Alumni Selected to Present at Reputable Conference

“Through this project, I hope people can appreciate learning about things they don’t know about.”–Jacob Sebok

Alumnus, Jacob Sebok

During his final year at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Anthropology major, Jacob Sebok, invested much of his time and energy into creating a digital archive for the endangered languages of Nepal. Sebok started working with linguistics specialist, Dr. Kristine Hildebrandt, along with Computer Science major, Tanner Burge-Beckley in 2017 to begin building the platform.

Hildebrandt, an Associate Professor in the Department of English Language & Literature, specializes in many areas of linguistics from acoustic phonetics to language documentation and preservation. Following a devastating earthquake in 2015 that killed over 8,000 people in Nepal, Hildebrandt saw an immediate need for documentation following the event. She applied for and received funding from a RAPID grant through the National Science Foundation (NSF) and with a research team, began interviewing and recording stories from survivors and those impacted by the earthquake (Grant # NSF BCS 1547377).

Following her leading-edge research in Nepal, Hildebrandt was left with a very large data set that she needed a platform for. Through the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) she received supplemental funding, hiring Jacob Sebok and Tanner Burge-Beckley to help with the digital aspects of the larger documentation project. The project itself would serve two functions—to exhibit stories of survivors recorded by the research team in multiple regions of Nepal and to serve as a portal to the linguistic profiles developed in recording these stories.

“The goal was to make a web archive for the languages. Tanner’s job was to build the archive, my job was to analyze the data from a cultural perspective, assess the need for it, and then figure out exactly how to fulfill that need,” said Sebok.

Not only did Sebok and Burge-Beckley build the web archive, they also carefully chronicled all of the steps, errors, and troubleshooting involved in the process. “We wrote a paper documenting the step by step instructions so that any institution could build a web archive with virtually no money” (Sebok).

Their paper has been accepted and will be published in the peer-reviewed journal, Language Documentation and Conservation (LDC). The two will also showcase the online web exhibit and locally hosted digital materials archive at the 6th International Conference on Language Documentation & Conservation (ICLDC).

You can find the archive and the web exhibit that they built here:

Archive: https://iris.siue.edu/nepal-earthquakes-archive/
Web exhibit: https://iris.siue.edu/nepal-earthquakes/

Both these platforms are hosted through SIUE’s IRIS Digital Humanities Center: https://iris.siue.edu/

Paper in Language Documentation and Conservation (LDC): “Language Documentation in the Aftermath of the 2015 Nepal Earthquakes: A Guide to Two Archives and a Web Exhibit.”

Photo credits: E. Dustman & SIUE’s IRIS Digital Humanities Center.

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