Conference notes III: To crowdsource a Faustian dilemma

Author: Erwin Verbruggen

 

EUscreenXL gathered in Rome last week for our conference on the users and usage of audiovisual archives: “From Audience to User: Engaging with Audiovisual Heritage Online”. In this series of blog posts we fill you in on what happened.

Tom and his archives

After lunch, the conference rode on with its first day packed with presentations.

15509289377_90603a2ec7_o The slides Deutsche Welle’s Kay Macquarrie showed, opened with a colourful animation about Tom the reporter. Tom is not a big fan of the complications of his work, it seems, and would like smart technologies to help him out. Luckily, the AXES project has spent some time figuring out his wishes and aims to provide for his every search and sorting need.

The search engine uses all sorts of automation and enrichment to decrease the searcher’s time effort. It assumes that researchers have wishes fully different to those of home users and media professionals who want to reuse content. The software will be made available under an open source license for those enthused and willing to try it out.

 

AXES with Tom – If Only You Knew What’s In Your Archive!

When television is not enough

The demo Lotte Belice Baltussen and Lyndon Nixon showed, was dedicated squarely at the home user – and smart web editors. The LinkedTV project has the noble assumption that television audiences are not willing to switch off their brains when watching, but are most willing to use their smart devices to make themselves smarter too. In order to assist editors in providing a wealth of contextual information, the project searches for for that sweet spot where automatically enriched and linked metadata can provide a world of new experiences.

In the Linked Culture demo the duo showed, the Dutch version of the Antiques Roadshow was enriched with images and explanations pulled in from Europeana. During the coffee break, we saw some conversing going on between the developers in the project and those involved in EUscreenXL, so keep posted to hear if this turns into pretty new uses of our linked data pilot.

 

LinkedTV demonstration of LinkedCulture

Crowdsource this

15670785666_7263f887e0_oMark Williams took to te stage again to this time root for his own project. The Media Ecology project, or MEP in short, is a fantastically ambitious and wide ranging project that brings together researchers, librarians, archivists and computer scientists and aims to harness the powers of two library and archive buzzwords: linked data and crowdsourcing. MEP provides access to the Library of Congress via Mediathread and allows a selected group of academics to update and improve on descriptions. The archives can then harvest back metadata generated through MEP project. The project’s access point provides enhanced search capacity for the LoC’s materials, enhances search capacity for other archives and helps the academic & scholarly community help in their workflow at the same time. An important aid in this process is the use of a controlled vocabulary, which in this project is baptised the Onomy. The project makes use of a wide range of open source tools, such as the Computational Cinematics Toolkit in Python and the related Tiltfactor, doing metadata games.

The big launch

15509336028_1db2bce465_oKamila Lewandowska, Sian Barber and Rutger Rozendal all work on the EUscreenXL project. The three of them have been the main drivers behind the EUscreen portal redesign, and therefor the honour was bestowed upon them to present its feats and design choices. The new portal is made adaptive so it can be seen on all sorts of devices, search is made more intuitive and all together it boasts an editorial approach, feeding users more content in more appealing ways. Also, some important steps in providing subtitles for selected clips have been provided. Meanwhile the strengths of the portal – rich, interchangeable metadata and descriptions – are still there and improvements will be taking place over the next few months, as well as new possibilities for contextualisation. We do suggest you go there straight after reading this post to find out all that’s new and shiny: http://www.euscreen.eu

The Q&A session focused on the benefits of crowdsourcing and lessons learned in this space, including how to convince archive personnel of the usefulness of involving non-professionals in describing archive content. The presentations led one commenter to describe his response as a Faustian dilemma, where he needed to choose between using one of the many fantastic tools available but unable to solve the growing gap between their development and their integration into teaching & digital/audiovisual literacy. As far as we could understand from the panel members, they all seemed to have good trust in their visions of smarter, connected, wired, searchable and automated collections – and the people we hope will be using them.

 

Drawing made at the conference by Montse Fortino.
Pictures taken at the conference by Maria Drabczyk/Quirijn Backx/Erwin Verbruggen

Project Launch: “Erster Weltkrieg in Alltagsdokumenten” – The First World War in everyday documents

Press release by Europeana

Pictures, letters and memorabilia wanted
Berlin, 24 March 2011: “The First World War in everyday documents” is launched today with a call to the public in Germany to participate in building a digital European archive by contributing private memorabilia from the First World War. We are looking for photographs, letters, diaries, short films, audio recordings, objects and their stories. Following the launch of the project, four roadshows take place in Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Munich and Stuttgart. The project is a partnership between Europeana, the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek and Oxford University.

Call for participation
We ask everybody to bring World War 1 memorabilia to the roadshows. They will be digitised professionally and added to the online archive, along with corresponding descriptions. Independently of the roadshows, everyone can contribute their digitised images and information to the website. Until 2014, the year of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War One, we will collect memorabilia in digital form from many of the countries involved in the War. The project aims to save people’s family memories of this tragedy that convulsed Europe and make them accessible to the world.

The historian Prof Dr Gerhard Hirschfeld of Universität Stuttgart/Bibliothek für Zeitgeschichte, highlights the significance of the project: “It is vital that we hold onto private letters and documents to reconstruct the everyday life of wartime and the mindsets of those involved. We need to give a voice to those people who otherwise remain silent. Their experiences as well as their fears, hopes and fantasies are normally inaccessible to historians.” Memorabilia and stories are kept by families for a while, but after a century their significance is starting to fade. This First World War digital archive makes it possible to renew and share their significance.

“By inviting people to actively contribute to its content, Europeana opens up to users on a new level. To bring together family lore and the memories of those involved in World War One from different countries, who have experienced this time as allies or opponents, is a fascinating undertaking. World War One resonates in the collective memory, and this project will spark renewed popular interest and also scholarly research,“ said Dr Elisabeth Niggemann, Chair of the Europeana Foundation and Director General of the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, outlining Europeana’s aims for the project.

A new approach: crowdsourcing
One innovative aspect of the project is the application of crowdsourcing – collecting input from people at large and assembling a wide variety of family memorabilia which will be made accessible to the public and to researchers. In 2008, Oxford University produced a remarkable collection of 1914-18 papers, pictures, souvenirs and memorable stories, digitised by people across the UK and the Commonwealth in the Great War Archive 

The film
One of the stories collected by the British project is connected to Germany. A contribution to the Great War Archive records the friendship of RAF man Bernard Darley and German prisoner of war Otto Arndt. A short film about this unlikely friendship illustrates the project’s intention vividly. Luise Arndt, Otto’s great-grandchild, finds out more about her grandfather on the website and even gets in touch with Bernard’s family.

Public digitisation roadshows

  • Deutsche Nationalbibliothek,  Frankfurt am Main 31 March 2011, 10-20 hours
  • Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – PK 2 April 2011, 10-17 hours
  • Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, München 6 April 2011, 10-20 hours
  • Württembergische Landesbibliothek /Bibliothek für Zeitgeschichte, Stuttgart 12 April 2011, 10-20 hours
Funded by: Connected to: