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Posted 07/21/2009

The SOHP’s Coordinator of Digital Initiatives, Seth Kotch, recently accepted an invitation to discuss digitization with scholars of oral history and literature at the University of Nairobi in Kenya. Seth was a guest of Dr. Peter Wasamba, Senior Lecturer and Chairman of the Department of Literature (pictured below).

Seth led a lively seminar on the challenges of digitization. The University of Nairobi’s Department of Literature is embarking on an oral literature and history digitization program that aims to transfer its many cassette recordings on digital format. Seth described the SOHP’s participation in the http://docsouth.unc.edu/sohp/”>Oral Histories of the American South and the legal, ethical, and technological roadblocks the SOHP and its colleagues encountered.

Scholars at the University of Nairobi have been discussing compensation for interviews, a practice the SOHP does not subscribe to. But the cultural and socioeconomic differences between interviewees in rural Kenya and the American South are such that Kenyan scholars often deem it appropriate, even necessary, to offer compensation of some kind to their interviewees. Furthermore, many of the University of Nairobi’s interview subjects are performers, who expect to be paid for performing, whether for an audience or for a researcher.

The exchange suggested the many complexities of digitization projects, but also the increasing urgency of preserving and making more accessible the oral record of our past.