Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Is "Digital" Dead?

It occurred to me while I was working on the project "Oral History in the Digital Age", that I wonder what the inevitable post-digital age will be characterized by... I'm wondering if at some point we'll be able to stop putting the word "digital" in front of everything and just call it "the work we're doing now". This stems from a question I've had for several months now: what does "digital" really mean? Despite it's flagrant use as modifier for all sorts of things, I think it just means we use computers, which is such a given at this point in history that we hardly need to make a note of it. I'm starting to think it might be time to reign in that term, and make sure that our enthusiasm for the potential that computers bring to us (and the potential of web-based social connectivity) does not get confused with what our actual work is.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Sorting the Laundry and “CVS”

“CVS” is an abbreviation we have used previously for that cross-referencing ability provided in Interclipper and other database browse/search environments. CVS stands for “chinese, vegetable, spicy” and we use this as an example of how an index (or indexes), in this case a book of recipes, needs to be flexible and mulch-dimensional to optimize users browsing power.  In a recipe book, you would never ask "is the recipe Chinese OR vegetable OR spicy?" These represent different lenses through which you can organize many recipes, i.e., ethnicity, ingredient type, novel qualities of the food. But they are not mutually exclusive.

We often use CVS as shorthand for “multi-dimensional indexing”. It simply means that terms and groups of terms are organized in a coding framework/map that allows for different facets to be visuallized--not washed out by a single hierarchy or the alphabet.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Timecode Metadata

Timecode metadata are the critical link in the between textual content and audio or video in digital environments. Different architectures for timecode deployment have evolved independently in the creation of digital oral history collections, and all help to significantly increase digital accessibility. With many models now on the table it is an appropriate time to take inventory of what approaches are available, closely evaluate the relationship between these models, understand the range or textual data they are linked to, and elucidate the current “state of the art” to find common ground for future developments. 

Timecodes are being put to use in two broad ways: 1.) as transcription timecodes, enhancing full text transcriptions with a cross-reference to time points in the source audio or video, and 2.) as audio or video file metadata enhancing a longer audio or video file, or A/V timecodes. Within A/V timecodes two basic models are emerging, one that uses timecodes pointing to a single point in time in the digital file, allowing the user to play forward from that point. (We might call these indexing point timecodes.)  In another model, (which we might call passage timecodes), timecodes are defined as inpoints and outpoints giving meaningful content within a longer digital file its own begining, middle and ending. 

The latter model of defining passage timecodes can take place in database environments where the in/out points are just references that move the listener digitally (hypertextually) to the passage of interest. In other contexts, practitioners manage oral histories by hard-editing passages permanently, thus creating segments or clips from the full length digital source file.   

All timecode deployments require choices to be made--regarding the frequency of transcription or indexing point timecodes, or the length and comprehensiveness of passages timecodes. No standards have been set as to how these choices are made and there are strengths and weaknesses of the different approaches. I hope to have the opportunity to compare notes with others using the various models, determine the trades-offs between models, establish what can and cannot be standardized, and allow digital oral history stewards to proceed with future investments in software more informed.
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