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The Testimony of the Multitude: Computational Analysis of the Shoah Foundation Archive
In recent decades, enormous efforts have been made to gather the testimonies of the last living Holocaust survivors. The challenge we face today is attending to all those thousands of human stories, which despite being safely stored in archives, may nevertheless disappear into oblivion. The challenge is at once ethical and technological: how to listen to thousands of testimonies as an integral body of voices and stories rather than a collection of fragmentary items in a database. Whereas existing computational methods tend to break down texts into their basic components (usually words), a team of researchers at the Hebrew University aims to develop a different approach, one that maintains the narrative integrity of testimonies while still taking full advantage of the affordances of advanced computational techniques. In this talk, Renana Keydar and Eitan Wagner will examine the meeting point between testimony and computation, the new possibilities inherent in such an encounter and the challenges and risks involved. They will introduce the new avenues for listening to the multitude of testimonies in the archives afforded by the development of advanced computational tools. The talk will present a computational model of "distant listening," which is motivated by the moral commitment to the integrity of each testimony while simultaneously approaching the multiplicity of testimonies as such.

May 10, 2023 11:00 AM in Pacific Time (US and Canada)

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