Data, Basically: Computers, Documents and the Oral History of Twentieth Century Mongolia

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Kaplonski, Christopher 

The international research project 'The Oral History of Twentieth Century Mongolia' currently has well over 400 interviews in its database. The database encompasses background data on the interview, the person interviewed, the interviewer and an estimated 12,000 pages of interview transcription, in addition to 600-700 hours of audio, over 100 hours of video and thousands of images. In this paper, I discuss the implications of this volume of data for how anthropologists think about and handle their research data. In particular, I address the issues involved in making data useful in terms of accessibility and key words. How does one actually structure one’s data, both in terms of presentation and database / website infrastructure? Where does one draw the line between specificity and generality in designing keyword-based search facilities? Perhaps most importantly, does this force us to rethink how we approach the documents that underpin all anthropological research?

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