Typewriter: Why verbatim transcripts?

(I flew this sentiment past my social media with no uproar, and I’m including it here where it can be referenced for my type transcripts.)

Why the verbatim transcripts?

When taking down other people’s direct words, I acknowledge that though I can usually discern what a person means to say (as a sometime professional editor and copy editor), there are times when someone’s linguistic culture may be different from mine in ways I am totally unaware. At Standing Rock for instance, I can’t spell check native wording. Black language has its own innovations, and I also allow for artistic license. I don’t wish to unwittingly erase other cultures or intentional deviations from standard english.

I recall learning that there have been social traumas around verbatim transcribed quotes in journalism. Some people get the benefit of editor’s polish, while others may be depicted as less eloquent by including the pauses, ticks, and sounds that everybody makes while speaking aloud. This may be extended to include average typewriter proficiency error. This is not my intention. I have done paid transcription work, and I do know how to make spoken language into intelligible text. For other purposes, my methods may be different.

The original, unedited text is in the image, but text in an image isn’t searchable. While I do post group pages on my site in their own time, as part of the service I render by taking first person accounts, I have made searchable text – both possibly as intended, and as-is. Again, because I may be wrong about a name, or a word. Maybe someone wonders if they can find that page where they put their ‘thizz face’ line, but if I edited to their ‘this face’ then their historically recorded specificity has been erased by the clueless. That can extend to names, concepts, anything.

Fidelity may seem more important for some statements in some settings, but again from the historian’s viewpoint, I choose not to weigh the value of recorded statements. A six-year-old saying Hi on the typewriter may be as important as the political manifesto. Oftentimes history is left searching for the ordinary.

By recording what may seem like mistakes or errors in transcription, I am not trying to magnify them. I am instead humbly acknowledging the limits of my own cultural awareness, while embracing the authenticity of the original writer, without judgment and perhaps with some joy of appreciation. Mistakes can be charming, in a world of official accounts polished by the elite. I do create an edited version for easier reading, but I am uneasy about creating only one version altered by my biases, known or unknown, even if having mistakes re-recorded makes some feel self-conscious. I offer an apology to any who may feel disrespected, but I insist on honoring language diversity to the best of my ability.

Do I bother making unedited transcripts of my own typing? No, because I know my own mistakes and intentions, but for others, I do not. My typewriter poetry is a different collaborative practice in which I have some authorship. I claim no sole authorship over collectively typewritten pages, though I may have contributed.

I do not claim to be a real historian, or a journalist in this capacity. This isn’t the same as writing an article, which I have done professionally. I just have a great typewriter that can offer a moment of entertainment and release with a touch of posterity, at times that may be casual or serious. I don’t lay individual claim to this practice; if others want to record first-person accounts on the site of any event with a typewriter, I’ll be pleased to know of it but they don’t require my approval. I generally do not profit from collective typed pages, but the CC0 Creative Commons rights agreement allows anyone to do so. I enjoy seeing people learn a new skill, accept imperfections, have an experience with thought and word, and feel that they have a voice and a place in a record.

With sincerity, Eva L. Elasigue


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