[RWET week 1] Transcription exercise

Assignment #1

Transcribe and/or digitize a text that has never existed in digital form before. The resulting transcript should be in plain text format (i.e., a .txt file). The goal of this project is fidelity: try to make your transcription as true to the source material as possible. Examples of things to transcribe:

  • An audio recording of a conversation
  • A recording of a political speech
  • A television program or YouTube video
  • Advertisements (online or in print)
  • Street signs
  • Handwritten notes
  • A text that has been scanned (as images) but doesn’t have a plain text OCR conversion, or where the OCR version is very poor (there are many hundreds of thousand of these on the Internet Archive)

This is not a programming assignment. The primary activity you should be engaging in while doing this assignment is typing. We’ll create a centralized collection of the text files produced from this assignment for potential use in future assignments.

Reading mentioned

Bucholtz, Mary. “The Politics of Transcription.” Journal of Pragmatics, vol. 32, no. 10, 2000, pp. 1439–1465.

Since I arrived to the US, I have exchanged many messages about reterritorialization with friends that live or lived outside of my country. This topic really intrigues me, because I feel like this geographical change dictates the way I relate to absolutely everything in this new context. I can only imagine how that process might be for someone who left their country for reasons other than wanting to do so, or for someone who doesn’t know the language, etc.

For this exercise, I was sure that I was going to transcribe some of the conversations that I had with one of my best friends, who lives in Canada, and we would talk about her process long before I had any idea what that felt like. Recently we had a long conversation through audios talking about misunderstandings due to cultural differences with people in the countries we live in, the connection between memory and geography, and how this whole process affected our perception of self.

I did the assignment before I did the readings, and that was fundamental for how things went through. I found this specific moment in our conversation, but when I listened to it, I couldn’t find a single part in which we talked about the things that I was interested in without exposing someone outside the conversation. We would always relate to situations happening in our lives, and that meant that we gave examples with people close to us – I mentioned at least three people from Tisch.

Even before taking that into consideration, my first ethical issues were related to taking my friend’s words out of our “safe space” inside an instant messenger – which I am sure I’d ask her permission for, had I ended going that way, specially because we also talk a lot about how our relationships with our friends become mediated by these IM interfaces, and acknowledge that we have different takes for when to send text, audio, video, call, or videocall. My position in that is that I write when I want to be careful with my words – due to its characteristics in time, both the time it takes to write, and the idea that it is a representation or a document of a time in the past – and I send audios/videos when I want to be less strict, letting my thoughts flow as they would in a normal conversation. That leads me to think that I am more vulnerable when I am speaking than when I am writing, and I didn’t think it was fair to apprehend my friend’s vulnerability in a written text.

With that, I also didn’t want to expose my exposition of others, or the others themselves, or to cut parts in the middle of the conversation, so with all those restrictions, I ended up with a piece of text that exposes myself deeply in my own experience, but doesn’t expose anyone else, and that was the only way that I could keep up with my proposition for this assignment. I chose 10 min of audio that were sort of the beginning of this conversation – that had so many before it, so it wasn’t, in fact, the beginning –, in which I am basically explaining to one of the closest persons to me all my process of mental health issues with deterritorialization/reterritorialization. In fact, as I would after see clarified in the reading, I felt like I was manipulating my own words, because I deliberately stopped myself from transcribing what was most interesting to me for I didn’t feel comfortable in doing so. Not that sharing the content of the file that I am about to share was in any way comfortable, it was definitely the opposite, but still I was very conscious of the decisions that I was taking in doing so.

Apart from the content itself, it also took me a very long time to, after having written all the words, separate myself from how used I am to hearing myself speak and think with the words that I usually do, so that I could be true to the way that I was saying the words. I tried to represent my mannerisms through punctuation and the repetition of words, and part of the reason why I chose this particular friend, is because I know that my language flow is very unattached when I talk to her, so I thought that a lot of what I am saying comes across only by hearing me speak, without the need to know the words. Trying to represent that through the transcript was a huge challenge, and I wonder what would be my new interpretation if I were to record myself reading my transcription as it came out.

This exercise was certainly very intriguing, and the reading made me understand that the feelings that I was having about it were mostly reasonable concerns that someone doing the job of documenting someone else’s words should have – even if else is me in the past.

Link to text.

 

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