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Audiovisual research data: challenges and opportunities – #StF12 (8)

31 mei 2012 Gepubliceerd door 1 Commentaar

Audiovisual (AV) material is not just a Hollywood affair, of course. Increasingly, research is working with AV as well, so Screening the Future 2012 invited representatives from the research community, who spoke both from the data management perspective and from the user perspective. – by Inge Angevaare

Louis King of the Yale University ODAI (Office of Digital Assets & Infrastructure) presented an impressive project to build an information ecosystem for all digital assets that the university produces or keeps (King’s slides).

Louis King: "You have to strike a balance between the cultural commonality within the institution and the cultural diversity between the disciplines."

What struck me about King’s presentation is that Yale University as an institution expressly takes custody of the digital assets of all its faculties, and builds an integrated ‘digital commons’  architecture that enables efficient management and integrated access. The idea is to bring traditional silos like research, learning, libraries, archives and museums together in an integrated information space. AV is part of that information space in most disciplines, from the arts to hard science.

Integrating the traditional silos at Yale (click on image to enlarge)

Interestingly, the ODAI is not the university’s library or the IT department. It is a separate unit. Given the diversity of Yale faculties, a phased approach is called for:

click on image to enlarge

King admits that bringing all of this together is quite a challenge, “but there seems to be trust in us to get the job done.” He believes in moving curation action up the lifecycle of digital objects, as close to the creators as possible. About ODAI’s role in supporting data management he says: “We must simplify the complex stuff we do for the community we serve.”

Howard Besser of New York University looked at new uses that can be made of existing audiovisual collections, such as biologists who analyze old films to study left-handedness (slides here).

Howard Besser, middle, talking with USC Library staff

His conclusion is that to make old material useful for scientific research, data archives must, “at minimum”, improve their discovery tools:

  • Linking metadata to time­‐codes
  • Tools for easy coding/mark-up, annotation
  • Tools for viewing and subsequent mark-up by other researchers

A wonderful example of excellent discovery tools was provided by the co-hosts of this conference, the USC Shoah Foundation Institute – a Hollywood story of the more serious kind. After filming Schindler’s List, Steven Spielberg established the foundation to gather video testimonies of holocaust survivors, resulting in over 107,000 hours of tape. The discovery tools are impressive indeed – it is easy to zoom in on specific bits of the interviews.

The USC Digital Repository (USCDR) is now offering the preservation and cataloguing services developed for the Shoah Foundation Collection to third partis (researchers, other archives, commercial entities). Gustman: “We would like to have thousands of small archives use our services.”

(click image to enlarge)

Lev Manovich of the Visual Arts Department of the University of California represented the user point of view and posed the question: “How can we take advantage of unprecedented amounts of cultural data available on the web and digitized cultural heritage to begin analyzing culture in new ways?” and he gave the audience a glimpse of entirely novel approaches to research based on images. In a whirlwind presentation, Manovich showed, for instance, how 60 years of newspaper covers can be shown in a really fast video to reveal patterns that would otherwise never have been noticed.

Lev Manovich: "Our traditional categories are maybe fictional; when you visualize huge amounts of data, you find new information that may change how we look at cultures."

Manovich is not much of a fan of phenomena like Linked Data and the semantic web: “Metadata and the semantic web can be an enemy because it forces researchers to think in terms of established patterns,” he said. “The web is but a small window, it has stifled lots of human creativity.”

Howard Besser had already noted that archives’ collection patterns “heavily influence what is studied (favoring a great works approach.)” Manovich (“Do not hate me!”) suggested that media archives should not just preserve media, but create new knowledge (“archive as a research lab”).

So much for those among us who think that preserving the stuff is enough of a challenge!

 

 

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