Audio clips as multimedia

You can turn audio clips into a multimedia journalism project writes ANIKA GUPTA

This question has obsessed me ever since I first met Aadi Seth of the rural radio company Gram Vaani, years ago. GV and other similar projects have enormous troves of what we bloodlessly refer to as “audio data.” Over the past two or three years, companies and nonprofits that use IVR menus to create mobile-phone-based networks have racked up hundreds of thousands of users in India.

A few months ago, I listened to some of these data for the first time. Seth’s team sent me a list of clips about rural-urban migration. As I clicked through the translations and listened to farmers and villagers – in their native languages – describe the joys and heartbreak of being far from home, I realized something: these are great stories.

Seth shares a similar conviction. Enter the most recent Hacks/Hackers Delhi hackathon, which focused on finding new ways to tell women’s stories. I was keen that one group take on the challenge of working with these audio clips and designing an engaging, compelling web story around them. Luckily, GV had recently partnered with our hackathon partner, Breakthrough, on a campaign where they asked women to share their views and experiences with early marriage. They donated these audio data to us, each clip tagged with its location.

Led by Sonia Paul and Neil Holt, a team of coders, journalists and researchers spent the weekend dividing up the clips, translating them, and then building the web framework for an interactive digital audio-magazine.

For those who are interested, below are the screengrabs from their final presentation (h/t 100% Sonia Paul). In addition to being beautiful, they suggest a way to integrate and share voices from India’s rural regions. If you want to know about other projects from the hackathon, here’s the site.

If you want to join Hacks/Hackers New Delhi and be part of our next hackathon, you can do that here.

Why does this matter?

India’s rural, phone-enabled population is huge. Internet penetration is very limited. There are a lot of interesting stories – particularly those related to social justice and administration – that happen in these areas. India’s rural areas represent a big market and a big electorate, but are also fragmented by language and tradition. For companies like GV, there are commercial opportunities in tapping these markets.

But also – when we talk about issues like early marriage, there’s nothing quite like hearing about it from those who have actually been affected. These clips offer a glimpse into the social attitudes that prevail outside major metros, and offer a chance to more deeply understand why and how early marriage persists.

In terms of rural coverage, India’s major English-language media tend to focus on outlandish khap panchayat verdicts and persistent low human development indicators. Our goal was to find ways to disrupt and/or enhance this narrative.

Plus, it’s just cool.

Anika Gupta

Anika Gupta

As Product Manager for Citizen Journalist Digital at CNN-IBN, Anika Gupta relaunched and led IBNCJ, a user-generated content platform. The goal is to bridge the gap between social media and mainstream media through the innovative use of digital, mobile, local language and socially-sourced media. She also organizes partnerships with activist organizations and citizen journalism groups in India and around the world. She writes about international business, politics, science, technology, literature and travel. Her articles have appeared in India and the United States, including in Fortune magazine, Business Today magazine, the Hindustan Times newspaper and Smithsonian magazine (a full list of writing). She speaks about journalism, new media, and how gender interacts with new media. (Some slides on how to create new media stakeholders, a Storify on Google’s #WomenTechmakers New Delhi). In October 2012, she founded Hacks/Hackers New Delhi, a grassroots networking and collaboration group that brings together journalists, statisticians, analysts, developers, entrepreneurs and activists to share knowledge around topics related to technology in storytelling. The chapter’s events have been covered in the Indian media. She blogs at anika-gupta.com