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Flickr for learning and the First World War

Dear Great War Archive Flickr Group,

How would any of you answer this?

I am a lecturer in the Department of Information Studies, University College London, and specialise in the digitization of cultural and heritage material.

I’m currently carrying out a small study regarding non-institutional digitization: that is, digital resources such as online museums or Flickr groups created by amateurs, enthusiasts and specialists. The study aims to look at the range of material created by amateur enthusiasts, the motivation for doing so, and the level of interaction these resources have with their intended audience.

The pool of those being ‘interviewed’ given that is it only on Flickr and is self-selecting means that it can never be selective. So this is a piece of qualitative research? There are no objective criteria to be met? Is Flickr paying for this research? Who knows.

I’m really interested in the way that people are using Flickr as a platform to share images of their collections. I wondered whether you could spare the time to answer a few questions about your activities?

Any responses I get from this brief survey – I’m looking to survey fifty or so Flickr users creating high quality resources that are not part of any established memory institution – would be kept anonymous, although you would be credited in acknowledgements, should the results be written up. I aim to present the results at an academic conference such as Digital Humanities, or Museums and the Web, but depending on the quality of the results I may also write up the results for an academic journal.

So we .. I have done all the work for you?

I’ve attached a few brief questions below, and it should take about 10 minutes for you to respond. Please let me know if you have any questions about this. I’m really impressed by the Flickr group you contribute to, and I’d really like to include it in the survey!

It might take 10 mins. But I’ve given it 60.

I’d appreciate your response by the 1st of June 2009, responses can be sent to my email (m.terras@ucl.ac.uk) or via my user account on flickr (enthusiast_digitization).

Best wishes,

Dr Melissa Terras
Senior Lecturer in Electronic Communication
Department of Information Studies
University College London

Questions for Flickr Users:

Part A. Motivation

1. Can you tell us a little about your collection. Presumably, this existed prior to contributing your items to the Flickr group? Has your collection grown alongside your activity with Flickr?
2. What motivated you to contribute to your chosen Flickr group?
3. Is your Flickr group entirely your own, or are you part of a team or wider community? Did you set up the group yourself, or join an existing one?

Part B. Creation and Maintenance

4. Can you describe how long it took to create the images you uploaded to Flickr? What tools and techniques did you use, ie for scanning, or photography of objects?
5. How much time do you spend contributing items to Flickr?
6. Were you aware of any standards (for example for photography, or cataloguing, or copyright clearance) that are used in creating digital resources?

Part C. Interaction with User Community

7. Do you know who looks at the images you contribute to Flickr? Do you have an established audience?
8. Are you aware of any usage statistics, such as the number of “hits” you get per day?
9. Do you engage with other members of the Flickr community creating and uploading similar images?
10. How often are you contacted by people interested in your resource?
11. Are you aware of your resource ever having been used in research – for example to provide dates or historical detail for historians?

Part D. Interaction with Memory Institutions

12. Have you every been contacted by an established museum, library or archive regarding the images you contribute to Flickr? If so, could you tell us a little about this interaction?

Part E. Any Further Comments?

13. Is there anything else you would like to add regarding the creation, maintenance, or use of the material you contribute to Flickr?
Posted at 6:09PM, 19 May 2009 BST ( permalink )

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mymindbursts says:

From the age of 5 or 6 after Sunday Dinner my grandfather sitting with us children might start a story,’ Did I tell you about the time that …’ and so would begin some account of his experiences in the First World War: machine guns, prisoners, bombs & bullets … and aeroplanes. He was 67 perhaps …. and lived another 30 years. Between us, a brother & two sisters, I became the most interested in his accounts. My mother wrote them off, couldn’t stand it … clearly he had this ever present desire to relive, or recount his experiences. Age 13 I started keeping a diary and in time would have jotted down some of my grandfather’s stories. I had a life to lead, exams, and ultimately a university degree at Oxford. The First World War wasn’t history so I had to stick with the Tudors & Stuarts! I accepted this. A decade on I a, living in France and as part of a film crew on behalf of the French Ministry of Culture we are travelling to all the ‘tough’ urban district of towns … most of which happen to be along the old Western Front. The joke is that I am always interested in and photography war memorials. Abbeville, Verdun, Mountaban all made the First World War feel real. So I would share my experiences in France with my grandfather. INcreasingly frail when I was in town (my parents had long divorced) … and then my granny had died … he craved company. Technology first in the from of VHS let me indulge my grandfather further … he had books on planes, the trenches & all the rest … but he hadn’t see ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ in 50 years. Working in Television Production I understood the value of getting his story down and chose to do this on a Sony Digital audio kit … transcribing these notes I went back to ask further questions. Yes, I should have got him on Broadcast Video … but he looked so old and frail and I had never planned to broadcast him. Anyway … as I grew up, as my comprehension of his world , let alone my own, become clearer how I had seen his war changed. I wrote a piece called ‘That’s Nothing Compared to Passchendeale’ in 1990 ? while sitting with him watching the First Gulf War. A lad from the Durham Light Infantry was interviewed in the desert which prompted this remark … he had signed up with the Durham Light Infantry in 1915. He also had something to say about the Tornadoes as he had transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. And I got in touch with Lyn MacDonald and he went on a trip to Passchendeale … and his medals came out (he has the Military Medal) and he shook hands with the King of Belgium … and photographs he had and those of his kid brother Billy who had joined the RFC age 16 and died in a crash in 1919 … and after his death … and with so much coming on line I found I could add even more detail to his recorded memoir by checking details of those who had served and died … and then researching their own family background. Slowly it all came painfully to life, the family members lost, the closeness of the community … the very different attitude to the ‘working class’ then … they were cannon fodder. My gradual loathing for Haig who cheated his way into Oxford and Sandhurst and weazeled his way into the affections of the Royal Family & as a result of this, not his ability ended up responsible for the death of millions …

Is the First World War more deeply a part of the British psyche than that of Canadians, Anz’s … those from South Africa?

At an MCG event in London I was invited to be the standard bearer in front of he Boy David. These people gave their lives, or their leg, or their face for others at home making a mint … or not.

Accounts of young lads being killed today astounds me … not just how young they sound, but how dumb. The army is putting the ignorant in danger … again 😦

Surely the sharpest minds should be the ones in the Front Line in a modern war? I’d love to know the average IQ of those being sacrificed.

Flickr is a service/software that sits on the shoulders of many others. I’ve been online since 1998 and blogging regularly since 1999. Flickr is easy, that is all. Though I WILL NOT pay anything for the privilege of loading images to this advertising infested homepage.

Perhaps I should be taking a closer look at the legalease that could very well have been written by a fellow Oxford alumni who specialises in Intellectual Property Law. Are we being hood winked?

My joy in Flickr is in part contributing, and sharing and letting the world know that what I do exists or existed … however, Flickr is fast becoming some kind of landfil for crap pics …

I’m careless about uploading more than one click of the same image and more than one enhanced image …

Having already put on line the 25000 memoir of my late grandfather I had fun putting in some pics of my own but am having even more fund linking his story to images others have collected … and pasting verbatim memories of his into the comment slot of pics of others.

It is very much about keeping his memory alive. Is this a human thing? Camp fire stories of warriors and their fights? For me it is an intellectual journey too … I simply cannot find a way to get over to others what these men, these boys, went through. So I have read everything … and ought to be taking an MA or reading for a doctoral thesis on some aspect of the Great War.

My greatest latest acquisition a full set of magazines published on the Great War in the 1930s in which each edition opens with an editorial from H.G.Wells.

Flickr? So far it works …. I have all my images on a disc and will share them with whatever site I like, on my own and with others. Things will move on.

I will find I am linking all of this into family trees & war grave info and census returns.

And perhaps a couple of bodies will be dug up, given a military burial and their names lifted from those of the missing.

Perhaps human kind will get the message – one hideous death through a bullet, a bomb or gas is enough.

We should be seeing more pictures of the horribly injured from WWI & WWII … and the current conflicts in the Middle-East. Death we do well, maimed young men we cry over.

Getting the images online is a pelarva: photo or scan, the manipulate to make black & white, sharpen, then upload for the web so you don’t blow the permitted bandwidth in one go.

Standard are irrelevant as the pictures I post I expect to be only of a quality to observe online, not download for print publication or posters. Copyright isn’t an issue yet as my sharing these images is part of singing this song. I would take issue with anyone claiming copyright to a picture they didn’t own. I have wallets and packets of photographs that I have been given … that have been handed down.

Stats matter becuase they satisfy my ego … they are of interest. In particular it is the linking of my grandfather’s verbatim words to images supplied by others that is ringing true.

A picture might be worth a thousand words … but a thousand words goes a long way to make an image a narrative, to put it into context and give it meaning and relevance.

Age 87 I took my grandfather to the Imperial War Museum where he was re-introduced to the Vicker’s Machine Gun. He had not been behind one in nearly 70 years. He crouched behind this gun in the armoury in his mack and flat cap as if he was 20 years old, his thumbs went to the locks, checked the sights, and fiddled about and then he placed the two enormous pads of his thumbs onto the triggers.

He was ready to kill, or guard, or save his skin and that of his mates … he was back in a recently captured Jerry pill box with those he had known for months in his unit clutching their guts and breathing their last. I wish I had filmed that!

I have in mind an installation that uses Flickr images of the Great War that might start to enthrall, intrigue and perhaps terrify visitors. A walk through maze with life size images, and smells and dummy limbs and rats, and lice … and mud up to the throat and bullets whizzing bombs going off while solders do diarrhea into their trousers and commit on the duckboards ..

I guess I am there from an historical research perspective ‘read in a subject until you can hear the people speak.’ I can smell them, touch them, speak to them … I an empathise with them.

My grandfather survived, his efforts set his daughter on a middle-class platform and I was born into a family of aspiring professionals & entrepreneurs. Indeed my grandfather had been the son of the chauffeur of some big family who owned breweries & the like … and lived to see his grandchildren living that lifestyle with domestic staff, a cook and groundsman, a chauffeur even, the Rolls on the gravel courtyard of the castle …

All of this, yet right to the moment of his death, he feared this moment, the potential loneliness leading up to it and certainly his growing incapacity.

With a few sips from a can of Newcastle Brown Ale Jack Wilson passed away in December 2nd 1992 age 96 years and 3 months. His parting words were no different to those his mates had used on the Western Front.

Okay, he didn’t call for his mother. He realised that was a non starter.

‘Bugger’ was his final word. Or as he put it ‘You Bugs.’

We are still yet to scatter his ashes …

Over the North Sea where he was training as a fighter pilot in 1919 I think.

Or a grain glued to every picture I have of him from this period.

Have I said enough?

My blog is 1.6 million words thick. Courtesy of Flickr I intended to illustrate it. I am starting with the 24+ entries and 25000 words of my late grandfather’s memoir. At some stage I will go out and film it. I have in mind an open cast mine in Canada as the spot to recreate Passchendeale.

The Imperial War Museum has the transcript of interviews I conducted. I have the digital cassettes that I have copied and should digitize.

On the 90th anniversary Grantham did a thing on the Machine Gun Corps and used chunks of Jack’s memoir and pictures I had supplied.

it will never be enough. Not until I own the rights to ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ and make another movie of it to the standard of ‘Saving Private Ryan.’

Much, much more at http://www.jonathan.diaryland.com


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