Our very first CLARIN workshop was meant to poll initiatives and needs with regard to opening up spoken archives from the perspective of researchers, cultural heritage curators and computer scientists. The result was the creation of our network. Since then we have managed to organize many workshops with the support of CLARIN. The focus has moved from evaluating the state of the art in various countries and research realms, to actually developing a tool and trying it out during the workshops. Our experience is that a condition to break down disciplinary silos, is to guard the balance between tool development for the sake of applying a new technology, and giving enough weight to the requirements of a specific research methodology. Workshops are the ideal setting to combine hands on experiences with these type of discussions.
Developing a transcription portal
As a follow up of the first CLARIN workshop on Oral History archives held in Oxford in April 2016, we applied for funding to prepare two additional workshops (November 2016 in Utrecht and March 2017 in Arezzo) with the goal of developing an (orthographic) transcription chain (T-Chain) for different languages, specifically for OH interviews that would include analogue-to-digital-conversion, automatic speech-to-text functionalities, and a transcription platform for crowdsourcing. This was partly realized in 2019, after which next rounds of development followed.
Cross disciplinary overtures in München
During the fourth workshop in München (2018) the scope was broadened to how to integrate digital tools in the subsequent phases of the research process: the annotation and analysis of interview data. The presumption was that the multimodal character (text, sound and facial expression) and multidisciplinary potential of interview data (history, oral and written language, audio-visual communication) could be better exploited by bringing diverse approaches together and encouraging the uptake of digital tools. Anticipating the complexity of bringing participants from different disciplines together a careful design of the workshop was key to ensuring ‘satisfying experiences’ and countering ‘disorientation’. To this end the following principles were applied:
- Collecting and preparing data that was familiar to the participants in both a common language (English) and in their native language.
- Building on homework assignments to install and become familiar with a number of tools.
- Making sure that during the workshop for each of the language groups there was a participants with advanced digital skills
- Eliciting and recording feedback on the use of the tools directly after the session exercises through group interviews.
When considering research processes that involve interview data, we observe a variety of scholarly approaches, that are typically not shared across disciplines. Scholars hold on to engrained research practices drawn from specific research paradigms and they seldom venture outside their comfort zone. The inability to ‘reach across’ methods and tools arises from tight disciplinary boundaries, where terminology and literature may not overlap, or from different priorities placed upon digital skills in research. We believe that offering accessible and customized information on how to appreciate and use technology can help to bridge these gaps.
The DH2019-workshop aims to break down some of these barriers by offering scholars who work with interview data the opportunity to apply, experiment and exchange tools and methods that have been developed in the realm of Digital Humanities.
Exploring multidisciplinary research agendas for interview data
Many of the workshops that were planned in 2020 and 2021 had to be cancelled because of the Covid pandemic. We managed to present at a few online conferences. At present we are making plans for a research and outreach agenda that is focused on the comparison of a traditional hermeneutic approach to interview data, and one that is based on automatic analysis of the audio-signal with digital tools.