What did I learn from the second day of CIFU XII? Two things at least: for a linguist layman like me, I found it interesting to follow how differently the language documentation may be defined. As a librarian, I was thrilled to see that the people in this field are taking archiving seriously. These are the topics I want to grasp in this blog entry too.
I attended the symposium Nr 19, Archives Enriching the Present Cultures of the Northern Peoples, which aimed to address to the challenges on the use and preservation of these collections for the present day cultural and linguistic research, teaching and general cultural work. The session was opened by Veli-Pekka Lehtola and Anni-Siiri Länsman of Giellagas Institute at the University of Oulu. Giellagas has a nation-wide responsibility to organize, introduce and provide Saami language and cultural studies and research at the acamedic level, so the collections, research possibilities and the future development of the Saami Culture Archive was discussed by Lehtola and Länsman. I was happy to learn that Giellagas had received funding from the Academy of Finland to open the archive for the public and researchers. This is great news to me, as there hasn’t been a proper public interface to access the material. Task is not a minor one and I hope they’ll supported by people who are familial with digital preservation, repositories, archiving methods and principles.
The next speakers, Suvi Kivelä and Inker-Anni Linkola of Sámi Archive (National Archives Service) had a paper under the title How can the Sámi Archives support the Sámi cultural emancipation in Finland? The Sámi Archive is a rather new organization, established in 2012, but according to Kivelä and Linkola, the archive has become an important actor when it comes to the cultural remembrance work of Sámi people. According to Kivelä and Linkola, it is not only language revitalization that is taking place at the moment, but also the cultural revitalization taking off. In this emancipation work archived Sámi materials can be of crucial importance as the case of Gramota does indicate. Maybe the impact on society in this case cannot be measured, but it is there indeed.
Matti Miestamo et al. (Archive materials in Skolt Saami documentation) and Michael Rießler (A critical evaluation of past, current and future approaches in Uralic language documentation) tackled the question of language documentation in their presentations from the archives’ point of view. According to both of them, the archives themselves won’t be enough for a proper language documentation, and especially Rießler promoted “better practices” in future Uralic language documentation. According to him, the focus in future language documentation should contain a twist from pure descriptive documentation to the data and its multifunctionality. The key question is to make data available for further research on and for endangered languages, for both further theoretical and applied research, as well as for direct use by the relevant language community. Hear hear!
So (cultural) data and its multiple uses are getting more and more important in this field too and I would like to add one aspect to the data question: if the research data is now being directed to the great public, how do we define the public? Who are them? This question has puzzled me during our project too and I just can’t get over it. Until the data doesn’t reach the public in a digestible way, there’s only the research use for the data, isn’t it?
Tomorrow the whole day will be spent with the participants of symposium Nr. 10, Language Technology through Citizen Science. I am sure that some answers will be given to my question during that session. I am looking forward to have them.