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Annotating the --response
Thank you David for your thoughtful insight on annotating the archive. Below I've tried to address the questions you posed.
We’ve found that these are key ways that new media gives us advantages over a traditional archive in making connections and in moving through the collection:
* HDMB has an unlimited capacity for storing images, video, audio, and text files in one place. This is different from a physical archive where storage issues constantly plague archivists and historians who must ensure the proper environment to accommodate a variety of objects in collections. Different media are stored in separate physical spaces in a traditional archive so that real-time juxtaposition between a video, a written account, and a photograph is often difficult. Within a digital memory bank, the user can view contributions based on a theme or geographic location together regardless of format. For example, if a user is interested in the role fuel played in the the hurricanes, one may search for the term “gas” on the Google map page and discover that “gas” appears in 57 separate stories, documents, and images from locations across the Gulf region. The difficulting of locating gas becomes a common thread in these hurricane stories, whether during evacuations or after homecomings. Thumbnails of all contributions are easily accessible through the map.
* HDMB provides different ways to find information, by browsing images and stories, keyword searching, or viewing objects related by geography using our Google map, which the editor’s introduction has noted. This type of user-determined search is invaluable for those conducting research through thousands of objects, and impossible with a traditional physical archive. In a future version to be released this summer, we plan to tag contributions to facilitate better data manipulation. Currently, users cannot browse or search by contributor name, nor can they browse through all of the contributions together (mixing media). Some of these shortcomings were unavoidable since we launched the site 2 months after Katrina struck with limited funds. Now, we have more time and further funding from the Sloan foundation, so we plan on making further enhancements to the database and interface.
(question 3) I agree that in a Web 2.0 world, our expectations of digital media changes. HDMB adheres to the principle of openness of Web 2.0 by creating a digital archive that seeks contributions from anyone and is available to everyone. Plus, we plan to make digital memory banking tools available within the next year so that any group may easily create their own digital archive.
While we acknowledge the positive aspects of 2.0, there is a noticeable reality check within websites that moves away from excess editing and commenting by a general user. For instance, the “Memory Archive,” http://www.memorywiki.org/en/MemoryArchive , builds upon the same principles of openness as the Wikipedia by encouraging anyone to share and save memories of their choosing. One distinct difference between this site and the Wikipedia is that once a story is submitted, the site editors lock the submission so no one else may change the words. Additionally, those sharing photos on Flickr.com or writing blogs may, and do, limit commenting by general users to prevent too much annotation.
It is possible that HDMB will spawn a separate website that interprets the archive and encourages discussion, but HDMB is a collecting site first. We want to foster a safe environment where contributors do not feel threatened that someone will alter their words or denigrate their contribution. This archive collects objects from a specific context, and commenting can lead to inappropriate de-contextualization.
- Sheila Brennan, George Mason University, 05.17.2006