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Bhadralok (respectable Hindus) of Calcutta between the years 1857 and 1885

The images below illustrate recent work of the South Asia Team of the Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative (specifically Prof John McGuire and Dr Maggie Exon) in converting 1970's SPSS cardboard punch cards into a digital map based format.

The images pertain to research undertaken by Prof John McGuire at Curtin University on the social, ideological and political relationships of the Bhadralok (respectable Hindus) in Calcutta between the years 1857 and 1885. The research was carried out in the 1970s and early 1980s, hence the use of cardboard punch cards (image 1). Obviously these punch cards have little explanatory power in themselves and rely on software written over two decades ago to be made intelligible.

Image 1. Cardboard Punch Card, for use with SPSS software

Once run through the software some patterns and trends could be revealed, but the analysis was limited. With the advent of new data formats it is now possible to convert his cardboard punch card into digital maps.

Image 2 the data contained in image one, converted into a visual, map based format which reveals the 'Place of birth on non-Calcutta born Bhadralok

The advantages of to the scholar of using GIs in this included:

  1. The capacity to undertake new analysis and find new patterns.
  2. The capacity to revisit and test initial conclusions
  3. Improved capacity to communicate findings
  4. Improved likelihood that his data will be readable and usable by scholars of future generations.
  5. Improved capacity for this data to be compared and contrasted with other research.
  6. Improved capacity to communicate finding across language boundaries.

We would ask you to consider whether they have some datasets (ie tables, spreadsheets, databases) that might benefit from being involved in this initiative. The above example shows that even data that was created in software that is relatively primitive can be rescued and new life can be breathed into research that may have otherwise been lost. We are more than happy to look at anything South Asian to give you an opinion on how we might be able to help you develop it - take the plunge and allow your research to live in prosper in the 21st century as well as the 20th.

To learn more about Geographical Indexing Systems (GIS) visit the ecai website at or contact the Monash Asia Institute