Local voices, worldwide conversations: ethnographic methodologies as a route to understanding meaning and value of niche local digital cultural heritage resources.

poster / demo / art installation
  1. 1. Penny Johnston

    University College Cork

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Oral history materials are increasingly disseminated and accessed online. Audio, the primary “document” of the discipline, is now easy to publish in web-based media. It is no exaggeration to say that digital technologies have transformed the practice of oral history. At the same time, the digital has opened up new areas of debate, including the question of assessing the value of online oral history initiatives, a theme that is increasingly common when examining digital cultural heritage resources in general (see, for example, Tanner 2012). This poster presents an ongoing research project that examines the appropriateness of local resources for global audiences, and how the value of these niche projects can be assessed in a meaningful way. This will be combined with a chance to try out an online oral history project, and to engage in discussions with, and elicit feedback from, the international digital humanities community.

The focus of this research is a digital oral history case study from Ireland, the Cork Memory Map (www.corkmemorymap.org). This is one of the online initiatives created by the Cork Folklore Project, a community-based oral history organisation that was set up as a collaboration between university and community and has been collecting everyday stories of life in Cork city since 1996. As a long-standing collection and archiving centre, the Cork Folklore Project has well-established methodologies and understandings that facilitate its work within its host community, with living “subjects”, and all the attendant issues that arise in such situations, particularly those associated with consent, copyright and duty of care towards participants.

Embedded audio and images in the Cork Memory Map help to explore the narratives and stories associated with the landscape and “culturescape” of the Cork city (see O'Carroll 2011, 184), exploring meaning-making, identity, cultural heritage and local place-making through memory and narrative. Projects such as the Cork Memory Map have a strong local appeal, but how are these received in a global forum such as the web?

This ongoing research project uses empirical techniques (such as website and social media metrics) and ethnographic methodologies to investigate the questions of value and meaning in digital cultural heritage resources. Some preliminary results will be presented in the poster. Qualitative research will involve conducting ethnographic interviews with many stakeholders in the Cork Memory Map, including the contributors to the map (researchers and interviewees), academics and historians interested in local and oral histories, people from Cork (or with a link to the city), as well as the wider global audience that it is now possible to reach through online dissemination. The aim is to interview as wide a variety of users and stakeholders as possible.

At Digital Humanities 2014 the poster presenting this research will be more than just a poster – the aim is interactivity, with the poster and accompanying elements of the display (laptop displaying the Cork Memory Map and a scrapbook of ethnographic field notes) designed not only to showcase but also to elicit responses from an international community of digital humanities researchers. These opportunities for interaction and discussion will be used as material to be incorporated into the ethnographic research, and to explore potential new avenues of research. The poster and interactions will therefore be an attempt to integrate an academic conference presentation into an ongoing process of research.

O’Carroll, C. (2011). The Cork Memory Map.Béascna Journal of Folklore and Ethnology, 7, 184–188.

Tanner, S. (2012). Measuring the imapct of digital resources: the balanced value impact model. Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London. Retrieved from www.kdcs.kcl.ac.uk/innovation/impact.html

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Conference Info


ADHO - 2014
"Digital Cultural Empowerment"

Hosted at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Université de Lausanne

Lausanne, Switzerland

July 7, 2014 - July 12, 2014

377 works by 898 authors indexed

XML available from https://github.com/elliewix/DHAnalysis (needs to replace plaintext)

Conference website: https://web.archive.org/web/20161227182033/https://dh2014.org/program/

Attendance: 750 delegates according to Nyhan 2016

Series: ADHO (9)

Organizers: ADHO