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2 editions of this work

For Instructors Request Inspection Copy. Twenty-seven new chapters introduce the most significant developments in oral history in the last decade to bring this invaluable text up to date, with new pieces on emotions and the senses, on crisis oral history, current thinking around traumatic memory, the impact of digital mobile technologies, and how oral history is being used in public contexts, with more international examples to draw in work from North and South America, Britain and Europe, Australasia, Asia and Africa.

Arranged in five thematic sections, each with an introduction by the editors to contextualise the selection and review relevant literature, articles in this collection draw upon diverse oral history experiences to examine issues including:. First hand reflections on interview practice, and issues posed by the interview relationship. The practical and ethical issues surrounding the interpretation, presentation and public use of oral testimonies.

The challenges and contributions of oral history projects committed to advocacy and empowerment. With a revised and updated bibliography and useful contacts list, as well as a dedicated online resources page, this third edition of The Oral History Reader is the perfect tool for those encountering oral history for the first time, as well as for seasoned practitioners.

Comprehensively covering all aspects of oral history theory and practice, Perks and Thomson ensure that the classics of oral history writing sit side by side with the best of contemporary scholarship.

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All ask provocative questions that will engender important discussion and critical debate, and will well prepare students who venture out into the field. I recommend it to anyone embarking on or already immersed in the challenges, delights and stimulation of oral history work' - Oral History. And it offers more traditional historians another powerful perspective on history' - Social History of Medicine.

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Their historical sweep, from some of the earliest pieces on interviewing to the recent explorations of the use of new technology, offer something to both the novice and the seasoned practitioner The Oral History Reader is an affirmation that second and subsequent editions are important The Oral History Reader , in its second edition, is more than a sampling of the field; the organization, introduction and selections policy will influence that way oral history develops in this new century'. Each section contains articles remarkable for insights and spurs to thinking.

We decided early on that Topic C would be devoted to non-verbal and meta-narrative modes of expression. At a very early stage, David, who was working alone on the project at the time, began to worry about the challenges of tagging something as multifaceted, subtle and inexplicit as body language, for example. And when it came time to begin doing so, he was faced with the option of either confining these various and rather ineffable modes of expression to one index field or spreading them over three and essentially allowing them to dominate the database.

Ultimately, it was decided that Topic C would cover three specific areas — intonation, body language, and figurative speech — but of course any of these could be expressed in an almost infinite number of ways; body language, for example, could include everything from an interviewee banging their fist on the table to simply crossing their arms or covering their mouth.

Oral History Project

Intonation might range from obvious sarcasm to a short hesitation. Finally, to make this already deeply compromised approach worse, the database would require that we re-watch all the interviews. This re-indexing coincided with bringing a new researcher onto the project; he was given the job of indexing Topic C even though his familiarity with the database and with the interviews was limited.

He was not instructed to make notes about what he found interesting with regard to the intonation, body language, or figurative speech of specific clips. The eighteen Concordia graduate students enrolled in the Oral History seminar in the Fall term of were asked to write a three or four page critique of the Sturgeon Falls database.

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In preparation, the entire class received a workshop from David Sworn that explained the origins of the project and the choices made; additionally, it provided some helpful tips on how to explore the database. David also created a user's guide and was available to handle their questions. The results of the exercise are instructive and we believe that the issues raised are fundamental to our endeavour. The four most important concerns raised by the graduate students were in no particular order : transparency, fragmentation, path, and sequence, as well as indexing.

We will discuss each of these potential problems in turn.

History of the Project

Everybody agreed that Topic C on body language was pretty much a total failure. However, in the clips I viewed it was difficult to locate what exactly was meant by these labels. Who is to decide how much emotion is noteworthy, or how body language should be interpreted, and how does one achieve consistency? How do we reconcile this with the subjectivity of each storyteller? Yet what was interesting about the exercise is that each student approached the database in his or her own way. The student feedback indicates that many of the graduate students in the class were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information and found it hard to know where to start their journey.

Some found it difficult to keep track of where they were. They therefore navigated the database in all kinds of ways. No two people approached the database in the same way. Some focused on one or two interviews. Others set out to explore a key theme such as childhood memories.

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In a number of key areas, the responses drew renewed attention to fundamentals that we had lost sight of. While each life story is unique, there are larger patterns and recurring themes across the interviews with displaced paper workers. The problems that the students identified can be broadly broken down into two groups: those that might be at least partially addressed through better use of the existing software and those that simply cannot be solved using InterClipper. Moreover, there are several key challenges that seem to be inherent to video indexing and may never be fully overcome such as the issue of narrative fragmentation and subjectivity associated with tagging certain elements of an interview and not others.

Perhaps the biggest lesson that can be taken from all of this is to focus on the part the individual interview before dealing with the whole the entire database. Rather than clipping and annotating all the interviews in one long stage and then indexing them in another, each interview can be clipped and indexed at once in a process that would involve at least two full viewings of the interview.

A short biography of the speaker and outline of the interview would be drawn up at the end of the clipping and indexing stage. Finally, when the database is complete a short biography should be developed of each interviewee, the basis of their selection and the interpretive questions involved in indexing them.

While this is presently impossible using InterClipper software, the Stories Matter software now under development will have this feature. These abstracts and outlines should help to overcome some of the fractured quality that students found in the database and help users feel grounded in specific interviews, rather than simply adrift in a sea of clips.

The strengths of InterClipper lie almost entirely with creating clips and virtually all of its shortcomings are evident in its indexing features. In order to be fully functional as an index, InterClipper would have to allow an indefinite number of tags that could be flexibly categorized, searched, and filtered in any number of ways. In addition, end-users ought to have the ability to add new tags to their copies of the database and develop new ways of organizing the tags. This feature would solve the arguably counterproductive problem of having to think of the clips in terms of strict and necessarily mutually exclusive categories.

Is it simply an archival aid, a supplement or substitute for a transcript?

  • Beguiling.
  • Introduction.
  • Stumped Identity.

Or does it have some larger pedagogical or public historical purpose? This is a question that needs to be asked at the initial stage of any database project.

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It also raises concerns about the software itself because InterClipper is probably too difficult for the public to use casually and presents a number of serious challenges in a classroom setting as well. But, more broadly, the question of purpose sheds light on the various responsibilities of the database developers themselves. Specifically, users should be strongly encouraged to become familiar with the interviews on an individual basis before exploring them thematically.

A purely thematic approach, we have discovered, produces a fractured and de-contextualized impression of the interviews, rendering them almost unrecognizable as life stories. And yet, if the database is to be used primarily as an archival tool, then presumably the onus of using the database responsibly falls more on the end-user.

Extensive indexing — which, in any case, is highly interpretative — would thus be eschewed in favour of a few simple keywords associated with each clip and more or less extensive annotations. This way the researcher in the archive could go over the keywords and, to a lesser extent, the notes for the forty or fifty clips that make up the average ninety minute interview. The researcher could then decide what elements, if any, would be useful for her project.

This hypothetical researcher might watch some of the clips at this stage, particularly if she is interested more in narrative form than narrative content, but ultimately if she decides to incorporate the interview into her research project, she will want to view it in its entirety. While this early endeavour was a complete project in its own right, it became something of a pilot for much more extensive indexing and database development as part of Montreal Life Stories www. These activities include digital storytelling, performance, art installations, pedagogical resources, radio programming, and documentary film.

Learning from the shortcomings of our first attempt to build an oral history database, we have modified our indexing program in preparation for this larger project. Newly indexed interviews will now include interview summaries that, in addition to the speaker's biographical information, will include a thematic outline and researchers' observations regarding modes of narrative expression, rhetorical devices, and patterns of body language or intonation as relevant.

In order to illustrate these points, the summaries will be hyperlinked to appropriate video clips. Our second response has been to engage more thoroughly in software development. Abandoning the restrictive, proprietary software used for our early databases, we are currently working with a software engineer to develop Stories Matter , a free, open-source software which is tailored to the needs of oral historians.