Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Starting with Indexed Summaries

The assumption that working with oral histories requires transcription first is one we have been examining for years through our practice of digital indexing. Transcriptions can be a powerful resource to accompany recordings, but we choose to approach oral history analysis differently.
With the availability of database-driven models for oral history content management, we start with summary annotations and create indexes, and work from there. Selective or full transcription is always an option, and in the meantime, summary-passage architecture for content management is an efficient and functional way to engage oral history recordings. In addition, the resulting text can be less dense than a transcription, more contextually meaningful, and still be suitable for all sorts of publications and for further development.
In a nutshell, we respond to the “unexamined assumption” with another question:
Does it make sense to transcribe everything you have so you can find the few passages you really want? Or does it make more sense to index a collection first and then transcribe what you need when you need it?
For us, the latter makes more sense and this is where digital indexing begins.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Unexamined Assumption

"In order to be able to access oral histories, transcription is a prerequisite."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What is digital indexing?

“Digital Indexing” is shorthand we often use to describe our work in audio/video content management for oral history. Digital Indexing encompasses the processes and various software tools we employ to annotate and index a/v recordings electronically. Although we have no formal definition for digital indexing, the Illinois State Museum described it for their Audio-Video Barn site during our partnership under an IMLS leadership grant in 2009-2010:

“Digital Indexing is a method of defining starting and ending points to an audio or video and then describing that portion of media in a set of notes that can be searched through keywords and control words. The results of this method are a set of searchable notes and the ability to instantly watch the exact corresponding portion of audio and video.”

Our work with “keywords and control words” will be the subject of a later post about “Multi-Dimensional Indexing”, which is our unique approach to controlled vocabulary in electronic environments. Future posts here will share some methods for summary-based annotation (typically applied before or in lieu of transcription) and an overview of The Interclipper™ software, a database system we find ideal for the challenge of recorded audio-video content management.

Monday, November 7, 2011


Welcome to the inaugural post to our Randforce blog! We look forward to using this medium as a place to share new ideas that have emerged in our practice of oral history content management.

The foundations of our work began when our Principal, Michael Frisch, adopted software to make long audio and video recordings accessible in new ways. As consultants on dozens of projects we have learned as much as we have taught in this world of “digital indexing”. The foundation of our work is in applying new methodology and technology for creating access to audio/video content for oral history collections. The controlled vocabularies we develop use a faceted indexing approach applicable to any digital content.

We plan to use this medium to publish ideas worth sharing that may not be ready for journal publication, that have emerged from our practice. Documenting our work is challenging because we are usually busy practicing it. Also, we are exploring work that lies between several worlds simultaneously, including oral history, library and information science, museum curation, database development, a/v content management, and multi-media publication. We hope for this to be a place where readers interested in these topics can keep track of what we are working on between the longer cycles of academic conferences and journal publication.

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