The importance of digitization amidst technological progress

The importance of digitization amidst technological progress

If your family has made any home movies, chances are they’re stored on something archaic like VCR tapes. Capturing media has progressed at an incredible pace, completely phasing out older methods day by day. Part of my research assistantship under the Hurford Center’s artist-in-residence, Vicky Funari, is to help digitize various videos she’s accumulated throughout her years of work as a filmmaker. Digitizing media is the process by which video and sound on tapes are converted into binary data to be stored and accessed on computers. Vicky aims to have her older work preserved in order to possibly use them in ongoing and future projects. However, different types of video storage formats, i.e. Hi8, DV, 1/4″ audio cassettes, each have their own digitization process. Currently, I’m working with DV tapes, which requires me to log and capture all the shots on the tape before running them through a video editor to start encoding them. The conversion of DV tapes is at a 1:1 ratio, meaning the duration of the media on the tape is equal to how long it will take to digitize. Most of the DV tapes have upwards of 62 minutes of film on them, making the total time to digitize one tape is around 2.5 to 3 hours. Furthermore, because modern software doesn’t have features built in the accommodate older video formats, older software like Final Cut Pro 7 must be used. I’ve been lucky enough to have done a bulk of my video recording on modern and user-friendly formats like SD cards, so my media is easily preserved wherever I go. My work with digitization has shown...
iPhones and iPads: Archival research in an air-conditioned age

iPhones and iPads: Archival research in an air-conditioned age

Thanks to the help and support of the Hurford Humanities Center at Haverford, I spent two weeks this past month in Stanford, California, at the Hoover Memorial Library Archives at the Hoover Institute studying American diplomatic history in North Africa in World War II. This is a quick description of some of my thoughts so far this summer, with hopefully a few more on the way. Doing archival research is a curious thing in the age of iPhones and iPads. It was most likely also odd back when you actually read the material in the heavily air-conditioned, strictly organized room designated for ‘reading,’ but the experience of two weeks of snapping pictures and skimming a few thousand pages of diplomatic notes, letters and memoranda leaves a bitter-sweet taste in your mouth. Coming up against National Security classification issues and 200 boxes of personal correspondences that mostly resembled what I was made to write to gift-givers when I was 13, it is surprisingly satisfying finding something like ‘The Manifesto of the Algerian People,’ which seems like the pinnacle of so much in comparison to all the ‘thanks’ and ‘congratulations’ cards. Unlike picking up a pre-vetted secondary source, the process of archival research requires patience but in the monotony of figuring out handwritten cards recalling some conversation between high school buddies, the excitement from finding something worthwhile or truly interesting is magnified. It’s a fishing metaphor waiting to happen. For two weeks in the middle of June, I read a lot of those ‘thanks’ typed on official State Department letterhead by Robert Daniel Murphy, a diplomat and semi-spy, who spent three...
Translating Early-Modern Astrology

Translating Early-Modern Astrology

Hello friends! My name is James Truitt, and this summer I’m working with professor of history Darin Hayton through the Hurford Center’s Student Research Assistantship program. My work centers around translating a 14th century Latin text on astrometeorology, Firmin de Beauval’s Handbook of Changes in the Weather (available, conveniently enough, through Google Books). What’s astrometeorology, you ask? Well, people have been looking at the sky for a long time to figure out future weather conditions—after all, who wants to get caught in a thunderstorm unprepared? What might come as a surprise is the parts of the sky they’ve paid attention to—astrometeorology used the stars (well, mostly the planets) to predict future weather. The practice goes back to the Ancient Greeks, and was situated in the wider field of astrological knowledge, the complexities of which I’ve been familiarizing myself with in order to make sense of the text.   This brings us to my role in the project—translator. I have a long-standing fascination with translation, and Firmin’s Handbook gives me an excellent opportunity to explore all sorts of questions and issues about the act of rendering a text into another language. In particular, most of the translation I’ve done previously has been of literary texts, so working with something as technical as Firmin is giving me a good deal of new things to consider. That’s all for now, but you can expect another post from me before the summer’s out. Until...