Apparently it’s not very easy to be offered access to the ABC’s TV and Radio archives. This strikes me as slightly odd – with the broadcaster so happy to lecture the Australian public that it’s ‘Our ABC’, and, increasingly ‘the town square’ of Australian media life, it would seem to me that a system enabling Australians to access recordings of their histories might not be such a bad idea.

Governments speak of the increasing importance of digital literacy to Australians well-being; this line of thinking would seem to suggest that digital literacy as it applies to our stories and histories might be supported by a more open ABC archive publishing program. After all, we are talking about television and radio programming funded by Australian taxpayers.

My way in to the ABC collection began with a proposal to explore how ABC archives might be used to experiment with emerging interface conventions on Google Maps.

I originally approached the ABC back in late 2007 in order simply to research their collection for my PhD research – along the lines of what I’d undertaken with the Jaywalking Sydney Fellowship. In a nutshell, I wanted to know what kinds of ambient/location-based audio recordings were held in the ABC’s archives. The ABC has been there to record just about every event and happening in Sydney throughout its 75+ year lifetime; I was interested to research its audio archive to find out what treasures could be dug up from their darkened rooms and liberated into the Sydney sunshine.

Turned out, however, that the ABC’s Innovation unit had a particular interest in the whole geo-spatial area this year, and so decided they wanted ‘Jaywalking’ to be run in-house. That meant they were willing to support a development of a mobile application for Sidetracks. My role in the project was in the end one of a freelance content producer working with an internal team of producers and developers within ABC Innovation.