Editing, Annotating,
and Discovering
Historical Audio

Jentery Sayers | U. of Victoria | @jenterysayers

Editing Modernism On and Off the Page | UBCO
Thursday, 1 August 2013 (1 pm) | UNC Ballroom

(Use your spacebar or arrow keys to navigate this slidedeck. Or swipe your touchscreen.)


Quick intro to How Text Lost Its Source (book project)

History of magnetic recording as a history of editing

Draw upon audio examples from my research

Articulate key concerns about writing with audio

The Argument

"Medial ideology" of electronic text is informed by
legacies of not just print but also audio

(see Matthew Kirschenbaum, Mechanisms)

The Method

Technologies as "boundary objects":
meet the informational needs of multiple groups
while being put to different uses

(see Star and Griesemer)

The Telegraphone

late nineteenth century (ca. 1898)

Franz Joseph I (1900)

Arthur B. Reeve, "The Clutching Hand" (ca. 1936)

Popular Wire Recorder

mid-twentieth century (ca. 1943)

Tony Schwartz, "The World in My Mailbox"
(ca. 1955)

David Boder, "There in the Camp"
("Dort in dem lager") (1946, near Tradate, Italy)

Listen to the audio file. Visit Voices of the Holocaust.

Popular Tape Recorder

mid-twentieth century (ca. 1945)

Pierre Schaeffer, "Railroad Study"
("√Čtude aux chemins de fer") (1948)

R. Murray Schafer, ed.,
The Vancouver Soundscape (1973)

Laurie Anderson,
"Two Songs for Tape Bow Violin" (1977)

Laurie Anderson, "Closed Circuits" (1981)

Internal Hard Drive

late twentieth century (ca. 1987)

Sound "in the Box" of PCs

Jim Reekes, Mac Startup Sound (1991)

Writing with Audio

How to best integrate digital audio into
scholary journals and monographs?

What follows is an ideal scenario.
(Warning: some wishful thinking at play.)

Material Particulars

Tools should help scholars
attend to and compare historical
formats and storage media.


Upload high quality file (uncompressed WAV,
lossless FLAC), but allow downloading
in multiple formats.


Use an embeddable HTML5 player affording
multiple channels and random access.


Compose time-stamped, interoperable
descriptions and comments alongside audio.

Translations and Transcriptions

In text, offer translations and
transcriptions wherever possible.


Build trust. Allow scholars and machines to
easily discover sound sources.


Encode relations across iterations
or adaptations of content.


Avoid silos by submitting to and slurping
from established, trusted archives.

Fair Dealing / Use

Create interfaces that help scholars
embed fair "snippets" of audio files.


Determine whether it is appropriate
to add effects (e.g., fade in/out).

Spectrograms and Waveforms

Consider options to show and hide
graphical expressions of audio.

Storage and Curation

Work with community partners to determine
who should curate materials, where, and
through what protocols/ontologies.

Additional Reading

Sterne, "Audio in Digital Humanities Authorship"
Murray, Wiercinski, "Looking at Archival Sound"

Thank You

Keep in touch.

@jenterysayers | jentery@uvic.ca | maker.uvic.ca

Image Sources

1 | Pierce Wire Recorder: Wikipedia / Stanford Libraries
2 | Magnetic Tape Reel: Life 19 August 1957
3 | Green Screen: "A Eulogy for the Green Screen"
4 | Telegraphone Ad: Preservation Sound
5 | Telegraphone: Preservation Sound / Magnetic Recording (1948), S.J. Begun
5a | Stereoscopic Print of Paris (1900): Paris 1900 (Miami U)
5b | "The Clutching Hand": Todd Gault's Serial Experience

Images used for educational purposes only (not for profit).

Image Sources

6 | Webster Wire Recorder: Dead Media Archive at NYU
6a | The World in My Mailbox (1955): Tony Schwartz and Smithsonian Folkways
6b | Voices of the Holocaust: Illinois Institute of Technology and the Galvin Library
7 | Gene Hackman + Tape: The Conversation (1974), Dir. Francis Ford Coppola
7a | Pierre Schaffer: Wikipedia
7b | The Vancouver Soundscape (1973): Murray Schafer, Cambridge Street Records
7c | Laurie Anderson: The Ugly One with the Jewels (1995)
7d | Laurie Anderson: The Ugly One with the Jewels (1995)
8 | Insides of Mac IIsi: Apple Collection
8a | Audio Editor: Sound on Sound
8b | Macintosh Quadra 700: Shrine of Apple

Images used for educational purposes only (not for profit).

Image Sources

9 | Burroughs Annotation: How Text Lost Its Source, Sayers (2011)
9a | Telegraphone Close-Up: Audio Engineering Society
9b | "The MP3 as Cultural Artefact" (2006): Sterne, New Media and Society
9c | Audio Player: SoundCloud
9d | Open Annotation: Open Annotation Collaboration
9e | Transcription/Translation: Voices of the Holocaust
9f | Provenance/Metadata: Audrey Alexandra Brown Collection

Images used for educational purposes only (not for profit).

Image Sources

9g | Item Relations: Omeka
9h | Archive: The Internet Archive
9i | Fair Dealing/Use: Critical Commons
9j | Sound Effects: Audacity
9k | Unknown Pleasures: Michael Zöllner, Peter Saville, Joy Division
9l | UNIVAC Magnetic Tape: Modern Mechanix

Images used for educational purposes only (not for profit).

Audio Sources

5a | Franz Joseph I (1900): Audio Engineering Society (AES)
5b | Reeve, "The Clutching Hand" (ca. 1936): The Old Time Radio Catalog
6a | Tony Schwartz: Kitchen Sisters (1999), "Tony Schwartz: 30,000 Recordings Later"
6b | "There in the Camp": David Boder (1946) and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
7a | "Railroad Study" (1948): Pierre Schaeffer and the Internet Archive
7b | The Vancouver Soundscape (1973): Murray Schafer, Cambridge Street Records
7c | "Two Songs for Tape Bow Violin" (1977): UbuWeb: Sound
7d | "Closed Circuits" (1981): You're the Guy I Want to Share My Money With
8b | Mac Startup Sound (1991): Jim Reekes, Music Thing

Audio used for educational purposes only (not for profit).