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Encountering “Problematizing Transcriptions”

Having finished my transcriptions last night, I can now focus on interpreting what I have to move my paper forward. At the same time, I just read Judith C. Lapadat’s article, Problematizing transcriptions: Purpose, paradigm and quality, which once again leaves me with more questions than answers.

She raises some of the myriad of issues in her research early on (p. 204) in her paper:

Verbatim transcription serves the purpose of taking speech, which is fleeting, aural, performative, and heavily contexualized within its situational and social context of use, and freezing it into a static, permanent, and manipulable form.

The implications of this include:

  • Positivism (do the spoken words really capture the entire observable event?)
  • Transcription conventions (there really is not a single, universal convention for doing this)
  • Interpretivism (talk is situated, so the relationship between language and meaning can be challenging)

She concludes that rigor in the process must be accounted for, and while this can be done in research courses and with oversight (e.g., let’s be consistent with marks for pauses, laughter, and the like), I have not seen very much of this happen. I wonder to what extent it happens and I have just missed it or have never been able to avail myself to these opportunities?

Thinking about this from a self-directed and adult learning perspective, would it have been valuable enough for me to sit through formalized instruction, practice, and skill development, or is doing what I have been doing, namely getting stuck then researching then reading then considering then implementing (now repeat!) a better learning experience? I am already highly sensitive to the challenges in capuring meaning in language, so am almost naturally exploring these issues and moving my own learning forward. I wonder how my colleagues are struggling with these issues, or if some of them are uncritically (perhaps by accident or wherewithal) avoiding these tensions completely?