Thatcamp Columbus ’10 was a wonderful experience for me, because not only did I again find myself in the mix with digital humanists of all stripes (who, across the board, lean more toward collaboration and innovation than defining disciplinary boundaries — the latter of which is quickly becoming the bane of my existence), but I was able to co-present with Dennie Eagleson, my mentor extraordinaire. Dennie, along with oral historian and author Don Wallis, are in many ways catalysts for this project, which I developed while in their class called ‘Community Journalism: Photography and Oral History” at the Non-Stop Liberal Arts Institute. Since they are both ongoing mentors of my work and my career path in a larger sense, it was really great to reflect upon the beginnings of our current work together. Also heard within is Marjorie McClellan, another example of the local talent I am blessed to have as sometimes-council. If you are not sure what this project is supposed to be about, herein you’ll find a few key phrases I am currently using to define it. A major question was, and still is, how to fund this kind of work?
This session was led by Eli Pousson and Dave Lester on the challenges of, as Dave calls it, “federating place knowledge” across digital tools and platforms so as to build a better foundation for both academic and community applications and projects. The other voices in the conversation belong to me (Brooke Bryan), Mark Tebeau, Douglas Lambert, Doug Boyd, and a few others that I, unfortunately, did not catch the names of. If you are interested in place, community narrative, digital projects and the curation of digital information, follow through these links to explore their work. Good stuff, there.
Soundcloud deserves its own series of posts (yes, forthcoming), but I’d like to at least introduce it here. I have spent the better part of the last year considering how to build digital projects that interact with audio in new ways that are both engaging and effective at communicating information to others. Funny that I should find my answer in the world of the break-beat DJ artist.
As a journalist, I audio-record nearly every interaction that is on the record (excepting phone conversations), and I record all public meetings that I cover. In fact, I record public meetings that I am not covering, because I think meetings can be both the genesis of major community movements, and a performance of (what can later be seen as) promises and ideas that were (often unfortunately) left to wither. To this end, I have a hard drive full of community visioning sessions, workshops, planning meetings, and presentations in Yellow Springs, Dayton, and within various communities of interest that are, essentially, documentary in nature. Soundcloud opens new worlds for what I might do with them.
What I find in my work is that long form narrative (here construed as anything from a transcript of a multi-hour oral history interview to my print coverage of a 3.5 hour school board meeting) is good for some things, but not at all good for other things. An interview transcript of an individual talking might include everything that he or she said during an interview (including each instance of ‘um’ or ‘like’), but does little to convey the nuance of spoken word and the subtle instances of emphasis, uncertainty, sarcasm, and endearment. In another instance, a write-up of a school board meeting (while lacking the same nuance) can only include those moments of the meeting that the reporter (myself) chooses to include. If only there were a way to tag an audio file that could allow users to listen to the parts they find interesting or important…
The digital paradigm is shifting information patterns away from an undue reliance on traditional authorities and the linear written word. At the same time, it increases the need for a curatorial mindset, as the thinking behind tagging and indexing information is every bit as important as the thinking behind linear information management. In some ways, it is a new kind of thinking that is inherently trans-disciplinary, trans-mediative, and connective in nature. What sorts of information are essential to living in community? There are likely as many answers to this question as there are communities. The great thing about digital tools is that, when we create platforms for information management, we can allow each community to ask — and answer — their own question.