Research Tools: Introducing the GDELT TV News Visual Explorer
For more than 20 years, the Internet Archive’s Television News Archive has monitored television news, preserving more than 9.5 million broadcasts totaling more than 6.6 million hours from across the world, with a continuous archive spanning the past decade. Today just a small sliver of that archive is accessible to journalists and scholars due to the inaccessibility of video at this scale: fast forwarding through that much television news is simply beyond the ability of any human to make sense of. The small fraction of programs that contain closed captioning, speech recognition transcripts or OCR’d onscreen text can be keyword searched through the TV Explorer and TV AI Explorer, but for the majority of this global multi-decade archive, there has until now been no way for researchers to assess and understand the narratives of television news at scale, especially the visual landscape that distinguishes television from other forms of media and which is so central to understanding many of the world’s biggest stories from war to pandemics to the economy.
While there are myriad options for the general public to watch these channels today in realtime, there is no research-oriented archival interface designed for journalists and scholars to understand their coverage at the scale of days to months, to scan for key visuals and events and to comment, discuss and illustrate how nations are portraying major stories.
To address this critical need, today we are tremendously excited to unveil the Television News Visual Explorer, a collaboration of the GDELT Project, the Internet Archive’s Television News Archive and the Media-Data Research Consortium to explore new approaches to enabling rapid exploration and understanding of the visual landscape of television news.
The Visual Explorer converts each broadcast into a grid of thumbnails, one every 4 seconds, displayed in a grid six frames wide and scrolling vertically through the entire program, making it possible to skim an hour-long broadcast in a matter of seconds. Clicking on any thumbnail plays a brief 30 second clip of the broadcast at that point, making it trivial to rapidly triage a broadcast for key moments. The underlying thumbnails can even be downloaded as a ZIP file to enable non-consumptive computational analysis, from OCR to augmented search.
The Visual Explorer and this new research collection of Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian television news coverage represent early glimpses into a new initiative reimagining how memory institutions like the Archive can make their vast television news archives more accessible to scholars, journalists and informed citizens. Beneath the simple and intuitive interface lies an immensely complex and highly experimental set of workflows prototyping both an entirely new scholarly and journalistic interface to television news and entirely new approaches to rapidly archiving international television coverage of global events.
Over the coming weeks, additional channels from the TV News Archive will become available through the new Visual Explorer, as well as a variety of experiments with the new lenses that tools like automatic transcription and translation can offer in helping journalists and scholars make sense of such vast realtime archives.
Direct to GDELT TV News Visual Explorer (NEW)
Direct to Internet Archive’s Television News Archive
About Gary Price
Gary Price (email@example.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.