For our research, we chose nine interviews conducted in St. Petersburg, Russia, by students from the College of William and Mary between 2008 and 2014. The interviews were conducted in Russian, recorded, and later transcribed and translated by students. While the corpus is rather small (there are twenty more interviews awaiting transcription), is offers a range of viewing experiences by age and gender: 6 interviewees are women, 3 are men; the female interviewees are between 30 and 65 years of age, male interviewees are in their twenties and thirties.

Our methodology was determined by the research questions: 1) what do the interviewees remember about their movie going experiences at different moments of their lives; 2) how they remember, i.e., what are some of the prominent features of their discourse; 3) how have their cinematic experiences shaped their identities as Soviets, Russians, and global citizens?

In the investigation of the St. Petersburg moviegoing population's construction of memory, the authors chose to analyze and mark up four types of features in the interview transcripts, all of which are accessible to the user in xslt format. The authors were primarily interested in investigating:

In order to investigate these questions, the authors chose to tag transcripts of the interviews in XML format using the text editor, Oxygen, and then to output their data in the form of XSLT documents.


Project Cinema and Memory examines movie-going scene in Soviet Leningrad and Post-Soviet St. Petersburg as it is represented in the recollections of Russian moviegoers. We use oral history interviews as our primary sources to analyze the moviegoing scene, what specific films, genres, national cinema they watched and how through their cinema-related experiences they identify their personal and group identities. The interviews are conducted, transcribed and translated by College of William and Mary students. They are currently available on the project’s Wordpress site: . The project is interdisciplinary and draws on research in three areas of scholarship: oral history, memory studies, and history of film going.

History Film Going and Exhibition

Moviegoing studies is a subfield of film and media studies and examines phenomena of film going, exhibition, and reception. This area of studies emerged in the recent decades and enriches our knowledge of films and other screen arts by placing them in a broader historical context. Richard Matlby calls this study of socio-historical practices surrounding filmic texts “new cinema history” (4). The new cinema histories use “quantitative information, articulated through apparatus of databases, spatial analysis and geovisualization, to advance a range of hypotheses about the relationship of cinemas to social groupings” (Matlby 9). The new cinema histories also try to examine cinema going as a local and personal experience shaped by the specific historical moment, life in a specific city or neighborhood. Film historians use ideas from the field of memory studies and oral histories with audience members to understand cinema and its place in social life of a community.

Memory Studies

Memory studies examine how society shapes individual memory and how different social groups and institutions tell the stories of their past and present. Two scholars had the greatest impact on thinking about social memory: Maurice Halbwachs who articulated the notion of memory as a social discourse and Pierre Nora who theorized and catalogued the social composition French national memory in a study Les Lieux de Memoire: a multi-volume study of places and objects telling the stories and embodying French national memory.

Because media express and disseminate modern memories, scholars study the role of media, cinema specifically, in national, transnational and local memories. We draw on research of Annette Kuhn who studies personal memories of moviegoing through oral histories. In her works Kuhn articulate some formal and thematic attributes of memories of moviegoing. She argues that memories of film going puts the interviewee at the center of the story. The interviewee uses moviegoing experiences as bits and pieces explaining his or her values and identities. Kuhn distinguishes between three modes of cinema memory. First type of memories are scenes of images detached from film plots. A common example is a childhood memory of being scared in a movie theater by a particular image without any memory of the film’s title of other circumstances of the film and its screening. The second type of moviegoing experiences is recalling films or scenes within the context of one’s own life. Many of these stories depict the interviewee as a protagonist. They are often anecdotes that the narrator repeated many times. The third type of memories puts the interviewees into the context of collective social experience, frame personal within a collective experience. These stories are perhaps the most important for collective memory, where personal memories shape different social memories. “‘We used to’ is the characteristic introductory turn of phrase” in such acts of commemoration (Kuhn 2011, 93). Using insights of sociologist Nirmal Puwar, Kuhn describes this third type of memories as “social cinema scenes”--the memories important for forging national identities. Because cinema has been the major form of popular culture in the twentieth century we study cinema memories in order to gain insights of Russian people’s understanding of their culture and collective identity.

Why Oral History?

Linda Shopes, the past president of the Oral History Association, defines oral history as “a self-conscious, disciplined conversation between two people about some aspect of the past considered by them to be of historical significance ... oral history is, at its heart, a dialogue.” We use oral history as a our research tool because it gives voice and agency to the interviewees as participants of our study. Shopes notes that oral history “has especially enriched the work of a generation of social historians, providing information about everyday life and insights into the mentalities of what are sometimes termed ‘ordinary people’ that are simply unavailable from more traditional sources. Oral histories also eloquently make the case for the active agency of individuals whose lives have been lived within deeply constraining circumstances”

Use of Computational Methods in Our Project

Our xml markup and our schema reflected these research objectives. For the study of cinematic and movie going references, we marked up persons (actors, directors, writers, etc.), titles, places (movie theaters, film festivals, geographic locations), film genres, and national cinemas. For the analysis of interviewees’ discourse, we marked up pronouns, hesitation marks, and epithets used by the interviewees’ to refer to a person, title, etc. One of our research questions was whether there is a noticeable difference in the use of singular (“I,” “my”) and plural (“we,” “our”) pronouns, as well as the use of “collective” lexical items (“everybody,” “all people”) between men and women, between younger and older interviewees. The latter grew up and went to the movies during the Soviet Union, while the former came of age in a more individualistic post-Soviet Russia. The frequency of hesitation, both lexical (Russian equivalents of “well,” “may be,” “perhaps”) and non-lexical (ellipsis) might also point to a difference in gender and age. We used regex to mark up pronouns and hesitation but had to check it manually because of inflections, ambiguities of meaning, and variations in spelling (“naverno” vs. “navernoe”).

We also created an index of all the references, with a unique id for each and hierarchically organized information for people, titles and places. Here are our schemas for interviews and for the index.

In addition to the schema, we validated the interviews with the schematron, using the IDs to make sure that all references correspond to the entries in the index. The index was also useful for pulling information in the HTML output. For instance, we wrote code to extract the name of the speaker to each speech act in the interview. The index was also very useful for quantitative analysis and for SVG visualizations and Network Analysis. In particular, we were able to sort information by gender in bar graphs. See an example of SVG here.

Originally we styled all references with CSS but decided to create a reading view for each interview with Javascript. This allows the user to select features with radio buttons, which lights up the items in the text of the interview and also displays them as a list in the box on the right.

For Social Network analysis of the data we made extensive use of XQuery, which allowed us to style the data as CSV (comma separated values) lists of co-occurring titles, genres and people. One problem we ran into when we imported our data into Cytoscape were duplicated nodes that were seemingly absent in the list and that were in fact generated by the lead-in spaces in the list. We located and eliminated them with regex.

Selected Bibliography