British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access

Channel 4 Press Packs 1982-2002

C4_PP_300dpi-webThese were some examples of the way in which Rachael influenced the development of the resource but there were occasions when the process also worked in reverse. At one point we experimented with converting the programme listings section within each pack into an XML format, basically categorizing the text within a hierarchical structure. So, each programme would have a start time, a title (possibly a series title as well), a synopsis and so on. When the results came through we found that there was information that seemed to be a title but did not fit in either the title or series fields. How should we categorise ‘Film Four presents First Love: Secrets’? Was ‘The Eleventh Hour’ a series? If it was a series where did we put series within it? Could a programme be part of two series? Were these seasons or strands? How could these be defined? We decided to ask the research team to categorise a problematic selection of programmes in terms of three fields: series, season and strand. So began a series of engaging discussions that saw a framing and then re-framing of Channel 4’s scheduling over two decades. More significantly, it resulted in Rachael shifting the focus of her research and structure of her thesis. An insight into this can be found in her comprehensive research case study, Film Review Shows.

… a new form of curation, merging the old and new, must emerge to ensure that these contextualized resources do not just survive but continue to live

Context & Curation
The benefits of this contextual approach have been manifold. This closer working relationship between the developers and the users of the material has given us greater confidence that what we have produced truly meets the requirements of researchers. From an academic perspective there can be little doubt that it has improved the digital literacy of the research term. This encompasses both digital skills, how to present their research within an online environment, and critical understanding, an awareness of the difference between using digital and analogue versions of the same primary source collection and more specifically, how the development of the digital resource can frame the questions researchers may ask of it. Essentially an integrated work practice has enabled us to create an integrated resource as opposed to a digitized collection that the user is left to discover and use in isolation. The wealth of supplementary material not only enhance the use and understanding of the press information packs, they have given them meaning and rendered them unique. As content duplicates itself at an increasing rate it is the contextual element that will add value to digital collections.

c4_pp_1985_32_webIf context is essential to gain a fuller understanding of the digital collection, then surely curation is the real key to its sustainability as a resource. Digital outputs from humanities research projects are viewed, often for practical financial reasons, as finite. They are published alongside journal articles and the book but crucially these objects operating within a digital environment possess an infinite capacity for obsolescence. The host institution may ensure that the search still operates, that the information is still accessible but unless it continues to respond to the changing requirements and expectations of its users, it will, over time, gradually fall into disuse. It will join an increasing number digital research outputs slowly orbiting cyberspace like redundant satellites. They are maintained and preserved but slowly lose connection through lack of response. The answer is to certainly broaden our sense of digital curation to fully encompass the reactive nature of an online environment, to go beyond issues of storage formats, data integrity and maintaining accessibility to include adaptation, adjustment to new requirements from users of the resource. This in turn needs to adopt some of the traditional curatorial elements of knowledge and expertise of the content itself to become truly responsive and continually informative. A new form of curation, merging the old and new, must emerge to ensure that these contextualized resources do not just survive but continue to live.

Linda Kaye

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