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The Media Researcher as Storyteller: Working with Digitized Audiovisual Sources

This study offers a first exploratory critique of digital tools' socio-technical affordances in terms of support for narrative creation by media researchers. We reflect on narrative creation processes of research, writing and story composition by Media Studies and Humanities scholars as well as media professionals (journalists, television/image researchers, documentary filmmakers, digital storytellers, media innovation experts) working with cross-media and audiovisual sources, and the pivotal ways in which digital tools inform these processes of search and storytelling. Our study proposes to add to the existing body of user-centered Digital Humanities research by presenting the insights of a cross-disciplinary user study. This involves, broadly speaking, researchers studying audiovisual materials in a co-creative design process, set to fine-tune and further develop a digital tool that supports audiovisual research through exploratory search. This article focuses on how researchers – in both academic as well as professional settings – use digital search technologies in their daily work practices to discover and explore (crossmedia, digital) audiovisual archival material, specifically when studying 'disruptive' media events . We focus on three user types, (1) Media Studies researchers; (2) Humanities researchers that use digitized audiovisual materials as a source for research and (3) media professionals who need to retrieve audiovisual materials for audiovisual text productions. Our study primarily provides insights into the search, retrieval and narrative creation practices of these user groups. However, a user study such as this in which qualitative methods (co-creative design sessions, focus groups, research diaries, questionnaires) are combined, affords fine-grained insights, and informs conclusions about the role of digital tools in meaning-creation processes around working with audiovisual sources.

Reference to our related journal article: Berber Hagedoorn and Sabrina Sauer, ‘The Researcher as Storyteller: Using Digital Tools for Search and Storytelling with Audio-Visual (AV) Materials’, submitted for review to VIEW: Journal of European Television History and Culture (2018)

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The Media Researcher as Storyteller: Working with Digitized Audiovisual Sources

  1. 1. TheMediaResearcherasStoryteller: WorkingwithDigitizedAudiovisualSources dr. Berber Hagedoorn Assistant Professor Media Studies, University of Groningen https://berberhagedoorn.wordpress.com b.hagedoorn@rug.nl Slides on SlideShare: Berber Hagedoorn
  2. 2. Recent developments inoursociety  'Association society'  Role and impact of (social) media in our daily lives
  3. 3. HaydenWhite: historiansare storytellers
  4. 4. Specificactorsinthemedia (newscasters,governments, institutions)usemedia eventstobuildnarrativesin linewiththeirownpolitical, economicorcultural purposes.  Events, as they unfold in the media, may correspond to long-term social phenomena, and the way in which such events are 'constructed' has particular connotations (Jiménez-Martínez, 2016).
  5. 5. IngridVolkmerin NewsinPublic Memory(2006)  'One could argue that nations live not only on 'media time' … but in new, varied, multi-directional flow-frameworks of time/space coordinates: spectacular political affairs take place in global media prime time, are formatted as 'breaking news', and are delivered into living rooms around the world via a network of about 400 satellites, instantaneously and continuously demanding actions and reactions. Industrial nations, developing as well as transnational nations, governments and individuals live in a new global symbolic space, which refines former notions of 'distance' and 'proximity ' by a constant presence of crises and conflicts, associated by never-ending stream of 'contest-', 'conquest-,' and 'coronation-' type media events (Dayan and Katz, 1992).'
  6. 6. Studyofmedia texts/representations i.r.t. mediamakers (industrialactorsand memorymakers)
  7. 7. But: mediaresearchersare storytellerstoo NB: Focus on media researchers = both scholars and professionals who work with, search for/with, and learn about (digitized) audiovisual materials
  8. 8. Inthisstudy,themediaresearcherandtheir interactionwithdigitaltoolsisourobjectofresearch StudybyBerberHagedoorn(ResearchFellowshipSoundand Vision)&SabrinaSauer(MediaNowproject);seealsoour follow-upstudy(CLARIAH/DIVE)NarrativeDisruption https://www.clariah.nl/projecten/research-pilots/nardis
  9. 9. The challenge:  Sonja de Leeuw has discussed the history and challenges for European television history since the dawn of its 'archival turn' in the opening article of VIEW, arguing:  'Institutions and digital libraries are challenged to meet the needs of users, to construct new interfaces not only in-house but also through online platforms. This requires fresh conceptual thinking about topical relations and medium-specific curatorial approaches as well as user-led navigation and the production of meaning.' (my emphasis)
  10. 10. Themethod: Usercentered approachof co-creation Mixed qualitative methods (co-creative design sessions, focus groups, questionnaires, research diaries, users visualized ideas on posters) are combined in an iterative approach
  11. 11. The study  Co-creative design sessions focused on media researchers (68 in total for VIEW research paper), particularly for mediated and historical 'events', special focus: archival and Linked Data (Sound and Vision) 1. Media Studies researchers 2. Humanities researchers that use digitized AV for research 3. Media professionals who retrieve AV for text productions (e.g. journalists, image researchers, documentary makers, digital storytellers, media innovation experts)
  12. 12. Our focus points  Reflections on exploratory search, narrative creation processes (research, writing, story composition), information retrieval and pivotal ways in which digital tools inform processes of search and storytelling around cross-media AV sources.  How searching for a story, shapes the story: understanding search and retrieval habits grants insights in production cultures, user interaction with search technologies, craft and creative user practices.
  13. 13. GaryMarchionini, 'ExploratorySearch: FromFindingto Understanding' (2006) See also this video on DIVE+: Explorative Search for Digital Humanities: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FI3MPiU9rjo
  14. 14. http://diveplus.beeldengeluid.nl
  15. 15. • RQ1: How do media researchers (scholars and professionals) appropriate search tools to ask and answer new questions, and apply digital methods, around working with AV sources. • RQ2: How does exploratory search support media researchers in their study of how 'disruptive' media 'events' are constructed across different media and instilled with specific cultural or political meanings? • We advocate a DH research approach in which questions such as why specific data is collected, for what purpose, and within what context – the so-called 'politics of archiving' – are addressed from a critical (Humanities) perspective.
  16. 16. Userinteraction withDIVE+search browser,MediaSuite andselectedonline audiovisualrepositories OBSERVED  We observed how users used the search browser by giving users search tasks - 'goal-oriented activities carried out using search systems.’ (Wildemuth et al, 2014). We developed/tailored tasks to research situations and in line with recommendations for task design COLLECTED  We asked users written and verbal feedback about user experience (questionnaires with open questions and research diaries) ASKED  We collected user perspectives on the role of digital search technologies in Humanities research (e.g. in the shape of user-generated posters)
  17. 17. Co-creationsessions  What kind of 'narrative' do researchers (with varied skills in working with AV) create when (1) doing research into and (2) learning about events, with AV?  We study and question the 'translation' of AV data on different platforms into narratives and meaning making.  What is the role of provenance, serendipity, novelty, diversity…
  18. 18. Exampletask1: “Imaginethatamediacompanyisgoingto produceprogrammesaboutJakarta,Beatrix (Queen/PrincessoftheNetherlands),Islam,or Watersnoodramp(NorthSeaFlood).Yourgoal istoproposeaninterestingangleforoneof theprogrammes.”
  19. 19. Exploratorysearchis regardedasiterative Researchprocessesintoeventsusingexploratory search,visualizedasanarrative-MediaStudies researcher,respondent(resp.)57)
  20. 20. Analysis ofSearch Narratives and Audiovisual Narratives  Media researchers (both media scholars and media professionals) are, in fact, storytellers. Our research outlines how researchers build narratives, and makes the role of the researcher and digital search tools in the construction of narratives explicit. This highlights the interpretative aspects of research, and research is always being interpreted in certain (social) contexts. Practices of search, research and retrieval, too, frame a certain version of reality through the construction of a narrative:  'The researcher is framing the narrative by choosing which sources to use and not to use' – Media Studies researcher [resp. 61] (our emphasis);  'Media researchers acquire information from multiple searches and piece this information together in order to find similarities, patterns, and discrepancies. These are then put together in a storytelling format' – Media Studies researcher [resp.] (our emphasis)
  21. 21. Analysis ofSearch Narratives and Audiovisual Narratives  Exploratory search = steep learning curve  Across all user groups, respondents expressed how exploratory search and the DIVE+ platform functionalities and affordances and can help in guiding the user, and even aid in raising new research questions. Here, exploratory search is considered by our users, as demanding narrow research questions.  'The added value is that you can determine (...) what your topic is going to be about based on the available research data' – Media Studies researcher [resp. 54]
  22. 22. Analysis ofSearch Practices andTool Criticism  Using exploratory search during research question formulation (trigger, further refinement, even to develop):  'Exploratory search can result in new perspectives and approaches which in turn benefit the initial research' – Media Studies researcher [resp. 55]  Humanities researchers indicated how the 'randomness' of source selection opened up chances for researchers to find sources that other methods might not reveal, and the potential of Linked Data and related entities to illustrate context.  Contextual understanding is central: respondents identify that exploratory search adds not necessarily to the actual research project, but to the understanding of the topic they are researching.  'Overall, we do believe that exploratory search is useful but perhaps to create a general understanding of the topic you are researching, rather than to find specific information that could answer your research question' – Media Studies researcher [resp. 56]
  23. 23. Analysis ofSearch Practices andTool Criticism  Oppertunities for serendipitious browsing  In this process, for media professionals specifically, the research question is translated into searching for an angle on a topic (depends on the perceived audience of the programme or text the professionals are creating)  Professionals argue that their expressed need to give users more control over search filters, stems directly from the fact that in their professional practice, they are used to search interfaces with many, many search fields:  'The useful thing about many search fields is that you can focus very nicely on where you start and end in the definition of the field' – Media professional [resp. 3]  Prior experience, again, is thus an important factor impacting the interpretation and selection experience.
  24. 24. Exploringwith DIVE+  The tools that are used for (re)search and retrieval, inherently provide narrative elements (possible subjectivity of research: beyond the researcher him/herself):  'Meaning is attributed to the way one searches and conducts research' – Media Studies researcher [resp. 58]  'The meaning is formed by the search tools you use and the way that you search' – Media Studies researcher [resp. 64]  'Real connections still have to be made in an old and traditional way... in the mind of the researcher' – Humanities researcher [resp. 14]
  25. 25. Narrativesin DIVE+  Subsequently, the resulting search or narrative path, which represents a mediated event as a (more or less) lucid narrative, is also not regarded as neutral:  'Narrative is a framing tool that helps shape information' – Media Studies researcher [resp. 59](our emphasis)  '[Narrative is] a way of framing information and events, that makes certain elements strange and normalizes others, creating something like a story’ – Media Studies researcher [resp. 65]  'I believe that the narrative metaphor does not really apply to my research, because I do not produce sequential data, but rather a metastructure, which cannot be told as a story' – Humanities researcher [resp. 56]  'The list of narratives is very helpful, but does not really yield a story. More like a storage of the search process' – Media professional [resp. 2] (our emphasis)  'I mainly found general information and a further search for a relationship with an event did not offer a satisfactory outcome' – Media professional [resp. 4] (our emphasis)
  26. 26. Awareness of howthetool intervenes inthe research process?  Prior media research has argued how the transmission and portrayal of any event is necessarily dependent on the 'attitude' or 'demeanour' of the broadcasting institution: '[n]o event is value-free and neither is its mediation or interpretation. Historically, and across cultures and borders, values change.' (Bignell & Fickers 2008)  However, this seems to be problematic when it comes to investigating and generating narratives in an exploratory search tool such as DIVE+ – because currently, although exploratory search and the visualization of the search path can support narrative creation, researchers currently do not grasp how the tool mediates an 'attitude' or 'demeanor'.
  27. 27. Analysis ofSearch Narratives and Audiovisual Narratives  Professionals also found that not every click should be saved in the exploration path, which not only points to giving the user more control over search functionalities like filters, as discussed above, but also more control over the lucid narrative that is generated (in the form of the exploration or search path), which can be exported offline and saved on the researcher's own desktop:  'Ideally this functionality [saving the search log] will not simply save my entire click history, but will retain only relevant results' – Media professional [resp. 7] (our emphasis);  'It would be more useful if DIVE[+] did not save everything itself, but only on the request of the user' – Media professional [resp. 2] (our emphasis).  Our research also indicates how these skills, as well as awareness of how such skills contribute to understanding for (1) learning and (2) doing research, can be better supported.
  28. 28. Trust  Based on our study, 'trust' in the search engine, browser and archive, is usually based on prior experience. As a respondent describes:  'Even a database has a hidden agenda (...) Can I trust the algorithm?' – Media professional [resp. 3] (our emphasis).
  29. 29. Combiningthesemethodsin aniterativedesignapproach, affordsself-reflective,fine- grainedinsightsandleadsto recommendationsto incrementallyadaptthe exploratorysearchtoolDIVE+  For example, we made improvements in audiovisual annotation (also video or media annotation)
  30. 30. Digitization has changed work practices of media researchers. Media researchers increasingly use digital archives to create media texts. This means that retrieving AV requires in- depth knowledge of how to find sources digitally. There are also, sometimes steep, learning curves. It is in interaction that we learn most about this.
  31. 31. Focusonthe'userside'ofDH, specifically, howHumanities researchersappropriate and domesticate searchtoolstoask andanswernewquestions, andapplydigitalmethods.
  32. 32. But:whoisthe storyteller?
  33. 33. Intheendit'sallabout understandingtheinteraction betweenuser/researcherand toolduringsearch,retrievaland narrativecreation,andhowthis affectstheprocessesofmeaning makingandinterpretation.
  34. 34. Questions?  b.hagedoorn@rug.nl  http://berberhagedoorn.wordpress.com  Slides on SlideShare: Berber Hagedoorn  CLARIAH Research Pilot Narrativizing Disruption: How exploratory search can support media researchers to interpret 'disruptive' media events as lucid narratives with dr. Sabrina Sauer