Posts tagged “transcription”

Loss of Context III

From New York Times Corrections for April 7, 2013 comes another demonstration of a) the importance of context in understanding what interview respondents are saying and b) the necessity of an actual recording of what was said.

An accompanying feature transcribed incorrectly a comment from Callie Khouri, creator of the television drama “Nashville,” about what she would put on her Easter playlist. Khouri said she would include music by Pops Staples, the late patriarch of the singing family the Staple Singers. She did not say she would include “pop staples.”

I share a story of how this confusion can easily happen in fieldwork in Conversational Layers and have some other examples from the media in Loss of Context I and Loss of Context II.

Loss of Context II

From Secret Lives of Comic Store Employees,’s aspiring-to-anthropological-but-no-dice exploration of the subculture comes:

Biggest pet peeve about customers?
The perfectionists. Like the clerks with the eggs, inspecting each one.

That makes no sense. They’ve captured literally what they think the interviewee uttered (but not what they said, and certainly not what they meant). They should know enough contemporary culture to remember that Kevin Smith’s 1994 film Clerks featured a customer who would obsessively check every egg in every carton.

This guy is going through all of the eggs. Look.

An ODD MAN sits on the floor, surrounded by cartons of eggs, all opened. He grabs a carton from the cooler case, pops it open, and examines each egg carefully.

This is a regular challenge in interviewing. We must embrace enough of the respondent’s context (and Kevin Smith movies are absolutely within the context of a Comic Store Employee) in order to understand what we’re hearing. Simply reporting it will produce misleading garbage.

Also see: Loss of Context – where the interviewer/editor mixes up Digital Equipment Corporation and a digital equipment corporation.

Loss of context

From What I’ve Learned: Vint Cerf (“creator of the Internet”) in the latest Esquire magazine (italics mine)

There was a first “Oh, no!” moment. That was the first time I saw spam pop up. It could have been as early as ’79. A digital-equipment corporation sent a note around announcing a job opening, and we all blew up, saying, This is not for advertising! This is for serious work!

(Update: link to article here)

It’s not A digital-equipment corporation (and really, who speaks like that?) It’s Digital Equipment Corporation, aka DEC, aka Digital.

One letter changes the details of the story somewhat (I suppose it’s not crucial to know who sent this first spam), enough to make it clear that the copy editor had no context about the era in technology and business that Cerf was talking about.

I’m reminded of the challenges with interviews transcribed using an overseas service:

Male: It keeps searching and then it is–

Female: So what did it come up with?

Male: Well, I did come up with tickets.

Female: Get out, you are kidding me. I should go, where is this at? In Denver?

Male: Denver, yeah. In the Betsey Center.

Female: Okay, well try and find me some tickets in Tampa.

I’m pretty sure the Betsey Center is actually The Pepsi Center.


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