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Abstract

Qatar's rich Arabic heritage is not only captured in its buildings, artworks and stories, but also in the living memory of its people. Historians and ethnographers work to capture these stories by interviewing people in “oral history” projects, typically one by one. This is, naturally, a slow process, which can only record selected highlights of a people's rich memory. We here introduce a digital infrastructure that enables crowd-sourcing and distribution of Qatar's oral history. The goal is to inspire people to actively participate in shaping their country's historic record. People in Qatar as well as those living overseas will be stimulated to participate, thus weaving a rich heritage tapestry available electronically to Qataris and tourists alike. Each user will have our software installed as an app on their smartphone. While they are moving though their environs, users are prompted to create audio recording using our app. As in an interview with an ethnographer, they are guided through a set of questions, one at a time. The person acting as the Oral Historian creates the dynamically configurable script of questions and further defines time limits for each answer. If a response is brief, the app prompts for more detail, if a response is overly lengthy, the app prompts for closure on that question. Our software automatically captures some basic metadata: the time, GPS location, and length of the recording. It can further prompt for semi-structured metadata from its user, such as descriptions of their surroundings and the period to which the recording refers. Users are also prompted to upload any photos, documents, or videos that might relate to their audio contribution. At the end of a recording, a user is asked if they wish to provide personal data, e.g., name and age. The system does not automatically use registration account details as a user might be accompanied by another person who contributes to the oral history recording. These captured oral histories are grouped into collections and curated by an Oral Historian to prevent misuse and ensure quality. They may additionally decide to periodically publish a new set of questions to the registered users, for example to enrich particular topic areas in the collection. The end user software is available as a smartphone app, whereas the interface for the historian is server-based for ease of use. The underlying infrastructure uses the Open Source digital library system Greenstone, which has a pedigree of two decades (www.greenstone.org). It is sponsored by UNESCO as part of its "Information for All" programme, and its user interface has been translated into over 50 languages. Recent developments enable mobile phone operation and multimedia content. Greenstone therefore provides an ideal platform to deliver this integrated, mobile infrastructure for crowd-sourcing oral history information. The captured oral histories and any accompanying multimedia artefacts are sent to a central library where Greenstone's content management tools are available to the curating Oral Historian. The items are thus integrated into an evolving, public collection that are available to mobile and web users alike.

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/content/papers/10.5339/qfarf.2013.SSHO-011
2013-11-20
2019-11-17
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http://instance.metastore.ingenta.com/content/papers/10.5339/qfarf.2013.SSHO-011
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