Information ageism

Right now, I am doing research for various projects. One of them entails finding out what context and contextualisation actually means for and in digital audiovisual archives, how it can be achieved, what sources can be used to provide context, and what different platforms and user groups require what kind of context. During this research period I have noticed something that has interested me for a while: information ageism.

Looking through various databases and search engines for articles and reports about context and contextualisation in digital (audiovisual) archives and other heritage institutions, I have noticed that I tend to mostly skip articles from before 2004, and am more inclined to read the newest of the newest information available. I check my Twitter account a few times a day to see if any interesting information pops up that I can use. The newer, the better!

Or is it? Of course, especially with issues related to digitisation and providing online access to archives, many articles from over five years old often feel dated. On the other hand, many interesting insights have of course been published before this, but I sense a fair amount of information ageism in my profession. I am of course just as ‘bad’. However, I read a great article today from 1999 (*gasp*) that up to this point is the most useful discussion of contextualising audiovisual materials I found up to this point. It is called “Audiovisual Cultural Heritage: From TV and Radio Archiving to Hypermedia Publishing” and was written by Gwendal Au ffet and Bruno Bachimont from the Institut National de l’Audiovisuel (INA).

In the article, the authorsĀ  state:

“We describe how AV library users need to be provided not only with accurate and efficient ways to retrieve images and sounds, but also with new environments allowing to read and interpret these images and sounds as AV documents. We show how library users perform an active reading of documents by contextualizing them using corpora of structured meta-information. This documentation consists of documents elaborated from previous readings of this AV content, such as […] critics’ articles and the production file, the rights managements file, the script, the pictures taken during the shooting, the report of the sound recording session, the original shootings which have not been edited, etc. All these documents constitute a contextual corpus which can be used to guide the interpretation of the content of the document and to contextualize it from diverse points of view.”

Seems straightforward enough? Looking at all the other articles I found, it apparently is not. To my surprise this article from – I repeat – 1999 provided some of the most eloquent and elaborate insights on the topic of contextualising audiovisual archival material. Time to work on my prejudice…


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