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Dispatches from the Moth · Posted On: Jun 28, 2016

Exploring the Future of Audio: #OpenAudio Hackathon

by Jemma Brown

Open Audio Weekend Share 05

Graphic by Brian Foo

How do we make audio more discoverable online? 

Since The Moth was founded in 1997, we've recorded nearly 20,000 stories. But without transcripts or deeper descriptions, these incredible stories are still living in the digital dark age. In fact, most of the audio we listen to (podcasts, radio broadcasts, oral histories) is beyond the reach of search engines. 

So we teamed up with New York Public Library's Digital Labs for #OpenAudio, a hackathon to tackle the challenge of audio discoverability. 

Here's how it all went down:

Participants came from Spotify, WNYC, The Met, Financial Times, the Brooklyn Historical Society among other incredible institutions making waves in audio and discoverability.

First Morning

With backgrounds in oral history, software development, libraries, museums and archives. Many participants had experience in audio production, design and data science. One person in the room was an expert in data sonification.

Open Audio Weekend Participant Pie Chart

We kicked off the hackathon with a mashup of Moth stories + excerpts from NYPL's Community Oral History Project edited by Tim Lou Ly

Participants got t-shirts designed by NYPL's Brian Foo. In true audio-lover fashion, the design is five different representations of the spoken phrase "Open Audio Weekend" which Brian stitched together from different audio clips in the NYPL Community Oral History project.  The first representation is just the words, the second is the phonetic transcription, the third is musical notation based on the pitches and rhythms of the speakers, the fourth is the pitch analysis based on raw frequency data of the speakers, and the last is the waveform or amplitude of the speech. So cool. 

Open Audio Weekend T Shirt Design

Challenge areas:

  • Discover What new experiences can we make around discovery of audio?
  • Find How can we make it easier to search audio?
  • Listen What are some meaningful ways we can augment the experience of listening to audio?
  • Share How can we make it easier to share audio?
  • Learn What can we learn from audio? How can audio be used in an educational context?
  • Engage How can we engage a community through audio?
  • Access How can we make audio collections more usable for people with disabilities?

Groups formed around the challenge areas, and began generating ideas for web apps, browser extensions and multimedia storytelling tools.

Screen Shot 2016 06 27 At 5 54 36 Pm
Screen Shot 2016 06 27 At 5 53 35 Pm
Screen Shot 2016 06 27 At 5 54 05 Pm

Process notes: Emily Saltz from Pop Up Archive sketched out initial ideas for building an interactive map-based visualization search tool for oral history collections.

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The hackathon was transcribed in real time by Stanley Sakai from the Open Steno Project

Stanley Sakai at Open Audio

Moth GrandSLAM winner Micaela Blei treated us to a five minute story.

Micaela At Open Audio Weekend

Participants dug in wireframing, talking out, branding and coding their projects. 

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A To V In Development
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B Roll

Eight projects were presented on Sunday at the share out, including a Chrome Extension that enables users to request transcriptions for media on a webpage, and a transcript visualizer that pulls from Google Images' API to retrieve images and stream them in a real time slideshow. Explore all the projects on GitHub

Marika Hashimoto
Share Out Photo
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Homemade Histories
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Screen Shot 2016 06 28 At 12 31 53 Pm

Thanks to all the participants for coming out, to the team at NYPL for making #OpenAudio possible, to our partners Pop Up Archive, Gimlet Media, Buzzfeed Audio, Fresh Air, WNYC ArchivesLibrary of CongressBrooklyn Public Library, PRI's The World in Words, Columbia University Master of Arts in Oral History Program and to the Knight Foundation for their generous support.

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