Digitizing Oral History

teacHello all.  I thought I would share a new research article that got published today in OCLC Systems & Services.  I have a pre-print available if you don’t have access to that journal.

Digitizing oral history: can you hear the difference?

ASBTRACT

Purpose – The purpose of this study is to answer the questions: Can students discern the difference between oral histories digitized at archival quality (96 kHz/24-bit) versus CD-quality (44.1 kHz/16-bit)? and How important do they believe this difference is? Digitization of analog audio recordings has become the recommended best practice in preserving and making available oral histories. Additionally, well-accepted standards in performing this work are available. However, there is relatively little research that addresses if individuals can hear a qualitative difference in recordings made with best practices versus those that have not.

Design/methodology/approach – In all, 53 individuals participated in the study, where they listened to three sets of oral histories and had to decide which was the archival-quality recording versus the CD-quality recording and mark their answer on a survey.

Findings – Students could discern less than half of the time on average which was the archival quality versus the CD-quality recording. Further, after listening to the differences, they most often indicated the difference was “a little bit important”.

Practical implications – This research does not suggest that archivists abandon well-established sound digitization practices that produce results that audio archivists (and those able to hear fine-grain audio differences) find superior. Rather, it does imply that additional work may be needed to train listeners to discern these fine-grain differences, and appreciate the highest-fidelity replication of original audio recordings.

Originality/value – This research addresses a gap in the literature by connecting audio digitization practices to its impact on listener perception.

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Mobile Technology, Oral History and the 9/11 Memorial

911 MemorialI have published a new paper in Preservation, Digital Technology & Culture titled “Mobile Technology, Oral History and the 9/11 Memorial: A Study of Digitally Augmented Remembrance.” Below is the abstract and the article can be downloaded from the publisher site. I also have made a pre-print available here.

I would like to thank the Pratt Institute Faculty Development Fund for funding this project. I would like to thank former graduate assistant Rafael Baylor for help planning and implementing the focus groups.

ABSTRACT
The National September 11 Memorial is notable in that it has designed a mobile application in unification with its physical space in Lower Manhattan. Despite the potential of such an arrangement, no research has been conducted that demonstrates the efficacy of mobile technology in augmenting the memory and remembrance functions of the built environment. Using the memorial as a site of inquiry, this project will address the following research questions: How are remembrance and memory impacted by use of mobile technology at a site of memorialization? And, what factors mediate engagement with mobile technology for the purposes of remembrance? Nineteen diverse New York City area residents visited the memorial while using the app, and then participated in a mixed-method study (in-depth focus group and survey). The results reveal that participants—if they experienced no significant technical troubles—found the app as significantly enhancing the memory and remembrance functions of the memorial. For developers of mobile technology for cultural heritage contexts, the use of curated oral histories available on a mobile phone is highly effective.