Guest Post By Chad Iwertz
I believe that in order to advocate for better access, we need to be familiar with the tools and methods at our disposal for crafting that access. Being knowledgeable affords us the option of specifically naming that which we demand and the opportunity to reflect on the affordances and constraints of the tools and methods at our disposal.
Greetings, all. My name is Chad Iwertz, and I am a PhD candidate at Ohio State University. In my research, I take a mixed methods approach to studying the composing habits and practices of transcribers—that’s you all! Hi!—and for my dissertation I am working toward a more nuanced understanding of the different methods and methodologies of transcription that are currently used in higher education. As you might expect, that really boils down to the “big two”: verbatim and meaning-for-meaning.
As someone who identifies in many ways as a transcription non-expert (I am not a trained CART writer or transciber), I feel I bring expertise in rhetorical theory, composition studies, disability studies, and digital media studies to the ongoing conversation about the social, cultural, and professional practice of captioning and transcribing in higher education environments. Part of this research also focuses on the social and political structures that surround different forms of transcription. In other words, I’m interested in transcription labor practices and the professional cultures in which transcription takes place.
I am also a college instructor; I have taught courses supported by TypeWell transcribers. I am close to many individuals who depend upon CART to access inaccessible hearing environments. And I also benefit from reading transcripts as a hearing person at events when transcription is projected on screen. I am a total transcription advocate.
As part of that advocacy, I believe there needs to be a more nuanced understanding of professional access-oriented transcription. In my research I ask: What are the affordances (and constraints) of different forms of transcribing? And given the social context transcribers find themselves today, is there potential for meaning-for-meaning transcription to provide a service that verbatim transcription cannot?
With these questions in mind, I’d like to spend the remainder of this post focusing on two key terms that are used to describe transcription: CART and meaning-for-meaning. I believe that words hold power and that the terms and definitions that surround the language used to describe transcription can begin to distinguish its methodologies and uncover the social forces that surround and support transcription practice.
Depending on the context, CART can be a very general term or a very specific term. As an umbrella term similar to speech-to-text, CART can be used to describe the emergence of work, technologies, and accommodations protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act to “ensure effective communication with people who are deaf or hard of hearing” (National Association of the Deaf). For those who read real-time transcripts and benefit from the access that transcripts provide, CART means access protected by law. CART is a right enforced by law that affords access to otherwise inaccessible environments.
In professional use, though, CART is often used differently. In this context, CART refers to verbatim forms of transcription—such as in calling professionals who do verbatim work CART writers and professionals who do not transcribers.
I am interested in this professionalized distinction because of its effect on the culture of communication access outside professional discourse. What does it mean to advocate for non-verbatim transcription when verbatim transcription culturally becomes synonymous with the lawful right to CART?
As an organization, ATSP defines meaning-for-meaning transcribing against verbatim transcribing as a real-time service that more concisely formats the essential meaning and tone of what is being said while leaving out false starts, redundant phrasing, and other extraneous text. Additionally, and what I feel may be even more important, meaning-for-meaning transcription captures a speaker’s tone, emphasis, and body language.
I often ask myself: What does meaning-for-meaning transcribing do that verbatim transcribing does not? Is intentionally transcribing forms of communication like gesture and tone in addition to human speech unique to non-verbatim forms of transcription?
In asking these questions, I’m hoping we can move toward an understanding of what non-verbatim forms of transcribing do that distinguishes them from verbatim forms of transcription.
My research is also showing that meaning-for-meaning transcription as a methodology, or as a conventionally agreed upon way of composing a transcript, is routinely described as focused on different, more-specific individual audiences than verbatim transcripts. So it may be that meaning-for-meaning is not only focused on conveying concise meaning but also prioritizes responsive text crafted for specific audiences in ways that verbatim transcripts are not. This responsive transcription may be similar to the way Takayuki Ito describes hybrid captioning as an approach to intentionally mixing different captioning services in Japan to provide institutions with affordable captioning. In practice, responsive transcribing might flip this model to focus on how transcription can be responsive to the individuals, not the institutions, who read it.
So what do you think? Do these terms and definitions adequately describe your transcription practices? Your identity as a transcribing professional? What other terms would you add?
Thank you to ATSP for the opportunity to guest blog for you today; I look forward to discussing my work more with you in the comments or by email: [email protected].