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Monday, October 7 • 3:45pm - 4:45pm
Behind the StoryCorps Broadcast: Maintaining Stories in the Archive And On the Air

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In this 45-minute workshop we’ll provide a brief overview of StoryCorps, and explore how our highly standardized production and archival practices have been designed to place primacy on care for our participants as people–that is, we do not consider our narrators ‘story subjects to be looted’. We’ll discuss how this approach promotes equality and respect in the archive; honesty and integrity in our broadcast pieces; and ensures the long-term viability of StoryCorps as a national storytelling project. We will play audio clips throughout the workshop, so attendees may walk away with a keen sense of the “sound” of our broadcast, and of our archive. Archivist Maria Santiago will walk participants through StoryCorps’ standards of archival description; how our metadata is generated; where it’s maintained, reviewed, and scraped; and how these practices strive to mitigate biases, un-silence marginalized groups, and provide equal access to representation in the StoryCorps archive on both the micro and macro levels. We’ll also discuss the limitations of metadata: what it can and cannot tell us about an interview’s content. To this end, Maria will share a story about mining our metadata to identify ‘sensitive content’ prior to the launch of our online archive. Producer Camila Kerwin will describe how producers practice care for stories during a famously critical, meticulous editing process. We’ll discuss how the potentially violent process of cutting up audio can bloom into an act of radically championing our participants’ stories–using their own words to tell a story artfully, then providing a national platform through which their truth can be heard. Camila will also discuss other aspects of the StoryCorps production machine, including date pegs, which affect when a story is heard; as well as the annual ritual of choosing which national events, remembrances, and human treasures will be granted one of StoryCorps’ fifty annual pieces.  

Target Audience

Archivists, storytellers, librarians, [meta]data nerds, anybody interested in the art and stakes of storytelling and making meaning of lived experience.

Key Learning Objectives

To examine and problematize the archiving of people’s stories To interrogate the harmony and tension that can arise between artful storytelling and complex experience To shed light on the multifaceted and interdepartmental care required at StoryCorps to honor and preserve people’s stories.

Workshop Structure/Agenda

StoryCorps’ audio archiving and storytelling / radio production practices are necessities of mass production. But we see no paradox in high volume manufacture and genuine respect for our participants. In this workshop we’ll explore how our highly standardized production and archival practices have been designed to place primacy on care for our participants as people–that is, we do not consider our narrators ‘story subjects to be looted’. We’ll discuss how this approach promotes equality and respect in the archive; honesty and integrity in our broadcast pieces; and ensures the long-term viability of StoryCorps as a national storytelling project. Archivist Maria Santiago will walk participants through ‘the lifecycle of the interview,’ discussing StoryCorps’ standards of archival description; how our metadata is generated; where it’s maintained, reviewed, and scraped; and how these practices strive to mitigate biases, un-silence marginalized groups, and provide equal access to representation in the StoryCorps archive on both the micro and macro levels. We’ll also discuss the limitations of metadata: what it can and cannot tell us about an interview’s content. To this end, Maria will share a story about mining our metadata to identify ‘sensitive content’ prior to the launch of our online archive. Producer Camila Kerwin will walk participants through the process and transformations an interview undergoes, from the recording studio to the airwaves. Camila will describe each step of production, emphasizing how producers practice care for stories during a famously critical, meticulous editing process. We’ll discuss how the potentially violent process of cutting up audio can bloom into an act of radically championing our participants’ stories–using their own words to tell a story artfully, then providing a national platform through which their truth can be heard. Camila will also discuss other aspects of the StoryCorps production machine, including date pegs, which affect when a story is heard; as well as the annual ritual of choosing which national events, remembrances, and human treasures will be granted one of StoryCorps’ fifty annual pieces. To fully engage with these concepts, attendants will listen to clips of StoryCorps broadcasts as well as unedited sections not heard on-air. They’ll review anonymized samples of metadata and participate in short exercises that demonstrate the attention and care required to maintain the integrity of our participants’ stories. Exercises may include: listening to unedited sections of tape and sharing out which moments, phrases or words were most striking, then playing the produced piece to see what actually remained in the final piece; “reverse-engineering” a compelling moment of audio to attempt to uncover what question the producer asked to generate that moment; and sharing out which keywords may best ensure the discoverability of a piece of audio for future generations. All exercises will encourage the participation of the group at large, or split into smaller breakout sections. Following the feminist methodology that values discussion rather than talking at our participants, we hope to share a lively discussion with our attendees, and facilitate a supportive atmosphere in which everyone leaves feeling they’ve broadened their horizons -- and perhaps made a friend.


Monday October 7, 2019 3:45pm - 4:45pm
4ABC (2nd Floor)
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Attendees (6)