Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Mock NEH Grant Application (Academic Project)

Karl Erickson, Marylhurst University

Nature of the Request: Sounds and Words, a Project for the Preservation of Domestic Humanities endeavors to safeguard precious audio and video recordings of renowned United States’ authors, poets, and playwrights before they are lost to future generations of readers and scholars. Its goals extend beyond becoming merely a comprehensive repository for these audio and visual recordings; the project aims to unearth new and forgotten content reflecting professional and personal sides of our country’s greatest writers.   A successful project would be evidenced by not by preservation efforts alone, but also by making these works more available to the public. As envisioned, this project will accomplish what no other online media source has before attempted: a comprehensive, searchable, and intuitively-accessed audio and video content of our country’s greatest writers.   It is hoped that similar endeavors may also be sparked in other parts of the western world.  In order to accomplish this project, we are seeking necessary funds to begin the first phase of this important work.

Humanities Content:   In an earlier Digital Humanities project entitled William Stafford & Theodore Roethke, A DigitalHumanities ProjectI demonstrated the irreplaceable value found in recordings of the writer’s thoughts and readings in his own voice. Is this context or background required for the appreciation of the writers’ work? Usually, it is not. However, if one wishes to delve more deeply into the complex mind of the writer, there is great value in this audio and visual content of a wide-ranging nature. From old and forgotten interviews to recovered family recordings, these snapshots of time are our heritage; the time has come to step forward and preserve them for future generations.

There is perhaps a tendency by some in the field of humanities to too quickly pigeonhole or characterize great authors after only a single novel or collection of poetry is read. Sounds and Words, a Project for the Preservation of Domestic Humanities aims to make more widely available a diverse range of media, which will shed direct light on the true nature, character, and thought of those to whom we owe such a great debt for the work of their minds. This way perhaps we may begin to see these writers in a deeper and less stereotyped sense.

Unlike the other DH project mentioned above, this new project would focus on all (United States born) great authors, poets, and playwrights of the last century, or so. While its scope extends greatly beyond the original Stafford/Roethke project, I believe it could be a successful long-term endeavor.  Restricting focus to United States writers would likely encourage more thorough efforts into discovering and legally acquiring use of new recordings into the repository; a worldwide writer focus is believed to be too monumental a project to reasonably undertake at this time.  Once a sufficient number of media resources have been acquired, efforts would begin to focus on the creation of a website dedicated to the purpose of sharing the acquired media with students, researchers, and the general public.

Project Format: The archive or media repository will be restricted to audio and visual recordings featuring (United States born) great authors, poets, and playwrights. With few possible exceptions, these will be the writers themselves as opposed to talks or discussions about them. The media content would be tagged in such a way that complex searches will be possible—e.g. family recordings of novelists. This ease of user searchability would help encourage greater use as a new academic resource.

As touched on earlier, the project will allow both researchers and the public to have a greater understanding and appreciation of the viewpoints and differences of thought and art of selected writers.

Audience Distribution: A multi-prong approach is intended to increase audience size (demographic distribution) and interaction. First, letters and other media forms will be utilized when the project is ready for Beta Testing. It will invite a select group to utilize the repository for a time without any cost in exchange for sharing feedback and completing surveys. Second, social media will endeavor to build interest in Sounds and Words, a Project for the Preservation of Domestic Humanities by highlighting particularly important and interesting media discoveries. It will invite new users to join in the research and discovery at the heart of the project. Third, it is also our intent to consider ways of employing a crowdsourcing technique with regards to media tagging. This will not only build involvement and interaction, but it will improve tagging quality.

As found in “By the People, For the People: Assessing the Value of Crowdsourced, User-Generated Metadata” from the Digital Humanities Quarterly (2015, Volume 9, Number 1), there is great potential found in harnessing the power of crowdsourcing.

As of now, there remains debate about the comparative value of traditional and folksonomic metadata as organizational systems for today’s information needs. Nonetheless, there is growing recognition of the fact that folksonomies offer libraries with an ideal return-on-investment scenario [Syn and Spring 2009] with minimum cost (much of which can be off-set by digital humanities grants), maximum output of data [Bischoff et al. 2009] [Noll and Meinel 2007], as well as the chance to increase community engagement with their patrons. As the findings of the present study demonstrate, folksonomic metadata, when used in tandem with traditional metadata, increases findability, corrects preventable search failures, and is by and large accurate. Furthermore, the data suggest that given the same tagging conditions, librarians and non-librarians produce a surprisingly similar distribution of useful metadata. Collectively, these findings point to the potential to change the way we search for and organize our most treasured media.

Works Cited:
Manzo, Christina, Geoff Kauffman, Sukdith Punjasthitkul, and Mary Flanagan.
        ""By the People, For the People": Assessing the Value of Crowdsourced, User-Generated Metadata."
        DHQ: Digital Humanities Quarterly: By the People, For the People: Assessing the Value of Crowdsourced,
        User-Generated Metadata. Digital Humanities Quarterly, 1 Sept. 2015. Web. 06 Mar. 2016.

Erickson, Karl Bjorn. "William Stafford & Theodore Roethke, A Digital

       Humanities Project." Karl Bjorn Erickson, Author. Karl Erickson, n.d. Web. 06 Mar. 2016.

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