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Sharing Authority: Building Community-University Alliances through Oral History, Digital Storytelling and Collaboration


Co-sponsored by COHDS and the Montreal Life Stories CURA
February 7-10, 2008
Concordia University
Historian Michael Frisch coined the phrase “shared authority” in 1990 to describe the dialogical nature of the oral interview. The interaction between the researcher asking questions and the community narrator providing answers results in a unique source. At its best, sharing authority is about much more than speaking to new audiences; it requires the cultivation of trust, the development of collaborative relationships, and shared decision-making. It cannot be rushed. 
Yet sharing authority has become something of a mantra in oral and public history circles in recent years. It is sometimes said that the promise of extending this idea outward from the interview toward a more broadly based democratic practice has generated enthusiasm but few concrete results. This conference tested this assertion. 
Despite the growth of funding for collaborative research, there has been remarkably little discussion of the public’s place in the research process: how, when, and should, authority be shared between university-based researchers and “community” members. What role does the “public” (in all its variations) play in our research? How successful have collaborative research projects been thus far?   In what ways have new digital technologies (blogs, digital memory banks, and “Web 2.0” user communities such as YouTube or Flickr) been used to bridge divides? How might we “share authority” in the history classroom? Can the local, national and transnational communities we study become true partners in research? 
An anthology of this conference was edited by Steven High, Lisa Ndejuru, and Kristen O’Hare:


Concordia University