With the excitement of more travel experiences, I have not said much about the XIX International Oral History Conference in Bangalore (June 27-July 1, 2016). I thoroughly enjoyed it. However, I’m going to start on the last day, but not necessarily work backwards – this Blog will jump around a little.
There must have been about twenty-five student Interns who helped during the five days of the conference, as well as weeks of preparation before the event. They were exceptional. Nothing phased them, nothing was too much trouble and their obvious enthusiasm and friendliness was outstanding. Each student had mixed responsibilities, but tended to have a small number of delegates they took under their wing. Transport, navigating the mine-field of Indian government bureaucracy, tourist information, where to eat, negotiating with Tuk-tuk drivers, ensuring the technical stuff for the presentations worked, nothing was too much of a bother. It was done for everyone. from experienced academics, first time presenters and at least eleven countries with their associated languages. These wonderful students were outstanding representatives of the Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology.
The papers were varied and in the main interesting. There are always sessions that don’t go as planned or you find out later you missed one particularly good one, because you were in another session. I led one of the morning sessions on Day 3 (Wednesday), however the Chair was running late so we started without her. When she did arrive, about fifteen minutes in to my presentation, it became the most unusual conference session in which I have ever participated. More on that later.
My twenty-minute paper titled: Photographic autoethnography: interpreting an oral history through family photographs went well. It is always a fear, using differing computer systems, incorporating sound as well as vision, that it all works. It did. There were some notable oral historians in the audience and that tends to get the heart pumping a little. It is the nature of this discipline of history that the people are friendly and supportive. Even when challenged, it is done with professionalism, and the intent is to draw out more information, not putting anyone down. I was followed by Deborah Nixon (UTS Sydney), Bhamini Lakshminarayan (India), and Muhammad Thalal (Uni of Newcastle Indonesia/Australia). Then question time, this is when it became quite weird. Normally questions from the floor are directed to a particular presenter and that question is answered.
Not this time. The Chair had an old fashioned school mar’m approach and directed the audience to ask their questions, first to me as the opening presenter, but I was not to answer them, but to write them down. So we went through that process for the four presenters. Then we had to repeat each question directed to us and answer it. We kind of bumbled our way through it and time was up. Well almost. As everyone stood, the Chair called us to order and proceeded to sing a prayer of praise for each country represented and each member of that country. I understood very little as most of it was in another language – not Indian or Spanish/European. Such is life – an experience.
One presentation – or series of presentations – was based on a new free App via Apple (sorry the Android version is not yet available – coming soon though). Called pixstori it allows a voice to be linked to a specific photograph. You might argue that video does it better. However, by having a ‘still’ image and either having a short discussion about it, or having the owner/person in the photo talk of their memories strongly directs the listener and viewer to the image and the narrative being related. It was developed, in part, by US Oral Historian, Prof Michael Frisch, who I met in Melbourne about eighteen months ago. There are some significant opportunities in using this App. It can be used to send a simple message, or as the presenters have done, develop a project based collection of images and voices. Development is continuing. Try it out, it is fun, interesting and free. I have sent a few messages via email, but you can post to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Just download it from the Apple Store. You can also visit the website here.