Bridging Futures: Can AI Serve as a Keeper of Heritage, Culture, and Oral Histories?

Inspired to Start Collect & Learn About Village History

2019 Myself and over 4,000 villagers from our Viet diaspora community gathered in Miami, FL at the first and only An Bang Villagers Abroad Conference. I was awarded 1st Place for my essay exploring multifaceted themes of identity: first-generation, being born an An Bang native, growing up in America, and more. 

At the event, we were dictated for the first time in our lives a brief history of An Bang Village, presented by a Cultural Subcommittee of volunteers whom are also our village elders. 

Started My Oral History Project via Village Bridges Organization!

2020 - 2022 Making use of the limited recording from the event, I initiated an oral history collection project by transcribing and sharing as much information online as I could lay my hands on. 

Working with several young women in my village, we co-founded a social impact & heritage organization to help provide future generations from our village with the college, career, and cultural resources that we wish we had growing up.

Inspired by the Indigenous Heritage Knowledge Graph Effort!

2023 I read about and was incredibly inspired by several sociocultural knowledge graph efforts, especially including the "Indigenous Knowledge Graph". 

I really want to use the technical skills I'm building in my PhD, i.e. knowledge graph construction, ontology curation, graph database querying, contributing to open-source software projects, AI/ML, to help preserve my village's extensive 400-year history before it disappears even further as our Vietnamese diaspora community becomes further disconnected from one another.

More info here for those interested in reading further:

Submitted My Dream Fulbright Proposal

2023 I'm so lucky to have such supportive PhD mentors and thesis chair. With their help and encouragement from Penn's Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (CURF), I was able to submit my proposal titled, "Bridging Futures: Artificial Intelligence & Emerging Tech in Vietnam's Digital Revolution."

Applied To, But Not Selected For Microsoft Research's AI & Society Grant

2024 I stumbled upon this funding opportunity from Microsoft Research that looked really fascinating. It was framed around AI & Society and I wanted to develop some of the ideas from my Fulbright proposal further, so I ended up submitting a "Hail Mary" application.

Unfortunately, I wasn't selected. But hey, I'm really proud of myself for going for these types of opportunities no matter what. I found out later that I lost to a Full Tenured Professor! I'm going to take that as a good sign and keep pushing.

Got Fulbright Semi-Finalist!!

2024 I was starting to really doubt myself for putting myself out there, especially writing up a proposal on ideas I'm passionate about and want to be able to go out into the world to try..

After several months of waiting, I got news at the start of 2024 that I advanced onto Fulbright Semi-Finalist status!!!

Invited to Apply for National Geographic Storytelling Award

2024 Before too long, I was also invited to submit a pitch to the National Geographic Enhancement Award which is integrated with the US Fulbright Student Program. Getting selected would allow me to undertake a storytelling component of my original Fulbright proposal (it would be unlike anything else I've ever had the opportunity to do).

My NGS proposal is titled, "Bridging Futures: Can AI Serve as a Keeper of Heritage, Culture, and Oral Histories?

Fingers crossed! 

Exploring AI Tools for Oral History Capture

In Spring 2024, one of my classmates from Penn's urban planning master's program told me about this platform called, "Nexa AI". The website features a simple search interface allowing visitors to search their database of known AI tools and programs. 

They organize AI tools into countless categories: Writing, Images, Video, Code, Audio, Business, Marketing, AI Detection, Chat, Art&Design, Life Assistance, Education, Prompt, Productivity, and more.

I recently found this AI tool created specifically for "recording and sharing family memories when you can't be together". I'm really excited to try this out with elders in my village! One of the advertised features in the app is the ability to "record a life story remotely in just one minute a day." 

I'll be curious to learn more about their free & paid features, data storage capabilities, and the overall data security -- especially for marginalized groups who want to preserve their family and/or community's precious oral traditions, but haven't decided whether they want to allow future AI models to be trained on their personal data.