2016-17 Research Fellowship at the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision (Researcher in Residence)

‘AV Representations of Historical News Events: A Comparative and Exploratory Study’

On November 1st, 2016 I have started as Researcher in Residence at the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision (2016-17 Research Fellowship), working on a research project titled ‘AV Representations of Historical News Events: A Comparative and Exploratory Study’. Many hours of audio-visual material have been digitized in the Netherlands since 2007. As a result, the access to radio, film, and television programmes from the past has increased immensely, offering more opportunities for re-use and research. In this process described as the archival turn,[1] infrastructure and contextualization function as important preconditions for users of archives to find their way through the enormous amounts of audio-visual material. Such users include television programme makers, media professionals and academic researchers.[2] From this starting point, I conduct a comparative and exploratory study into the cross-media, AV representation of historical news events, particularly radio news events. Such a combination of historical and digital humanities research can aid in providing specific interpretations of the vast amounts of newly digitized materials, as well as critically assessing how an event narrative exploration tool can support a researcher from beginning to end.

This research study is CLARIAH-centric, from the viewpoint of DIVE+. This entails that starting from the overarching question how events and narratives can provide context for interpretation of cultural heritage collections, this research study further explores the biggest potential of DIVE, which lies in its focus on narratives. DIVE is a tool for explorative search where narratives are central. The project itself outlines its main objectives as providing a basis for interpretation support in searching and browsing of heritage objects, where semantic information from existing collections plus open linked data vocabularies are linking collections of objects to the events, people, locations and concepts that are depicted or associated with those objects. An innovative interface allows for browsing this network of data in an intuitive fashion supporting researchers, media makers and general users in their online explorations.[3] DIVE+ builds on the results of DIVE by expanding the innovative approach for interaction, interpretation and exploration of digital heritage via different online collections.

DIVE offers exploratory search, and collections are interlinked and enriched with linked open data. Events are a central part of this data enrichment: giving context to objects in collections by linking them in events. First of all, my research study will aid in answering the question how such a browser – technically based on linked open data, supporting event-centric exploration or context analysis – can support a scholar/researcher from beginning to end, and therefore this study can help to improve DIVE as a browser.

To do so, my research study draws upon the exploration of narratives, and compares narratives as a tool for exploration (narrative centric approach) to other types of search (more traditional or document centric approaches). To be able to do so, main examples for comparison are for instance AVResearcherXL[4] and the Google Doc research tool[5]. What is the difference for researchers between an exploratory tool like DIVE and an analytical tool like AVResearcherXL? What is the difference for researchers between a ‘pull’ tool like DIVE and a ‘push’ tool like the Google Doc research tool? More precisely, taking CLARIAH’s four stages of research when using audio-visual sources into account (selection, analysis, presentation, curation)[6], this study assesses the purpose and usefulness of narratives for scholarly research in the context of these four phases of research, and identifies their utility for scholars. Based on the specific case of the AV representation of historical news events and following the research process in all stages, this study therefore considers what the added value of DIVE’s narrative model is for researchers: what is a narrative (how to define a narrative (as a method for interpretation used by (cultural) historians) in terms of LOD and the ‘Simple Event Model’ (SEM) used by DIVE)[7]) and why narratives are important for media scholars in their research process?

From a cultural-historical perspective and drawing upon the audio-visual archival materials from the various collections, I study the cross-media representation and historical narratives of news events. This study also functions as a follow-up and continuation of my previous research into the audio-visual (archival) representation of the past in television and related cross-media practices, specifically practices of ‘doing history’.[8] In this context, and the context of the forthcoming anniversary of 100 years of radio in 2019, a main emphasis will be placed on the particular case of radio as a historical object, and radio news events specifically. Part of the research project will include evaluating which collections and materials are necessary and possible to use.

As a result, my study will also function as a pilot study and follow-up the 2011 paper ‘Digital Hermeneutics: Agora and the Online Understanding of Cultural Heritage’[9] by Van den Akker et al. – a ‘Digital Hermeneutics 2.0’ paper by the DIVE+ team. I will be able to do so by providing further insight into the roles of narratives in Digital Hermeneutics (the encounter of hermeneutics and web technology) and how events (and in what narrative form) help interpretation.

[1] De Leeuw, S. (2011). Het archief als netwerk. Perspectieven op de studie van online televisie-erfgoed. Tijdschrift voor Mediageschiedenis, 14(2), 11.

[2] See also Hagedoorn, B. and Agterberg, B. (2016). The End of the Television Archive as We Know It? The National Archive as an Agent of Historical Knowledge in the Convergence Era. Media and Communication, 4(3). Doi: 10.17645/mac.v4i3.595.

[3] http://www.beeldengeluid.nl/kennis/projecten/dive

[4] http://avresearcher.clariah.beeldengeluid.nl/

[5] https://support.google.com/docs/answer/2481802?hl=en

[6] http://www.clariah.nl/projecten/afgerond/zaaigeld/oht/26-oht. NB: WP5 (AV sources) uses a slightly different conceptualization of the research process based on Bron et al. (2015) and Huurdeman & Kamps (2014). It has been adapted to represent the research process of media scholars based on interviews.

[7] If possible, this will also include reflecting on the concept of ‘narrative’ as different or similar between a ‘collection’ exploratory search tool (DIVE) and in (news/research) story composition.

[8] Hagedoorn, B. (2016). Doing History, Creating Memory: Representing the past in documentary and archive-based television programmes within a multi-platform landscape (Doctoral dissertation). Faculty of Humanities, Utrecht University, the Netherlands.

[9] http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2527039