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Unlocking Audio 2009 conference programme and papers

Read the full conference programme and watch selected speeches and papers from the Unlocking Audio: Connecting with Listeners conference, held at the British Library in March 2009.

Videos are streamed in Windows Media format. Please note that these videos are optimised for viewing over a broadband internet connection.

For speaker profiles and full abstracts of the papers, please see the brochure:

Welcome and introduction

Video: Welcome to the conference (7 mins)

Speaker: Ronald Milne, Director of Scholarship and Collections, The British Library

Video: Introduction: Digitising audio - a funder's perspective (7 mins)

Speaker: Alastair Dunning, Programme Manager for Digitisation at JISC

Keynote presentations

Video: Talk by Charles Leadbeater (37 mins)

Video: Questions and answers (7 mins)

Speaker: Charles Leadbeater

Business models based on artificial scarcity will not survive in a world where open, participative technologies provide so many opportunities for creativity. The new media business resembles a beach containing different sized pebbles left by the visitors rather than ‘boulders’ positioned by regulators. Institutions, such as the British Library and the BBC, must therefore adopt a design principle based on WITH rather than FOR people in order to ensure that the essential needs of consumers and researchers to 'Enjoy-Talk-Do' their content can be met.

Video: What do social networks tell us about the discovery, sharing and re-use of audio resources? (42 mins)

Video: Questions and answers (4 mins)

Speaker: Andy Powell

Thinking about what it means to be 'open' and to 'unlock' content, Andy cites Spotify and as being OF rather than just ON the Web and building knowledge from the attention data of large numbers of users. He looks back on the JISC Information Environment, designed to create flows of metadata while protecting content from inappropriate access. Such an approach is at odds with the real-life social networks adopted by researchers. Our terminology is confusing: we talk about 'deposits in a repository' and 'identifiers'; they talk about 'making content available on the Web' and 'identities'. We therefore need to re-focus on the social aspects of systems being built and their inherent linked data.

Panel discussion

Video: Online audio, research and creativity (41 mins)

Participants: Charles Leadbeater, Jon Purday, Jeremy Silver, Michael Fingerhut, Andy Powell


Video: Multimedia and the revolution in scholarly communication: giving scholars what they need in a world of constant change (26 mins)

Video: Questions and answers (16 mins)

Speakers: Iain Wallace Digital Services Development Librarian and David Donald Director of Spoken Word Services, Glasgow Caledonian University, UK

A case for the necessary and desirable technologies and procedures to support authoritative international scholarly communications, with special reference to digital repositories of audio and video.

Video: Behind the screen: What is necessary for sustainable web expositions? Exemplified by the Österreichische Mediathek (22 mins)

Video: Questions and answers (6 mins)

Speaker: Dr Rainer Hubert, Head of Österreichische Mediathek, Division of the Technical Museum of Vienna, Austria

It is relatively easy to put audiovisual documents into the internet. Everybody does. This however is seldom done in a systematic way – with grave consequences in the long run. The approach of the Mediathek towards this has developed in the last ten years from humble and stumbling beginnings to rather big web expositions fitting into an overall scheme of permanent ways to deal with digital information.

Video: Using historical audio recordings as research sources - a pitfall between authenticity and manipulation? (26 mins)

Speaker: Nadja Wallaszkovits, Chief Audio Engineer Phonogrammarchiv - Austrian Academy of Sciences

The paper outlines the problems of mis-interpretation of historical audio sources, caused by digital 'restoration' processes, and compares the professional guidelines of classical restoration in cultural heritage with daily practice in the audio world.

Video: Integration of music information retrieval techniques into the practice of ethnic music collections (29 mins)

Video: Questions and answers (2 mins)

Speaker: Dr Micheline Lesaffre, IPEM – Dept. of Musicology, Ghent University, Belgium

A study has been conducted to investigate current Music Information Retrieval (MIR) research in its relation to ethnic music. This study aims to identify the potential usefulness of (MIR) for the access to collections of ethnic music and to provide new perspectives that are likely to be of relevance to all users and suppliers of these collections.

Video: Sydney Sidetracks: exploring a city of lost sounds (23 mins)

Video: Questions and answers (2 mins)

Speaker: Sarah Barns, University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)

This paper presents some perspectives on 'unlocking audio' from the point of view of a researcher and producer using broadcast audio archives to generate location-based experiences of urban history.

Video: Technologies to support the collaborative production of sounds: the example of (32 mins)

Speaker: Xavier Serra, Music Technology Group, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain

On-line collaborative production is becoming a very promising way to produce, share and exploit digital content. This presentation focuses on the technical challenges that these initiatives face and uses as a test case to explain some of the current technical solutions.

Video: Progressive enrichment of simple models of audiovisual assets (25 mins)

Video: Questions and answers (2 mins)

Speaker: Guy Maréchal, System Architect of the MEMORIES project, Memnon Archiving Services, Belgium

Most of the existing databases including audio assets have their metadata expressed in reference to elements or refinements of the 'Dublin Core'. The retrievals are usually made by querying and navigating directly in a dedicated web site or through a portal fed with OAI-PMH or similar. In the MEMORIES project, a methodology has been developed and implemented for using or constructing DC based 'Simple Documentary Objects' (SDO) which could be enriched to becoming 'Rich Information Object' (RIO) constructions. This paves the way to a progressive concrete introduction of the semantic web.

Video: An intelligent retrieval and access system for sound archives (23 mins)

Video: Questions and answers (4 mins)

Speaker: Dr Joshua D. Reiss, Centre for Digital Music, Queen Mary University of London, UK

This paper presents an innovative remote access system for archival audio resources, developed under the EASAIER (Enabling Access to Sound Archives through Integration, Enrichment and Retrieval) European project, which extends beyond standard content management and retrieval systems.

Xeno-canto: web-based sound collecting and identification

Speakers: Willem-Pier Vellinga and Bob Planqué, Xeno-canto Foundation, Netherlands

Formerly inaccessible databases are now available for everyone to use on the internet. Xeno-canto ( is a website that harvests the unprecedented possibilities that exist. The presentation examines some crucial choices that were made in the development of the site in a number of areas: community building, copyrights, storage, expansion, long-term viability.

Beyond the metadata, new intelligent audio content search for large music collections

Speakers: Polina Proutskova and Michela Magas, Goldsmiths College, University of London, UK

This presentation looks at new technologies of audio content retrieval that are being developed. It gives an example of automatic annotation for a collection of ethnomusicological recordings from all over the world. The issues of scalability for huge collections and of defining/customizing musical similarity are discussed.

Online audio delivery and research collections at the National Library of Australia

Speaker: Kevin Bradley, Curator, Oral History and Folklore Director, Sound Preservation National Library of Australia

The National Library of Australia has developed a delivery system that links timed summaries, transcripts and other access aids, to the time code in the audio files and delivers the content directly from the Library's catalogue. The paper discusses the technical delivery issues, the ethical dilemmas presented by such an approach, and the means by which the legal constraints were managed.

Audio as companion – placing audio into the context of the listener's life

Speaker: Antony Smith, Technical Project Manager, Audio & Music British Broadcasting Corporation, UK

By reviewing a range of approaches this paper explores the complex relationship between audio content, audience need, and play-out system.

Public engagement: who are you trying to reach?

Speakers: Dr Sally Crompton, Head of Open Broadcasting Unit; Dr Caroline Ogilvie, Broadcasting Project Executive The Open Broadcasting Unit, The Open University, UK

The tale of two recent productions of audio content published on different web platforms. The first example is a series of audio walks around historic locations in Scotland. The second example is a series of ethical debates.

Break-out session

Video: Current and evolving tools to assist content editors and end users and application of the tools for the ‘Interviews’ in the MEMORIES project (29 mins)

Video: Acquiring, enriching, preserving and accessing audio-visual assets (28 mins)

Speakers: Philippe Schoy, Memnon IT Project Manager Memnon Archiving Services, Belgium; Stanley Peters, LBC/IRN Project Manager Bournemouth University Media School, UK; Iris Buunk, Research Assistant Radio Suisse Romande, Switzerland; Guy Maréchal, System Architect of the MEMORIES project Memnon Archiving Services, Belgium; Jean-François Cosandier, Head of Documentation and Archives Radio Suisse Romande, Switzerland

This session focuses on the integrated proxy indexer content editing tool.

Conference website:

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