Designing a Griotte for the Global Village: Increasing the Evidentiary Value of Oral Histories for Use in Digital Libraries
Dunn, Rhonda Thayer
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A griotte in West African culture is a female professional storyteller, responsible for preserving a tribe's history and genealogy by relaying its folklore in oral and musical recitations. Similarly, Griotte is an interdisciplinary project that seeks to foster collaboration between tradition bearers, subject experts, and computer specialists in an effort to build high quality digital oral history collections. To accomplish this objective, this project preserves the primary strength of oral history, namely its ability to disclose "our" intangible culture, and addresses its primary criticism, namely its dubious reliability due to reliance on human memory and integrity. For a theoretical foundation and a systematic model, William Moss's work on the evidentiary value of historical sources is employed. Using his work as a conceptual framework, along with Semantic Web technologies (e.g. Topic Maps and ontologies), a demonstrator system is developed to provide digital oral history tools to a "sample" of the target audience(s). This demonstrator system is evaluated via two methods: 1) a case study conducted to employ the system in the actual building of a digital oral history collection (this step also created sample data for the following assessment), and 2) a survey which involved a task-based evaluation of the demonstrator system. The results of the survey indicate that integrating oral histories with documentary evidence increases the evidentiary value of oral histories. Furthermore, the results imply that individuals are more likely to use oral histories in their work if their evidentiary value is increased. The contributions of this research ? primarily in the area of organizing metadata on the World Wide Web ? and considerations for future research are also provided.