UCL Centre for Digital Humanities


UCLDH ONLINE: What can breathing patterns tell us / Between access and protection

06 July 2022, 5:00 pm–6:30 pm

cells under microscope

Multimodal Digital Oral History: The Forward-View Seminar with Almila Akbag Salah & Francisca Pessanha, Information and Computational Sciences, Utrecht University and Myriam Fellous-Sigrist, Kings College London

This event is free.

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Daniele Metilli

Almila Akbag Salah & Francisca Pessanha, Information and Computational Sciences, Utrecht University

What can breathing patterns tell us to analyze Oral History Archives?

Computational technologies have revolutionized the archival sciences field, prompting new approaches to process the extensive data in these collections. Automatic speech recognition (ASR) and natural language processing (NLP) create unique possibilities for analysis of oral history interviews, where otherwise the transcription and analysis of the full recording would be too time-consuming. However, many oral historians note the loss of aural information when converting the speech into text, pointing out the relevance of subjective cues for a full understanding of the interviewee narrative.

For the oral historians who emphasize the shortcomings of memory and storytelling as the strong points of oral history studies, the nonverbal cues of the interviewees, as well as the dialogue between the interviewee and the interviewer contain important information that needs to be included in the archive, and should be analyzed further to complete the research. The ability to look at human emotions, and somatic reactions while narrating important life events, both on an individual level, as well as on a collective level, gives scholars from many fields the means to focus on the feelings, mood, culture and subjective experiences on a mass scale. We argue in this talk that the advancements in affective computing, social signal processing, and automatic analysis of non-verbal communication is providing us with new tools that can capture the subjective and the emotional content of the OH-archives as well. To demonstrate our point, we will focus on one of the somatic cues of emotionality, namely breathing. Studies show a correlation between respiratory feedback and emotions such as joy, anger, fear and sadness. However, unlike speech and paralinguistic speech that is developed to a point where automatic tools perform relatively well, to capture and analyze breathing signals automatically in oral history archives is a challenge due to the lack of ground truth of breathing signals. We will highlight first the challenge of using cross dataset training to predict breathing signals automatically in a depression dataset, while also summarizing reports on affective states and expected/observed breathing patterns from the literature.

Myriam Fellous-Sigrist, Kings College London

Between access and protection: applied ethics for curating digital oral history

This paper presents some of the key findings of my PhD research on digital oral history archives. Digital technologies are now widely used to create, archive and disseminate audiovisual records such as oral history interviews; this amplifies many ethical issues which are already familiar to interviewers and archives curators. The new scale of creation and potential access, combined with regulations which are sometimes contradictory, have led to the development of strategies to cope with amplified ethical difficulties, for both pre-Internet and post-Internet recordings. My research analyses these strategies and the gaps which practitioners still have to fill in.

Drawing on digital applied ethics and empirical research helps to analyse key challenges experienced by oral history interviewers and curators alike: respecting privacy and consent, complying with expectations of openness and data protection, and preventing the misuse of recordings. Focusing on the digital curation of interviews, this paper will introduce key concepts developed in information ethics and legal studies; this will include informational privacy, decisional privacy, "private in public" information and norms of appropriateness.

I will show how these concepts can assist us to better understand why digital (and especially online) dissemination still makes many oral history custodians uncomfortable across a large range of professional contexts, including universities, archives centres, libraries, museums and charities. The scalability and sustainability of solutions found so far are some of the remaining challenges which need to be addressed if practitioners want to live up to the democratic ambitions shared by oral history and digital humanities.

Multimodal Digital Oral History seminar series takes as its jumping off point, that the time is right to pursue a Multimodal Digital Oral History, or one that engages with oral history artefacts in all their representational modalities: transcript, sound, waveform, metadata and more. This seminar accordingly invites papers that explore any of the questions posed above, and in doing so contribute to the task of imagining a “Multimodal Digital Oral History” turn. The series will take place online (Zoom).

The joint virtual seminar series will be convened by Andrew Flinn (UCL) & Julianne Nyhan (TU Darmstadt & UCL) and co-hosted by the Centre for Critical Heritage Studies UCL; the Chair of Humanities Data Science and Methodology, TU Darmstadt, Germany; the International Centre for Archives and Records Management Research, UCL; and the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities.

About the Speakers

Dr Almila Akdag Salah

Assistant Professor at Information and Computing Sciences, Utrecht University

Dr Almila Akdag Salah is Assistant Professor at Utrecht University, Dept of Information and Computational Sciences. Her research interests combine qualitative and quantitative methods to study mainly humanities and social data. She is currently the Visual Media and Interactivity WG leader at DARIAH (the Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities.

More about Dr Almila Akdag Salah

Francisca Pessanha

PhD Candidate at Information and Computing Sciences, Utrecht University

They obtained an integrated M.Sc degree in Bioengineering with a specialization in Biomedical Engineering at Porto University in 2020. During this period, Francisca was a visiting researcher at both Cambridge and Utrecht University, working in facial pain estimation assessment in animals. Their current research focuses on affective computing, particularly computer vision and paralinguistics for affective state analysis.

Myriam Fellous-Sigrist

at Kings College London

I am an oral historian and a researcher in Digital Humanities. I recently defended my PhD at King’s College London; my project focused on the ethical, legal and curatorial issues of digital oral history. I am currently working at the British Library as a rights officer for the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project. I previously worked in the research data management team at University College London Library and as a project manager in an industrial heritage organisation in France. Since 2014 I have been a member of the executive and editorial boards of the French Association for Audiovisual and Oral Archives (AFAS).