Citizen Tagger: A new way to annotate audio content

Citizen Tagger is a mobile platform that facilitates the tagging of audio-based chat-show content. Users can listen to a pre-recorded show or a live show (for example, one run using Citizen Radio), and add unstructured text or audio tags as they listen to the show.

This process of social tagging can then be used to categorize the content within the chat show more easily, and help future listeners of the show find information they are looking for more easily.

This project was inspired by previous work which has explored the role of audio-based approaches to annotate information that could be useful for low-literate users in resource-constrained settings. Social tagging (a community of users applying free-form tags to digital objects) was investigated as a way to give listeners of chat shows an additional role in knowledge production.

Citizen Tagger is Android-based and is supported by a Python Flask enabled backend. The application prompts users to create regular tags as they are listening to shows that are listed within the application (or when they are taking part in a community-run radio show hosted by a Citizen Radio user). The application allows users to configure their tagging experience by changing the frequency of the tagging prompts and their preferred audio-tag length.Citizen Tagger

As part of the prompts, users were encouraged to summarise the section of the show they had just listened to. Criteria for assessing tag quality was necessary as free-form tags were allowed by the application, and these criteria included word frequency (analysing words that are used across the tag dataset), tag conciseness (tags that use less space to get their message across are rated higher), and tag objectivity (how much of the user’s interpretation is present in the tag content).

Through an iterative design process, Citizen Tagger underwent a rapid prototyping and testing phase over a four-week period. The users listened to and tagged chat shows and were interviewed afterwards. The application was improved using observational notes, logs and bug reports that emerged in this phase.

After the prototyping process, Citizen Tagger was further refined and deployed with 16 individuals, recruited through an opportunistic sampling approach, who tagged a panel discussion. Based on usage statistics, created tags, and the use of other qualitative data, the experience of tag creation using manual tagging and tagging prompts was assessed. Questions around how to configure tagging-related parameters were investigated, and how to motivate users to create effective tags.

The findings indicate that users subjectively understood that tagging experience, and expressed a desire to be able to configure it to their own needs. When doing a tag quality analysis, audio tags were more popular and allowed greater expression from users.

The study also highlighted the balance required between the effort required to tag, and the enjoyment of listening to the show. To many, tagging was a cognitively demanding task. The project explored these themes and suggested some design implications that emerged as a result for future work in this area.

For Delvin‘s blog on volunteering and for contact details, find him at

Bringing local music into local schools

This year I created Remix Portal which is an online music remixing and sharing application that runs in Google Chrome and Firefox.

The motivation behind this work is twofold. Firstly, I thought (and still think) that music education within schools could do a much better job of inspiring students to get involved in music making activities beyond the classroom. Secondly, I had noticed an emerging trend for music to be released in the form of ‘stems’, where separated audio files are provided for each musical component, such as the drums, bass, vocals etc. Stems allow music remixers to create new versions of songs and as these propagate through social media they serve to promote the original band/artist and help them reach new audiences. I think they could be of real benefit to music education too as they allow us to look inside, take apart, tinker with, and rework music.

I deployed Remix Portal within Year 8 music classes and used it to support the teaching of music production skills. Despite the complex looking interface (which was due to it being modelled on an analogue audio mixing desk), the students all got the hang of it by the end of the first hour-long lesson.

Remix PortalI chose to use music sourced from local bands in order to try and help the students gain an understanding that musical talent isn’t the sole preserve of X Factor finalists but can be found within their local communities too. Interestingly, whilst many of the students did not like the music on offer they all acknowledged the talents of the musicians and were encouraged by the fact that they operate within their local area.

During this project I learned that remixing activities can promote deep and active listening (which is highly relevant to the music curriculum). For example, being able to isolate individual parts of the music, such as the vocals, made the students notice things about the music they might not have otherwise. I also learned that remixing activities can be highly engaging for students so long as either the music they are remixing matches a style they like, or they are able to remix music into a style they like.

The next step is to scale the system up and get lots more musicians involved so that there is a much greater range of song options for the young people to choose from. I also want to create a range of ‘lesson idea’ packs to try and encourage more teachers to use Remix Portal within their teaching. I should then be in a good position to take a deeper look at the possibilities that music remixing and sharing can bring to formal education, and also start to look at how it may be used within informal learning contexts.

For more information please contact Colin Dodds.