer in 2017, starting with making three documentary films: Gyani Maiya, Remosam, and Mage Porob. These films chronicled the community narratives in the Kusunda, Remosam (Bonda), and Ho languages that are endangered.
In 2019, I was awarded a Digital Identity Fellowship by Yoti. I founded the “MarginalizedAadhaar” media research project and studied the exclusion of some of India’s marginalized groups because of the use of the national biometric ID Aadhaar. This work led to the 2021 documentary film “MarginalizedAadhaar”. [DOI: 10.1145/3517173]
Some of the short films that I have worked on include Public Domain Day (honorable mention in the Public Domain Day Short Film Contest Highlights Works of 1925), Who Owns the Content? (screened at “13th Native Spirit Indigenous Film Festival – North Americas”, SOAS World Language Institute, London) and Karinding [DOI: 10.5240/15FD-F65B-F01B-846E-EB71-E].
In 2020, I produced a podcast series titled O Foundation Conversations, which included discussions around the diversity of societies, languages, cultures, and geopolitics and conflicts. The series ran for five episodes and is on a hiatus.
As a part of my Digital Identity Fellowship, I also produced a podcast MarginalizedAadhaar and co-produced a show with other colleagues.
I started a small pilot under the OpenSpeaks project for building voice data as a foundational layer for speech synthesis research and application development. To test some of the learning in this field, I started making a wordlist by collecting words from multiple sources, including Odia Wikipedia and Odia Wiktionary and started recording pronunciations using Lingua Libre. Recently, the pilot hit a 55,000 pronunciation milestone. The repository also includes pronunciations of 5,600 words in Baleswaria, the northern dialect of Odia. The recordings were also released under a Public Domain (Creative Commons CC0 1.0) release on Wikimedia Commons. These recordings make the largest repository of Public-Domain voice data in Odia and add to another 4,000+ recordings of sentences in Odia on Mozilla Common Voice.
Most of the educational content (text and multimedia) that I create as a part of my work are available under open licenses – mostly under the Creative Commons License – that allow anyone to reuse, make derivatives and even redistribute with modification. In 2015 I founded OpenSpeaks, a toolkit for language documentation using open practices. I have created and co-created a range of Wikipedia guides (multimedia and text) for over a decade in more than nine languages. I was a Juror and a speaker for the OER 16 Conference in Edinburgh, UK, and a speaker in the OER 17 Conference.
OpenSpeaks was originally incubated in 2015 inside the Wikimedia Commons (Wikipedia’s sister project and an open multimedia repository). I expanded it through 2017 to accommodate a wide range of OERs, open source software among others. I produced three documentaries with support from National Geographic Society under the ambit of OpenSpeaks during 2017-2019. Like all open projects, it is now maintained by a volunteer-led community at Wikiversity, another Wikipedia sister project and an open learning platform. In October 2020, I received a small grant from Creative Commons to further OpenSpeaks’ curriculum on open content, Creative Commons Licenses, and content framework. OpenSpeaks also won me a widespread support – including the ONA 2017 MJ Bear Fellowship and a part in Mozilla Open Leadership Series. I spoke in two TEDx events, Creative Commons Global Summit 2019 and 2020, Wikimania 2019 and Celtic Knot Conference 2018 among others.
I led the development of Project Ol Chiki at the Centre for Internet and Society’s Access to Knowledge program which resulted in creation of a font family “Guru Gomke” in the Ol chiki writing system (used to write the Santali language), input methods to type in Santali and supporting educational resources – all openly-licensed. Indian type designer Pooja Saxena designed the typeface and Wikimedians Jnanaranjan Sahu and Nasim Ali created the tools for the input methods. Many noted Santali-language speakers contributed in the entire development. I led the overall project development and contributed in designing the input method and OERs. As an open source project, Guru Gomke received many other contributions over the time.
The Odia alphabet is used primarily for my native language Odia has fewer typefaces than other South Asian writing systems. Furthermore, there are not enough display types. During 2009 and 2010, I experimented with designing a few Odia typefaces such as eOdissa Anamana, eOdissa Bahuda, eOdissaBOXUni, eOdissaKaanthaUni and eOdissa-Majhi-Uni. Self-teaching about type design in a rather amateur way helped me connect with many professional type designers, particularly, during the Typography Day 2013. Those connections led to many collaborations, including Project Ol Chiki mentioned above. I created the first pangram in Odia which found its use in the “An Introductory Manual of Odia Calligraphy” by Aksharaya, an educational collective studying Indian scripts. I have advised many typefaces for the development of Baloo Bhaina, Baloo Bhaina 2 and a few other fonts by EkTpe.