“More on the digitization and translation of audio recordings of famous aikido teachers,” by Stanley Pranin

I would like to thank all of you who have taken the time to reply and provide your input on the project I proposed yesterday: the digitization and translation of the hundreds of hours of audio recordings of important Japanese aikido teachers in the Aikido Journal archives. Rather than give individual answers to your feedback, I will group together my comments.

Concerning the translation of audio recordings, the first step, is of course, to make a transcription of the tape. This means many Japanese will need to get involved due to the large volume of recordings to be processed. It is of utmost importance that the text be digitized as it then becomes searchable and indexable.

Also, Japanese and Japanese-speaking volunteers will be essential to the translation effort. I’m not sure to what extent this could be aided by translation software. I would like to get some more input on the state of the art at this point in time.

As to fund-raising efforts, I have given this a great deal of thought. I would rather not seek out and become dependent on an outside entity for funding. If we can sufficiently grow the Aikido Journal Members Site subscriber base, I think it is entirely possible to self-fund the project. I have some ideas on this and would like your feedback as well.

We will do all of the digitizing in-house. I hope to post the first interview later today as a sample of what sort of material we are talking about.

If good audio-processing and automatic speech recognition algorithms exist as Mikel mentions, that would be a tremendous aid. We would have to test the feasibility of available software on the sample audio file. In almost all cases, the speakers voices are clearly audible. If further processing would result in enhanced audio, it would certainly be worthwhile to undertake the effort. This is definitely an area where outside volunteers could assist.

Storage right now is being handled using Amazon S3. The idea of mirroring the audio archives on one or more servers is a good one. It can be encrypted for security purposes.

I really like Jeff’s idea of getting Japanese university students involved in the transcription-translation phases of the project. If this could be coordinated, it would give an amazing boost to the effort. Anyone having connections along these lines is encouraged to come forward to discuss how to carry this idea out.

Another great idea from Jeff: “Another possibility is to approach shihan who studied under the person interviewed and see if they would ask one of their dedicated students to work on the translation.” That thought never occurred to me. Excellent!

Keith’s idea of getting university Japanese departments is a good one. Most universities of any size will have one.

I hope my comments here have furthered the discussion. I think the two critical areas are building up the Members Site subscriber base, and enlisting the participation of many Japanese with a good knowledge of English.

What I propose now is the following:

  • I will digitize and upload the first interview today, time permitting
  • Readers, please come up with suggestions about how to grow the number of subscribers to the Aikido Journal Members Site. Here is the link to subscribe: http://www.aikidojournal.com/shop/productdetails?code=sub-mem-1-yr
  • Also, please make suggestions about how to galvanize the effort to find Japanese volunteers. Maybe those having Japanese practitioners in their dojos can approach their Japanese dojo mates and discuss the project. Let them know that we would certainly be open to the idea of providing free subscriptions and products to volunteers by way of compensation.

As a result of this next stage, I would like to come up with an action plan with specific steps to take.

Thanks all!

Yours in Aiki,

Stan Pranin

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