Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"Indocumentation" as the essense of Oral History

Digital Indexing enhances oral history collections that otherwise cannot be easily accessed. We often use a “shoebox” metaphor to emphasize the importance of indexing: A collection of digital audio or video that is not indexed is in a digital shoebox, which is not much better than a real shoebox of un-digitized cassette or video tapes forgotten in a closet somewhere. By annotating and indexing discrete passages of audio/video, we create access to collections that would otherwise be cumbersome if not impossible to make use of.

Today, I want to take a moment to talk about the recording: The recording itself not only provides “access” to some living memory because it is in a re-playable medium, but it is a form of documentation. It occurs to me that the creation of new documentation is the essential element that makes recorded interviews so powerful. The moment things take documentary form—whether and email, an oral history recording, or even a produced documentary film—is when they have the potential to become part of a larger discourse. This moment of incarnation, or perhaps “indocumentation,” is where ideas become things we can really talk about, but also do something about…

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