Assignment 3 transcription reflection

I really liked the transcription process. I was nervous at first, but I found it to be rewarding. I think that’s because I just listened to the conversation and it didn’t feel like an assignment for school. It also helps that this is the kind of work I want to do after graduating.

I think that accents and word choice are important for the transcription process. However, I think you have to be careful not to overemphasize an accent because you don’t want to patronize or distort the narration. I think the “umms” and “uhhs” can reveal aspects of a person’s nature and of the interview itself. Professor Knight says “umm” a lot. This is a noticeable trademark of his. The “umms” from Mr. Riley demonstrate that he was really thinking about his answers, and you can tell it wasn’t a rehearsed conversation. So I put the majority of them into the transcription.

I think that recognizing the importance of these pauses or quirks demonstrates the point of this project. The WDP is about capturing the essence of the town of Williamsburg, and that is found not by merely listening to people’s stories, but also capturing how they speak; you are documenting lives as well as place. It’s tough to nail down accents in written word, but phrases and habits can reveal a lot about a person. Documenting dialect adds to the legitimacy of the oral history, as well. If people speak a certain way that was influenced by their culture it makes it easier to determine where someone is from. It’s just another clue that connects cultures together; it’s a signifier. I like the honesty of keeping the “kinda’s” in the transcription.

It think this was especially obvious to me when I listened to the peer interview after the listening to the Riley interview. Some people speak fast and others take a while to get their point across. Jake for instance, speaks at a rapid clip and I speak much slower. Jake is from the west coast and I’m from the south. It was almost comical because I had to slow the recording down to a speed of about 67 % in order to catch everything he said. However, I noticed that both of us say “like” fairly often, a habit I thought I had broken a long time ago. However, prolific use of this word reveals the age of a person. So you have to consider using it when you transcribe an interview. “Like” is part of the vernacular of the last few generations. You won’t hear that in Mr. Riley’s interview.

The index process is the part I like the least. I’m not sure what to write down, and I think I might write too much or I’ll focus on the wrong subject. I don’t like the pressure and I’m afraid I will miss important bits of information. I think that’s why I like the transcription process more because I can slow it down to a speed that’s comfortable for me. Overall, I’m not sure if I transcribed and indexed the interview correctly, but I actually enjoyed the slow process of transcription.

1 Response to “Assignment 3 transcription reflection”


  1. 1 sgglos March 11, 2013 at 7:32 am

    Nice reflections. Your points about the importance of documenting someone’s speech patterns being similar to the goals of doing local history are very interesting. You might also consider, however, what Portelli says about the recording being the true document – the transcript is just a tool, in some ways. Too many Ums and Likes in a transcript can slow a reader down, and in truth, one should turn to the recording for the “real” thing.

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The Williamsburg Documentary Project (WDP) strives to collect and preserve the rich past of Williamsburg, Virginia. By conducting oral history interviews, building physical and digital archives, and creating online exhibits, the WDP interprets Williamsburg’s recent past. The WDP works towards developing a better understanding of Williamsburg by bringing together individuals, local groups, Colonial Williamsburg, and the College of William & Mary.

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