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Digital options: an assessment of audience engagement with a digitised set of archives transformed from online text and images to audio format

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Digital options: an assessment of audience engagement with a digitised set of archives transformed from online text and images to audio format

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Paper presented at the Archives and Records Management conference, 2nd September 2022 on audience engagement with Lorna Lloyd's Diary of the war as a Blipfoto journal, and as a podcast series.

Paper presented at the Archives and Records Management conference, 2nd September 2022 on audience engagement with Lorna Lloyd's Diary of the war as a Blipfoto journal, and as a podcast series.

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Digital options: an assessment of audience engagement with a digitised set of archives transformed from online text and images to audio format

  1. 1. Digital options: an assessment of audience engagement with a digitised archive set transformed from online text and images to audio format Dr Bruce Ryan b.ryan@napier.ac.uk @Bruce_Research Professor Hazel Hall h.hall@napier.ac.uk @hazelh Dr Iain McGregor i.mcgregor@napier.ac.uk Paper presented at ARA Conference, Chester, 2nd September 2022 #ARA2022
  2. 2. http://hazelhall.org Information sharing online Early career: intranets (1990s) Late career: archives (2019-)
  3. 3. Key questions addressed in this paper  How do people engage with an archive digitised as a non-fiction podcast series ‘performance’?  How is this comparable with engagement with the same core archive previously presented as online text and images?  [Is it worth the effort of deploying the podcast format for presenting archive material per se?]
  4. 4. THE ARCHIVE
  5. 5. Lorna Lloyd • Cambridge ‘graduate’ • School mistress • 25 year old resident of Malvern, Worcestershire in 1939
  6. 6. Albert (Bertie) b1882 Emily (Topsie) b1876 Theodore (Theo) b1912 Lorna b1914 Gillian b1941- Jonathan b1945- Lorna’s niece and nephew
  7. 7. DIGITISING THE ARCHIVE: PART 1 ‘Secret recreational project’ 31st August 2019 to 11th January 2021
  8. 8. Friday June 14th Paris has fallen*. M Reynaud’s desperate appeal to America has received no answer – except that Roosevelt says “it has not reached him officially”!
  9. 9. ‘I do enjoy Lorna’s commentaries. The history books seldom give any such insights.’
  10. 10. Daily blips from 9th November 2019 onwards
  11. 11. Ephemera about/by the wider family  Reports of family activities  Creative outputs by family members e.g. poems, stories, art  Press cuttings and photographs  Souvenirs of trips and events  School reports  Letters
  12. 12. The digitised archive set as online text and images on Blipfoto: 1. Lorna’s chronicle of World War II (main plot) 2. Story of discovery of family history through interrogating ephemera posted to the journal (sub-plot) 3. Other outputs created by Lorna (mainly) and family 4. Photography 5. Blipper comments on the material posted
  13. 13. DIGITISING THE ARCHIVE: PART 2 Funded research project 2nd February 2022 to 31st July 2022
  14. 14. 5 formats of the archive 1. Hand-written in exercise book 2. Word-processed (single file) 3. Blipped (single entries) 4. Downloaded from Blipfoto (single file) 5. Word-processed as script (single file)
  15. 15. Katherine Stephen Announcer Richard Godden Newsreader Bethany Ray Lorna Lloyd David Monteath Theo Lloyd
  16. 16. Gillian b1941- Lorna’s niece Theo b1912 Samantha b1965- Bethany b1997- Lorna’s great niece Lorna’s great-great niece (aged 25) Lorna’s brother
  17. 17. 3rd year student team supervised by Iain McGregor: Andras Peter, James McLachlan, Alex Gencs, Michael Suttie*, David Graham Sound Design (4); Software Engineering (1*)
  18. 18. Saturday September 9 1939 ‘Evacuees arrive in Malvern’
  19. 19. https://rss.com/podcasts/lornalloyd/
  20. 20. The digitised archive set as a podcast series: 1. Lorna’s chronicle of World War II 2. Contemporaneous news: BBC radio clips and scripts, newspaper clippings 3. Framing of each episode 4. Writing by Theo 5. Theme tune 6. 4 bonus episodes of poetry NO: annotations, stories, plays, art, photographs, unfolding family history, blipper comments
  21. 21. Content Blipfoto Podcast Lorna’s commentary on living through the war x x Local news on the war x Regional news on the war x National news on the war: print news x Poetry by Lorna x limited Samples of other writing by Lorna x Samples of Lorna’s artwork x Outputs by other family members x limited Family photographs x Emerging story of family history x Audience comments x Music enjoyed by Lorna x Only the war diary entry content is identical in both formats of the digitised archive
  22. 22. ENGAGEMENT WITH THE ARCHIVE AS ‘PERFORMANCE’ Empirical study April to July 2022
  23. 23. https://www.blipfoto.com/hazelh 10th January 2021 ‘The circumstances are entirely different, but the one thing in common between Lorna’s times and our current situation is the uncertainty and how we deal with it as a collective group.’
  24. 24. Data collection in 2022 1. March: discussions within project team; 3 scoping interviews 2. April-May: 9 ‘before’ interviews 3. June: 9 ‘after’ interviews
  25. 25. Enthusiastic reception of the podcast series  ‘It’s been a tremendous translation into audio’ (Frankie) Entertainment value of podcast series  ‘[It is] very entertaining because [of] the dimension of the audio… and the different voices, and the different sources coming together’ (Rowan)  Praise for actors in conveying humour, intrigue, and drama
  26. 26. Production quality of the podcast series  ‘The students have done a great job’ (Pat)  ‘When she spoke in French because she was disguising the fact that she was slagging off an aunt… that was nicely handled on the tape (I show my age!)… The translation came in… [like] the kind of thing you would hear on Radio 4’ (Frankie)
  27. 27. The podcast series as ‘story’  ’[It’s] curated, edited and made into a cohesive story... The Blipfoto [version] didn’t get such continuity’ (Chris)
  28. 28. Flexible interactions with podcast episodes  Options for immersion o You can walk/cook/garden while listening (Pat)  Options for consumption o ‘Wow, you can have the whole thing in one hit?! … Being able to listen to it [all in one go is] a bit like starting a really good book. You could keep going’ (Sandy)  Accessibility (Frankie)
  29. 29. Authenticity of podcast series (1): content and sound design  ‘The information that came from the readings, particularly the local ones, were very, very interesting… I think that you could put more in’ (Sandy)  ‘The sound design made it sound like you were sitting next to a 1940s radio’ (Kim)
  30. 30. Authenticity of podcast series (2): voices and accents  ‘It’s the voices that made it real for me’ (Rowan)  ‘Bethany was using [a 1930s accent] but not overdoing it… It was just right in making you think “This is someone from that time talking about their life”, rather than “[This is] someone from now talking about somebody who lived [during the war]”’ (Nicky)
  31. 31. Authenticity of podcast series (3): versatility of Bethany Ray’s acting  ’She’s got several voices.. young woman, the very indignant young woman… the creative person… and the very educated one’ (Frankie)  ‘Anger or dismay or distrust in Lorna’s voice [was] actually much better than you could demonstrate… on a written page’ (Kim)
  32. 32. Authenticity of podcast series (4): Bethany Ray’s family connection to Lorna, and her age  ‘Neat’, ‘Nice thing’ (Rowan); ‘Interesting’ (Alex); ‘Quite special’ (Sandy)  ‘It was really important that [Bethany] was a similar age [to Lorna] giving the dramatisation authenticity and immediacy… It’s an absolute bonus that [Bethany] is a member of Lorna’s family and there is that connection’ (Chris)
  33. 33. Authenticity of podcast series (5): Bethany Ray as/is Lorna  ‘You could almost, genuinely, hear Lorna’ (Sandy)  ‘It could have so easily been Lorna speaking’ (Chris)  ‘It just came over as if [Lorna] was talking to you’ (Frankie)  ‘I actually felt… as if I was listening to Lorna’ (Sam)  ‘It’s [all] absolutely true as far as I am concerned’ (Kim)
  34. 34. Authenticity: the podcast series versus the Blipfoto journal  Although the interviewees spoke more about markers of authenticity in the podcast series, more of those who expressed a firm opinion (4 of 7) found the Blipfoto journal more authentic
  35. 35. Authenticity of Blipfoto format: images of source material, references, ‘editorial’ commentary  ‘Being able to see the photo of the diary [entries], and to know that it was an exact transcript, and to have the extra references… and to know people are doing extra research around it’ (Alex)
  36. 36. Some interviewees missed the elements not ‘translated’ across from Blipfoto to the podcast series  ‘You don’t get quite a rounded picture’ (Frankie)  ‘There’s more explanation on the blip site… If I was listening to the podcasts without having read the blip [I would be] wondering “Who’s Theo? You keep talking about Theo”!’ (Alex)
  37. 37. Value of comments and cross-referencing on Blipfoto  ‘I know [the comments] were short and largely just enthusing, but I missed the sense of the [other] readers’ (Frankie)  ‘I found it really interesting when [Lorna wrote reflectively about earlier diary entries] and [would] say ”What I said then was rubbish”… You can’t go back and listen to the podcasts so easily, whereas you can go back and read that blip’ (Alex)
  38. 38. Strongest messages on the presentation of the digitised archive as a podcast series 1. It generates a sense of vitality: ‘Listening does make it much more vivid’ (Nicky) 2. It enhances learning: observing the war in a ‘real timeline’ (Rowan) 3. It prompts emotional responses: ‘It was really moving’ (Frankie)
  39. 39. Vitality of the podcast series  ‘When you are reading on screen, you’re reading it in your own voice. You’re not really getting a feeling for how exactly things were said… I found it much more helpful to have the different voices so that I could relate to it a bit more’ (Sam)  ‘The BBC archive material really brought it to life as well. It just made it so present’ (Frankie)
  40. 40. Enhanced learning from the podcast series  About Lorna’s times: ‘She’s saying “Oh today… they announced the war”… and then… the Prime Minister announcing the war [comes next]’ (Pat)  About the war: from news items (Nicky, Sam) that lend breadth (Rowan) and immediacy (Chris), and prompt further research (Frankie)  Convenience: ‘I probably learnt more from the podcast because it was all there’ (Sam)
  41. 41. The stronger emotional impact of the podcast series is due to the ‘uninterrupted’ format, and lead actor connections  ‘There was a bigger emotional connection [to the entries than] when they were interspersed with other things’ (Chris)  ‘[Bethany Ray as Lorna] adds to [the podcast series] a little bit in terms of emotional impact [because] she is reading the words of her relation’ (Pat)
  42. 42. The podcast series has emotional impact even when listeners are already familiar with the content  ‘It was quite a shock when the diary ended, and the next thing was the letter from Theo… There didn’t seem to be any warning of that. It came as a bit of a shock even though I’d actually [already] read it in all the blip stuff… It had the desired effect… “Oh no!”’ (Rowan)
  43. 43. Emotional impact of podcast comes from contemporary parallels  ‘The parallels in Blipfoto were with COVID, and now it’s further parallels with the war. It’s been a demanding experience emotionally’ (Frankie)
  44. 44. Emotional impact of the podcast series and Ukraine  ‘Ukraine makes me emotional. It made me think afresh about [the invasion] when I listened to the podcast’ (Pat)  [It’s] so much harder… because we are in a similar situation… If you changed the words slightly it could [be] contemporary... If we made Germany Russia, and made Finland Ukraine’ (Nicky)
  45. 45. Ukraine and history repeating itself  ‘This is all just happening again’ (Frankie)  ‘We are dealing with [accommodating displaced people] today’ (Nicky)  ‘I was thinking about some of the things that she was saying about Hitler… and drawing parallels with Putin’s behaviour... how the Ukrainians must be feeling’ (Sam)
  46. 46. ENGAGEMENT WITH THE ARCHIVE AS ‘PERFORMANCE’ Main initial conclusions from the empirical study
  47. 47. Facets of engagement with an archive digitised in audio format as a podcast series  Audience members are entertained listening to high quality audio files of a cohesive and vivid performance of an authentic, real-life, story that is supported by contemporaneous news material  This performance prompts strong emotional responses to the archive material, and encourages learning
  48. 48. Is it worth the effort to present an archived data set as a podcast series?  You need many resources  It takes much longer than you could ever imagine to create a professional output  We’re proud of our achievement – but would we do it again if we understood in advance the effort required?
  49. 49. For further information and resources • Listen to the podcast series: https://rss.com/podcasts/lornalloyd/ • Read the LornaL Blipfoto journal at http://blipfoto.com/lornal • Read the LornaLPodcast Blipfoto journal at http://blipfoto.com/lornalpodcast • See the Malvern Museum web pages at https://malvernmuseum.co.uk/lorna-lloyds- diary-of-the-war/ • Pick up a copy of the poetry booklet • Contact Hazel Hall at h.hall@napier.ac.uk, @hazelh, http://hazelhall.org
  50. 50. Digital options: an assessment of audience engagement with a digitised archive set transformed from online text and images to audio format Dr Bruce Ryan b.ryan@napier.ac.uk @Bruce_Research Professor Hazel Hall h.hall@napier.ac.uk @hazelh Dr Iain McGregor i.mcgregor@napier.ac.uk Paper presented at ARA Conference, Chester, 2nd September 2022

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