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Cultural heritage as digital noise: nineteenth century newspapers in the digital archive
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of culture and media studies.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-1167-046X
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of culture and media studies.
2017 (English)In: Journal of Documentation, ISSN 0022-0418, E-ISSN 1758-7379, Vol. 73, no 6, p. 1228-1243Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore and analyze the digitized newspaper collection at the National Library of Sweden, focusing on cultural heritage as digital noise. In what specific ways are newspapers transformed in the digitization process? If the digitized document is not the same as the source document – is it still a historical record, or is it transformed into something else?

Design/methodology/approach

The authors have analyzed the XML files from Aftonbladet 1830 to 1862. The most frequent newspaper words not matching a high-quality references corpus were selected to zoom in on the noisiest part of the paper. The variety of the interpretations generated by optical character recognition (OCR) was examined, as well as texts generated by auto-segmentation. The authors have made a limited ethnographic study of the digitization process.

Findings

The research shows that the digital collection of Aftonbladet contains extreme amounts of noise: millions of misinterpreted words generated by OCR, and millions of texts re-edited by the auto-segmentation tool. How the tools work is mostly unknown to the staff involved in the digitization process? Sticking to any idea of a provenance chain is hence impossible, since many steps have been outsourced to unknown factors affecting the source document.

Originality/value

The detail examination of digitally transformed newspapers is valuable to scholars depending on newspaper databases in their research. The paper also highlights the fact that libraries outsourcing digitization processes run the risk of losing control over the quality of their collections.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017. Vol. 73, no 6, p. 1228-1243
Keywords [en]
Sweden, Archives, Documents, Accuracy, Print media, Auto-segmentation, Character recognition equipment, Large-scale digitization
National Category
Cultural Studies Language Technology (Computational Linguistics)
Research subject
medie- och kommunikationsvetenskap
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-140302DOI: 10.1108/JD-09-2016-0106ISI: 000412873700008OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-140302DiVA, id: diva2:1146975
Available from: 2017-10-04 Created: 2017-10-04 Last updated: 2018-06-09Bibliographically approved

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Jarlbrink, JohanSnickars, Pelle

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
  • apa
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