Digital Video Scholarship

December 1, 2009 by

In February 2005, three former employees of Paypal created YouTube. The first video was available on the site on April 23, 2005. According to Google, YouTube now has over a billion viewers a day worldwide. In a relatively short time, digital video has become a significant source of not only entertainment but of information on the internet.

But sites like YouTube are primarily designed for entertainment and from my perspective lack some of the rigor I would expect for academic work. I am interested in discussing digital video scholarship, the use of digital video for the classroom, research and publication. For the last several years, I have been part of the Ethnographic Video for Instruction and Analysis Digital Archive (; media at which has been working with ethnographers to take their field videos, digitize them, segment and annotate them, and make these videos and annotations available on the web. As part of this process, these videos and annotations are also peer-reviewed and the annotations are copy-edited. One of the goals of the EVIADA web site is to provide not only rich, deep content but also the context of each video segment.

How can we take a medium like video and make it more than just accessible but also provide metadata, rich content, insight and academic rigor? What does it mean to peer-review such content? How should it be distrubuted? Who and what kinds of access should be given to this material? What about intellectual property? What about copyright?

How do we make video part of the classroom? part of research? part of publication?

My work at EVIADA and at the Institute for Digital Arts and Humanities ( at Indiana University has given me a chance to grapple with some of these questions but I have not yet found answers to all of them. Well, ok. I might have answers to some. But I think the importance of video and moving images in general to 21st century culture will only increase and we should find ways to incorporate this into the digital arts and humanities.

For those interested, I can demo several tools we have developed at EVIADA and IDAH to help with the project, but these tools will be the start of the discussions rather the end.

9 Responses to Digital Video Scholarship

  1. jamesdcalder on December 1, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    This is really interesting. Although there are obvious differences when dealing with video, I remember having several challenging but insightful conversations about how to properly archive, make available, teach with oral history interviews. It came down to the difficulties of actually indexing the material in ways that made it a more useful and accessible tool. Anyways, love the topic. Could also be some crossover here between yourself and some of the oral history folks that are attending.

  2. William Cowan on December 1, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    I definitely see cross over for these issues with lots of other areas of study beyond field work. Another project I am currently working with is called AHEYM. In this project, they have collected video interviews for the past several years with Yiddish speakers in Eastern Europe and they are using the Annotator’s Workbench, the main tool for the EVIADA project, to segment, annotate and transcribe/translate these video interviews.

  3. Erin Bell on December 2, 2009 at 10:53 am

    This sounds great. I haven’t yet been confirmed to look at the EVIADA archives, so I cannot comment specifically about that, but I’d love to see the tools you use and brainstorm about some applications in other areas. Is Annotator’s Workbench openly available (or, if not, will it be in the future)? It looks pretty comprehensive from what I found online (here: ). I wonder also how HTML5’s video capabilities might compete in this arena (albeit on a somewhat simplified level) as that becomes a new standard. What about audio? In any case, I think this is something that a lot of people have been hoping for and trying to attain for a while now, so I’m very excited.

  4. douglambert on December 2, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    I’ve been involved with these issues through my oral history work for the past 6 years. I like what you say about “the tools are just the start”… While librarians, archives, publishers are still trying to figure out what the digital age means for access to existing but now digital media, the potential for real access to audio/video “data” in linear format is wide open. But there are no print/physical metaphors to guide us and these data are complex. That’s why I think the most important tools are ones that help the indexer and user visualize collections fluidly. I will talk about some tools we’ve started with next month and hope to get some new ideas about visualization of large sets of complex data…

  5. wgcowan on December 3, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    The Annotator’s Workbench is not yet open source but will soon be. I have to finish the documentation and get the paperwork done at IU to make it so. It will probably be available on SourceForge or something similar. I hope by early 2010. There’s a lot to discuss about video archiving, formats, etc. The AWB is a Java desktop app and uses Quicktime for Java playback video. So any file type that Quicktime can load can be loaded into AWB, including audio. However, the metadata we collect is focused on video so there needs to be some tweaking done to work effectively with audio. But we are working on a version of the AWB that can work with audio and images.

  6. Marjorie McLellan on December 9, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    This will be useful in regards to teaching and scholarship in oral history and fieldwork. I have signed up to look at the EVIADA archives and I look forward to this discussion.

  7. Anne Helmreich on December 22, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    We just had Tara McPherson from USC speak at CWRU and she introduced the journal that they support VECTORS,
    which uses embedded video for some of the authors. I am interested in how this type of work gets represented and understood as “research” in an academic/research university context (e.g. peer review, etc.).

  8. wgcowan on December 23, 2009 at 11:28 am

    Anne, For the Ethnographic Video for Instruction and Analysis project, having the annotated video taken as a serious academic work was very important. As part of that process, we developed a peer review mode for the Annotator’s Workbench which allowed reviewers to see the video and annotations (but not be able to modify them) and then enter their own comments on the video content as well as the annotations. Then the original annotator would be able to see these comments and decide what modifications would be best for the project. The increased use of video for a variety of subject areas makes this question of how does video (other than as a creative work) fit into the whole academic/research context of universities, very important.

  9. Marjorie McLellan on January 14, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    I hope that you can reprise this as a short as well as in a session so that we can all see the tools.

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