Research

Narrativizing Disruption. A project on how exploratory search can support media researchers to interpret ‘disruptive’ media events as lucid narratives.

‘Disruptive’ media events, such as terrorist attacks or environmental disasters, are difficult to interpret due to an inability to grasp the story. In the media, such events are unwieldy and difficult to interpret due to their spread across platforms, media types and wide coverage – such events make a lot of ‘noise’. This leads to problems for media scholars, who analyse how narratives construct different political, economic or cultural meanings around such events. Offering media scholars the ability to explore and create lucid narratives about media events therefore greatly supports their interpretative work. This project studies how exploratory search can help to understand how ‘disruptive’ events are constructed as narratives across media, and instilled with specific cultural-political meanings. This project specifically approaches this question by using CLARIAH components (DIVE+’s navigation and bookmarking pane) to examine how scholars use and create narratives to understand media events. Academic insights conclude how exploratory search supports narrative generation. Software-specific insights produce recommendations at the entity, interface and user level, provide starting points for media research, and recommendations for auto-generating narratives based on exploratory search practices. This project is a Research Pilot in the context of CLARIAH (Common Lab Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities).

Project team:
Sabrina Sauer (RUG) & Berber Hagedoorn (RUG)
Lora Aroyo (VU University)
Liliana Melgar (UvA, CLARIAH)
Victor de Boer (VU University)
Roeland Ordelman (Beeld en Geluid)

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’

Many hours of audio-visual material have been digitised 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 contextualisation 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, as researcher in residence at the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision (2016-17 Research Fellowship), 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 digitalised 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

Doing History, Creating Memory: Representing the Past in Documentary and Archive-Based Television Programmes in a Multi-Platform Landscape

Television is a significant mediator of past and historical events in modern media systems. In my dissertation research Doing History, Creating Memory (supervisors: prof. dr. Sonja de Leeuw & prof. dr. Eggo Müller) I studied practices of representing the past on Dutch television as a multi-platform phenomenon. Dynamic screen practices such as broadcasting, cross-media platforms, digital thematic channels and online television archives provide access to a wide range of audio-visual materials. By exploring how television’s convergence with new media technologies has affected its role as a mediator of the past, this study reflects on how contemporary representations of history contribute to the construction of cultural memory. Specifically, the poetics of doing history in archive-based and documentary programming are analysed from 2000 onwards, when television professionals in the Netherlands seized the opportunity to experiment with storytelling practices made possible by the increased digitisation of archival collections and the presence of online and digital platforms. This study is founded on a textual analysis of audio-visual cases to reveal processes of meaning making, and a production studies approach to gain insight into creators’ strategies of broadcasting and multi-platform storytelling in relation to historical events. Such an approach reveals distinct textual, cultural-historical and institutional aims, strategies and conventions for doing history on television, bringing power relations to the surface. The project was carried out on a 50% basis next to my research work for VideoActive and EUscreen, Best Practice Networks funded within the eContentplus programme of the European Commission.

By means of an analysis of distinct cases, different aspects of doing history on television and television as a practice of cultural memory in the multi-platform era are explicated. The studied programmes and practices were broadcast and provided an online cross-media experience between early 2000 and the first half of 2015, and continue to live on online. This provides a considerable starting point for a reflection on the interplay between past and present via television. Each case discusses different dynamics in the degree of cross- and transmediality, as well as the choices made by the creators as ‘memory makers’ to represent a certain type of history.

First, I reflect on how sources and stories about historical events are collected, selected, reconstructed and visualised through particular criteria and strategies in the case of the permanent, long-running history series. Based on an analysis of the archive-based history programme andere tijden [changing times] (NPS/NTR/VPRO, 2000– ), which incorporates a treatment of history based on actuality, I zoom in on the role of television as a mediator of past and historical events. I specifically focus on how television does history through different means of representation and what kind of history television professionals are creating in the case of long-running, weekly history programming.

Second, I reflect on the meaning of curated connections in the narrowcasting and cross-platform scheduling of previously broadcast history and nostalgia programming on different Dutch digital thematic channels, specifically NPO Doc and NostalgieNet. By means of these cases, I zoom in on hybridity – mixing broadcast television and digital culture – as well as the role of television professionals as curators in re-screening the past and repurposing past television in relation to collective memory. This study also points to challenges for the online circulation of historical audio-visual materials, including media policy and rights issues, which complicate the function of online circulated historical material as material for contextualisation and in-depth knowledge gathering.

Third, I pose the question how a specific selection of strategies represents the Holocaust in multi-platform television documentaries for different target groups. Based on an analysis of the World War II documentary project de oorlog/13 in de oorlog [the war/13 at war] (NPS, 2009–2010) focusing specifically on Holocaust representation through broadcasting and multi-platform storytelling (including practices of cross-media and transmedia storytelling), I zoom in on the role of visible evidence, testimony and re-enactment in bringing novel perspectives in relation to official history to the attention of current audiences.

Fourth, I reflect on how creators of history television documentary use multi-platform strategies to constitute engagement with twentieth century European history, and what its subsequent opportunities and implications are for the construction of memory and user participation. Based on an analysis of the cross-media documentary project in europa [in europe] (VPRO, 2007–2009), which focuses on sites of memory (lieux de mémoire), I zoom in on the challenges and opportunities of multi-platform story production in the television industry. I particularly pay attention to the role of cross-media contextualisation practices for sharing and shaping personal narratives of historical events, to work towards a more ‘participatory’ memory.

Based on this exploration of how television professionals deploy the medium in the multi-platform landscape to inform and educate viewers about the past, I finally consider how these new forms of television and representing history by television professionals affect the medium television as a practice of cultural memory in the multi-platform landscape. Studies of memory comprehend cultural memory as shared and reconstructed knowledge of the past outside of but nevertheless entangled with official historical discourse. I propose a new model to study television as cultural memory which takes into account the medium’s hybridity in the multi-platform era, reconsidering television as a hybrid repertoire of memory. Television plays an important role as a history teacher in present-day society. Not only does television achieve this through the production of historical programmes and by telling stories from the past, but also by making materials from archives accessible on diverse platforms and contextualising them for specific audiences. New cultures of participation and digital technologies can provide a more direct link between audiences and sources of historical information, but to actively engage television users in spaces of participation, links need to be made meaningful.

The studied cases show that history television productions facilitate such negotiations by portraying those parts of the collective memory that are most relevant at the given time to programme makers and their audiences. Characterised by a constant process of cultural negotiation, these practices of doing history reveal the increasingly networked nature of cultural memory. Such practices draw our attention to the mediatedness of memory texts as well as the politics of remembering and forgetting. The reconstruction of narratives of the past through the medium of television is negotiated and experienced within specific cultural, textual and institutional frameworks, including history, memory, narrativity, medium specificity, house styles, media policy and contexts of access over time and space. Interpretations are also shaped through viewer expectations and the personal engagement of television users with content. Importantly, such experiences are in turn steered by the ways in which content is made accessible by television institutions and television makers. New digital technologies are the driving force behind these increasingly connected experiences offered and used by the medium television.

This dissertation consequently shows, first, how the selection and circulation of historical narratives and audio-visual archive materials in new contexts of television works in relation to processes of mediation, hybridity and curation, and second, how such practices help to search, preserve and perform individual and collective cultural memories. Televised histories connect users with the past and provide necessary contextual frameworks through cross-media and transmedia storytelling, demonstrating the continuing importance of stories and memories produced through televisual practices – challenging accepted versions of history.

EUscreenXL: Discover Europe’s Television Heritage

EUscreenXL is a three-year project (2013-2016) that aggregates a comprehensive amount of professional audiovisual content and makes it accessible through Europeana. The consortium brings together 32 partners from 21 EU member states and has established formal links with external stakeholders including the Europeana Foundation, FIAT/IFTA and IASA. EUscreenXL as the Pan-European aggregator of audiovisual heritage provides Europeana with at least 1.000.000 metadata records linking to online content held by 22 leading audiovisual archives, and 20.000 high quality contextualized programmes for public access and engagement on the EUscreen portal. The project promotes and maximises awareness for a shared Pan-European audiovisual content policy among archives, heritage institutions and broadcasters across Europe – and, in effect, substantially increases the online presence of digitised audiovisual heritage in Europeana. It thus enhances the visibility of the 20th century represented in audiovisual heritage and provides strategies for durable use, raising broader awareness of Europeana content for diverse groups of users.

EUscreen: Exploring Europe’s Television Heritage in Changing Contexts

EUscreen is a three-year project (2009-2012) in which 36 partners from 19 countries are brought together. The project is supported by the European Commission as part of the e-Contentplus Programme. Content will also become available through Europeana, the gateway to Europe’s vast heritage collections that currently provides access to over 20 million objects from libraries, museums, archives and audio-visual archives. The portal provides a wide variety of functionalities to search and browse the collection, which can be used in different contexts such as curricula and research programmes, for remix, and for leisurely dives into popular history. Curated exhibitions and an academic e-journal which researches significant trends in over 60 years of European television with the help of original programme sources are also available via the portal. The major objective is to stimulate the use of television archive content for the widest range of European user constituencies and communities and thus to advance active engagement with the cultural memory of Europe both at a national and a European level. EUscreen enables alignment of European audiovisual content with the digitized cultural heritage of Europe and achieves this by building a highly interoperable digitized collection of television material, which supports the exploration of Europe’s television heritage in changing contexts. A critical mass of audiovisual content and its metadata will be made accessible through the EUscreen platform. EUscreen investigates, exploits and extends existing tools in order to create a highly interoperable environment to enable content sharing among the EUscreen partners and with Europeana, for which EUscreen will deliver the audiovisual component. The project aims to create appropriate conditions for multicultural and multilingual access and use of audiovisual (television) content. Through investigation of user specifications, EUscreen develops and evaluates use case scenarios for using content for research, learning, and leisure and creative re-use regardless of the language and cultural boundaries. Furthermore the content will be analysed and contextualised from a European perspective in the academic e-journal VIEW: Journal of European Television History and Culture.

VideoActive: Creating Access to Europe’s Television Heritage

Video Active presents television material from audiovisual archives across Europe. It provides resources to explore how cultural and historical events have been televised within and across nations and gives a unique perspective on European television history. It enables an interactive discovery of television’s contribution to the construction of a European cultural space, with the help of a large collection of program material. Integrating television research with audio visual material has been a significant challenge, but Video Active offers new and exciting possibilities for researchers, students and the general public to understand the history of television in Europe in novel and dynamic ways. It offers different pathways to exploring European television history, providing key questions and answers combined with clips and programs from the European archives.

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