Open Audio Weekend

Creating better access, engagement, & sharing tools for audio

Last weekend Pop Up Archive teamed up with New York Public Library Labs and The Moth for Open Audio Weekend, a two day hackathon to prototype new tools for digital audio. The event was the culmination of work on the Together We Listen, a project supported by the Knight Foundation Prototype grant which was awarded to NYPL and The Moth in late 2015 to explore using crowd-sourcing corrections to Pop Up Archive’s automatic transcripts.

In addition to audio and transcripts from the NYPL and The Moth, some of which were corrected in the Open Transcript editor, the hackathon made materials accessible from several other sources, including podcasts like Gimlet Media’s Reply All and oral histories from the Brooklyn Public Library.

The hackathon drew a diverse range of participants, including oral historians, data scientists, archivists, audio producers, and developers. (Graphic by Jemma Brown, Digital Media Producer at The Moth.)

This wide range of expertise was crucial to addressing the wide range of challenges facing digital audio. The event kicked off with groups forming around the following prompts:

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?

The projects presented on Sunday afternoon offered creative glimpses and aspirations for the future of digital audio:

Groups like Storynode and A-to-V explored layering sound onto maps to visualize the locations in audio. Storynode created a tool for extracting location information from audio, whereas A-to-V created a platform for uploading audio collections to a searchable map.

Other highlights included the Crowdscribe group, which tackled audio accessibility by building a Chrome Extension to request and display transcripts for online audio and video, and InstaBurns (name inspired by the photo montages of documentarian Ken Burns), a platform to automatically create video slideshows based on audio content.

For oral history collections, the Homemade History project enabled users to record and upload audio responses to oral histories recordings, and BPL (Brooklyn Public Library) Sampler sought to engage audiences to remix oral histories by treating the speaking voices as instruments and layering them into hip hop beats.

Big thanks to NYPL and The Moth, as well as partners at Gimlet Media, Buzzfeed Audio, Fresh Air, WNYC Archives, Library of Congress, Brooklyn Public Library, PRI’s The World in Words, Columbia University Master of Arts in Oral History Program and to the support of the Knight Foundation for making possible this two-day deep dive into audio discovery!

Explore all projects from Open Audio Weekend projects on GitHub