Accessibility: Tools That Allow New Perspective
From OHA Wiki
It would be wise to transcribe every interview to have a backup copy for preservation. Unfortunately, it is often the case that organizations and projects that focus on transcription alone limit the content that is saved. The United States Army is an excellent example of pro-transcription. In its guide to oral history, four questions are outlined that can be answered to determine whether or not an interview should be transcribed. First, it should be determined if a written copy of the interview is mandated by regulation.1 This criterion will not be the norm for most interviews conducted, but it is an important aspect to consider. Second, the significance and quality of the interview should be assessed.2 For military purposes, this usually refers to interviews with influential officers or individuals with significant information about a specific operation or event. For historical purposes, this criterion is extremely difficult to determine because there is something significant in every oral history collected, no matter what is said or who the narrator is. Third, the intention of use should be determined.3 If the interview will be published or will be contributed to a larger or official project, that might be a reason to transcribe the interview. Finally, the resources available should be considered to determine whether or not the interview will be transcribed.4 If there are not enough individuals to transcribe the interview or the financial resources are not available, the interview stays in an inaccessible recorded form. This is also the case in many oral histories that are only transcribed. Large text documents can only be searched by examining them manually, unless they are online. This creates an interesting paradox within the argument for transcription alone because the pro-transcription debate has previously relied on the drawbacks from sound and video.
In the past, connecting the sounds of an oral history to the text of the interview was long and painstaking. Early attempts using dedicated tape transcribers or manual methods has given way to USB foot pedals that can start and stop a digital file of the audio, connect tags into the section that are searchable, and works with plug-ins like Vertov or programs like Interclipper.5 Using Zotero, and the Vertov plug-in, anyone with internet access can add a timeline to sound or video files, and then type notes or a transcription of the interview. It is then possible to apply searchable tags that will return text, sound, and/or video based on subject rather than section.6 This has widespread implications for research in a variety of fields. Having the ability to apply metadata to the file that would normally not be noted on a traditionally transcribed oral history allows researchers to look at the interviews more qualitative rather than quantitatively, and increseas accessibility.7
Frisch notes the importance of accessibility, and also the deeper meaning that listeners can derive from oral histories that are observable in a non-linear way, which he terms as "post-documentary sensibility."8 He argues that: With accessible, meaningful, fluid, and non-privileged access to the content of oral history, the authority of the mediating intelligence or documentary authorship is displaced by a sharable, dialogic capacity to explore, select, order, and interpret.9
He continues, that technology has allowed us to evolve the process of making an oral history accessible and transmittable to a large audience. He further states that technology has advanced to the extent that it allows the user to define the parameters of their search, sculpting the content to fit their interest and removing the lengthy search through hours and hours of tape in order to find subject matter that is relevant.10
Continue this discussion here The Debate Over Transcription: Possible Conclusions
Accessibility: Tools That Allow New Perspective
1 Stephen J. Lofgren, U.S. Army Guide to Oral History (Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, 2006), 28.
2 Lofgren, U.S. Army Guide to Oral History, 28.
3 Lofgren, U.S. Army Guide to Oral History, 28.
4 Lofgren, U.S. Army Guide to Oral History, 28.
5 Interclipper, Dvdclipper: Getting Started http://www.interclipper.com/help.html accessed on 5/27/09
6 Vertov, Annotate a You Tube Video, http://digitalhistory.concordia.ca/vertov/video/vertovyoutube_demo/vertovyoutube_demo.htm accessed on 5/27/09
7 I used Vertov and Vixy Converter Beta to copy and apply a timeline to an oral history interview with Les Paul, a pioneer in the field of multi-track recording among other things. I found it most interesting that the interview was primarily about how he developed methods like Sound on Sound because he felt that he experienced the sound of his guitar playing differently than the audience did. Irv Joel, Les Paul Interview March 16, 2002. 0:51/1:59 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9VRYioEKERU accessed on 5/19/09
8 Frisch, "Oral History and the Digital Revolution: Toward a Post-Documentary Sensibility," 17.
9 Frisch, "Oral History and the Digital Revolution: Toward a Post-Documentary Sensibility," 17.
10 Frisch, "Oral History and the Digital Revolution: Toward a Post-Documentary Sensibility," 2-19.