Poultry and Prose: Transcribing helps keep deaf voters informed

One hundred typists at one hundred computers might just possibly create the Great American Debate Archive.

I’m one of those typists. I’ve been helping out at The UpTake, watching tapes of the Minnesota Gubernatorial debates and typing text documents of what is said.

Typing, typing, typing isn’t sexy work. But it’s important work.

Transcripts enable videos to be closed captioned on YouTube and ontheuptake.org. In the case of theGubernatorial debates, closed captioning opens them up to an audience which previously didn’t have access, says Mike McIntee, Executive Producer of The UpTake.

According to the Commission of Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing Minnesotans, impaired hearing is believed to affect five to ten percent of Minnesota voters. The number of eligible voters in Minnesota is 3.72 million, according to Dr. Michael McDonald of George Mason University. Even when you take into account unregistered voters and non-participating voters, five to ten percent represents a lot of votes.

That means at 196,000 voters at the very least, and perhaps as many as 392,000, are making choices without having complete information.

If you rely on closed captioning, you know that auto-generated captions leave a lot to be desired. Text is missing. Spelling is butchered. The meaning of what is said can change dramatically.

Here’s an example from
GameFair, where the Gubernatorial candidates debated before an audience of hunting and fishing enthusiasts.

What was said:
Tom Meersman did a fine story about shoreline development in the Brainerd Lakes area.
What was decoded: Time is needed to find story about showing a bomb in the brain or lakes area

What was said:
Isn’t a walleye meal a Minnesota tradition?
What was decoded: He’s in the limelight New York minute set of traditional

Legacy Amendment became the latest CNN. TheCastle Doctrinebecame the Catholic Doctrine. Dog parks became thought parks.

It can be hard enough to make decisions when you hear everything clearly. Try making decisions based on garbled content.

Increased voter access can make a huge difference. The
U.S. Senate recount in 2008 took eight months to complete. Al Franken won by a margin of 312 votes. The UpTake livestreamed and live-blogged the entire recount and trial.

So how about it? Join the few, the proud, the transcribers. All you need is a computer with an Internet connection and the movie viewer Quicktime, which is a
free download. To get started, email info@theuptake.org. Grab some of your friends and plow through a debate together as you chuckle over the auto-generated transcript.

You’ll feel proud when you see your finished result. I guarantee it.

This post was written bySusan Maricle and originally published onPoultry and Prose. Follow Susan on Twitter:@poultryprose

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Michael McIntee on 09/08/2010 - 09:49 am.

    Susan and other volunteers have devoted a ton of time to this project. They and the hearing impaired community could really use your help. I can tell you my step-father who is hearing impaired relies heavily on text and captioned video to get his information. This also helps the general population who use google to search for information. Google can’t accurately read the sound in video. Having it in text form makes it easier for everyone to do so. Doing few hours of listening and typing can do a lot of good. Plus, it’s a great way to learn a little bit more about the candidates for Governor. Thank you to everyone who helps!

  2. Submitted by Susan Maricle on 09/08/2010 - 11:32 am.

    I’m willing to admit when I make a mistake. The number of eligible voters in Minnesota is 3.72, not 3.92, according to Dr. Michael McDonald of George Mason University. Taking into account unregistered voters and non-participating voters, five to ten percent represents a lot of votes.

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