Big Ideas@Berkeley People’s Choice Winner: Pop Up Radio Archive

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Author: Brittany Schell

BERKELEY, Calif. — The Pop Up Radio Archive team is working not only to preserve bits and pieces of culture, but also to make these resources available and easily accessible on the web. During this year’s Big Ideas@Berkeley contest, the team of graduate students won the People’s Choice Video contest and an honorable mention in the Information Technology for Society competition.

It all began last year when Anne Wootton, a second-year graduate student in UC Berkeley’s School of Information, started working with the Kitchen Sisters, also known as Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva, a pair of independent radio producers based in San Francisco.

“What you hear on the radio are just small, highly produced segments of what they have collected,” said Wootton. But behind the Kitchen Sisters’ five- to 10-minute radio shows are hours and hours of audio files, photographs, transcripts and other supplementary material, stored “on piles of hard drives, across multiple locations.”

The problem, said Wootton, is that the Kitchen Sisters have no easy, systematic way to organize their content and make it accessible to users. This is a common problem for independent media producers, who often lack the time, technology and budget to devote to archiving their material.
But the team of Berkeley graduate students has a solution: the Pop Up Radio Archive, a flexible, customizable online archival system.

When Wootton and her teammates Bailey Smith and Christen Penny (also second year graduate students at the School of Information) set out to create the Pop Up Radio Archive, they envisioned a solution for not only the needs of the Kitchen Sisters, but the needs of other radio producers and broadcasters as well.

“We’re not sure where it will stop,” said Wootton about the expansion of their idea. “Big Ideas has given us the opportunity to tackle this tall problem.”

There is a lack of resources in public media in general, and often more attention is paid to production than to archiving, Wootton explained. In an age when Internet users want to be able to sift through content, access old episodes, or see a photo of this person or that subject, technology such as this can really enhance shows like the Kitchen Sisters.

The plan is for the Pop Up Radio Archive system to be intuitive and inexpensive so that it can fit seamlessly into the budgets and schedules of busy, underfunded public media outlets. The team agreed that both the Big Ideas prize money and experience would be assets as they move forward with their project.

“Big Ideas gave us an extra push,” said Smith. “In addition to the prize money, which will allow us to take this project as far as we possibly can, the opportunity to iterate and refine our proposal, and the advice and business perspective of our wonderful mentor Nancy Roberts, were invaluable.”

Bailey said the encouragement the team received for their project during the video contest, even from complete strangers, let them know how important the Pop Up Radio Archive project was to a lot of people.

“Thank you so much to Big Ideas,” Smith said.