This week, we are focused on working with audio. We are editing our audio clips based on our paper cut that we workshopped with Alexi. We have also started creating a community power map and our final presentation. For our audio, we each have slightly different methods and modes of editing, and will each be crafting a clip that reflects the content of our individual interviews. We wanted to use this reflection to briefly outline each of our audio clips, and then explain our ideas about our community power map.
For Erik’s final clip, he wants to tell the story of my interviewee through the use of a pieced together storyline of his subject’s life’s work. First, Erik will use the interviewee’s childhood to explain how he was tied to the Navy shipyard and why working at Greenaction means so much to him. His connection to the community is told through his knowledge of shipyard workers and how he had the fortitude to realize the systemic flaws placed on him. One of the challenges Erik is running into is trying to make a seamless transition between different parts of the life story. Finding the proper transitions is what will make the audio story flow throughout the five minutes.
Claire is hoping to achieve more of a podcast-style piece. The idea behind the podcast style will mean that she will incorporate ambient sounds, music, and even splice in her own voice for clarity. She really wants to bring her narrative to life using the tools the team has available. One of the main challenges will be finding sounds, and creating a piece that sounds how she wants it to. It could take lots of time, which will be another challenge. Her goal is to send her draft to Alexi over break.
Jim added to his original papercut to include more of his interviewee’s upbringing and life before homelessness. Prior to this addition, the paper cut focused more on his current life and the issues he is fighting against and worried about. By incorporating his upbringing and early life, this better allows the listener to connect with the interviewee rather than just showcasing another case of gentrification. This addition will add a few more minutes to the overall audio but will present a fuller picture of another human being’s life and story.
Community Power map
The Community Power Map is an idea based on the Narratives of Resistance map that AEMP has already incorporated into their website and project. For our map, we want to achieve a few goals: explain the history and significance of AEMP and eviction/black exodus in the Bay Area, give a nuanced view of individual narratives, and visually tie the narratives to a map. To do this, we will be using the software Prezi, which is a simple “moving presentation” tool. We will start with a background map of San Francisco, and place each of our narrative audio clips (and pictures!) at the location that they are referencing. The software “zooms in” to the area and plays the audio clips, if you click on them. We want to present this map to AEMP as one of our deliverables, as well as a possible addition to their website.
Thoughts on Project
Transcription and audio editing was a separate individualistic contributor type of task and was easy to coordinate in terms of delivering a product but hard to coordinate consistency in perspectives, styles, and methods. Due to the volume of audio that required transcription and the time intensity, it was more achievable to divide and conquer different interviews. However, had the team took the approach of peer-editing each other's audio files or simply transcribed simultaneously together, we could have achieved a more cohesive and consistent product. However, the trade off there would be a reduction in diversity of style and approaches.
One key takeaway we all shared as a team is the power of the transcriber and editor to shape other people's narratives. When going through the editing process, it sometimes felt questionable to cut sentences or thoughts just to fit them into other parts for a cohesive narrative. Although the interviewees may have had the thoughts separately, would it be ok for us to morph and interpret it from our perspectives without running it by them first?
Lastly, issues of sustainability and equity are intertwined throughout our interviews. Whether it be the fairness of toxic exposure in shipyards or the displacement of formerly homeless veterans, these individuals have been forced to make a choice between poor options. One way to help combat and bring awareness to these issues is through sharing their stories through interviews so that others may learn from them, prevent repeat incidences, and stand by them for their causes.
Update on Project Activities
Today we met with Alexi and discussed our experiences conducting the papercut. Because we are creating approximately 5 minute audio clips from interviews that are greater than an hour long, we shared our difficulties in cutting out sections of the transcripts. We all voiced different struggles we had in choosing which parts of the narrative of the transcripts to emphasize and keep in our audio clip. We decided on allowing our transcripts to be a bit longer as we continue to edit them and understand what audio sounds most interesting when we have our audio listening session next Wednesday.
In response to our difficulties parsing out the most important sections of the stories, Alexi said she would review our paper cuts and give us feedback this weekend. We expressed to Alexi our apprehension with creating comprehensive audio clips due to the breaks and choppiness in our stories because we are pairing the stories down so much. She suggested that we take a closer look at the narratives of displacement on the AEMP website in order to explore the ways in which AEMP has compiled interviews to create cohesive stories. Alexi also introduced us to different techniques for using the interviewee’s words as narration. For example, we can cut certain sentences from the interviews to use as introductory transitions into a certain section of an interview to allow for the audio clip to flow and tell the story effectively.
What We Observed and Learned
We were introduced to many basic skills in editing audio with Adobe Premiere.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
Before we begin the audio editing process, we need to first incorporate some of the notes Alexi left with our draft papercuts. Then we start the editing process. Alexi provided us with more resources in creating documentaries and oral histories that can inform our perspective when it comes to editing audio/video. For example, if we are constrained by a time limit, should we edit out the interviewees stutters and pauses? Is it okay to start/stop in the middle of a sentence if it helps the flow of the audio clip? If we decide to include video to our project, how should we incorporate footage that isn’t the speaker (B-roll)? These are some of the questions we need to answer by Wednesday when our first clips of edited audio are due. We plan to have another meeting with Alexi on Wednesday where we’ll listen to everyone’s clips and provide feedback before Thanksgiving break. We also set up our final meeting before the presentation for Monday December 2nd. At this meeting, we will provide Alexi with an outline of our final presentation and a draft of our community map with our audio files integrated into it.
Update on project activities
Today, we had a very informative meeting with Alexi. She walked us through the processes going forward for converting our transcripts into edited audio clips. We’ve also done a few things to move forward with the editing process and get us toward our deliverables. We have each created a folder in our shared drive to hold our transcriptions. This is where we will copy the text version of our transcriptions. During our transcription processes, we each highlighted sections that we thought we could potentially use in our final clip. We will also be adding these highlighted sections to our drive, and using that to work through creating a shorter clip. We are wrapping up our transcriptions and are looking forward to embarking on the editing process.
Our next steps will be making the first stages of a script. Alexi explained that we can either approach this process as “parsing down” large blocks of text from the interviews, or we can cut-and-paste sections of the interviews to create some sense of a five-minute story. Once we have created a “paper cut” that is a rough cut-and-paste version of the text from our interview, we will send it to Alexi to get advice before we move forward. We will be in close communication over email, especially as we start the editing process. We will be using “free trials” for Adobe Premier to edit our audio clips, although we won’t start editing the actual audio until we get a final script for the text-versions of the transcriptions.
What we observed and learned
This week, we have learned a ton from our individual interview transcriptions. As we approach the end of the “transcription” part of the project, we are all reflecting on the content and power of the stories that we’ve heard. The stories are vastly different, and each draw upon different elements of the class. When beginning to think about how to create our edited clips, it is increasingly important to use the readings and frameworks that we have learned to make our “paper cuts” and then scripts. Alexi recommended that we draw upon “Problems of Editing First-Person Sociology,” and other readings that she will send out soon to help us with the process. We each got to talk with Alexi about how the interviews are sitting with us, and what sorts of themes they brought up. Thinking about themes and favorite portions of the interviews will help us find a jumping-off-point for the editing process.
Critical analysis/moving forward
Now that we’ve finished the transcriptions, our next step is selecting passage for our video. Compared to editing transcripts, we have a lot more liberty, since we choose which sections to include in our narratives and which to exclude. As such, we need to approach this next phase of the project with a lot more intentionality. We have several ways to approach the process of selecting passages. Are we going to include snippets of every subject the interviewees touch on, or should we try and select one or two topics and build a narrative around those? It’s likely we’re going to choose the latter because that provides for better storytelling, but then the question of which topics we will pick arises. Given the mission of our organization, we are going to pay special attention to housing moving forward, but any other themes should vary from interview to interview. For example, interviews with the African Advocacy Network, a Bay Area nonprofit that provides services and advocates for African immigrants, would include discussions about the experience of immigrants and the diversity in the African community. Once a topic is chosen, the ordering of audio is also a part of the process that deserves special attention. Many of the questions in the interview focus on trends. Is it preferable to focus on personal experiences of the interviewee, or broader trends that they’ve noticed about housing the Bay Area. All of these are questions that we need to consider as we move forward.
Update on Project Activities
We continued our transcription work this week in hopes of reaching our self-imposed transcription completion deadline of next Friday (Nov 1). So far, the transcriptions have been going well, but have definitely taken a significant amount of time and energy to complete. Listening to the interviews has been incredible and rewarding, and we are learning a lot about the lived experiences of the interviewees. We have been continuing to find sections in the interviews that we could potentially use in our final editing clips.
In addition to the transcriptions, we have been familiarizing ourselves with the website design process, and we have been thinking of ways to incorporate our edited clips into the website. There is a lot of room for creativity here, and we have been brainstorming ways to represent the interviews on the website in a way that is reflective of their content (for some, it could be a video, and for others it could be an interactive clip, etc.).
We have also been looking at times to go to the city and observe Alexi doing an interview in order to experience the intimacy and vulnerability this kind of work requires. Lydia and Claire are planning to accompany her soon, and we are looking forward to learning more about the interviewing process.
In addition, during our call this week with Alexi, Jim discussed what he learned through the interview he was transcribing and the background research he did on the events related to it. It was interesting to discuss the ethical issues of eviction due to safety. Is it okay to put people on the streets if a building is deemed “unsafe”? Is it okay for landlords to profit off low-income housing and government housing programs?
What We Observed and Learned
One of our transcription interviewees, was a veteran defending his landlord over the controversial housing she provided homeless veterans. This specific interview and situation raised questions of ethics and profit. Fundamentally, should landlords of low-income tenants be allowed to profit off government programs? In addition, should the city be responsible for homelessness due to evictions related to building codes?
Through the interview, we were able to see the tenant’s side of the story. He describes the landlord as well intentioned and caring. She went beyond his expectations as a landlord and despite that, the city is after her for banking millions of dollars by squeezing formerly homeless veterans into cramped illegal dwelling units.
According to the veteran and other interviewed sources, the landlord would go around looking for stable-minded veterans to take off the streets and provided them with safe housing. It is not often that the tenant and landlord stands on the same side of an argument, but in this case, the tenant is defending the landlord against the city.
“Everything was new all the appliances are new... The stoves... The uh... uh... Washers and dryers downstairs, the refrigerators, everything was new. When we moved in here and all the rest of them too. She bought appliances in bulk. And Whirlpool washers and dryers downstairs. I mean... Who does that? So it wasn't the fact that she was worried about the money. She worried about us and the city doesn't see that. Too much bureaucratic red tape. They don't care about the vets. They just want to get Judy and they want to make her tear down everything that she's done which is putting us back out on the streets …” -Interviewee
From the city’s perspective, the landlord skirted building codes and abused the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Homes for Heroes program. She had divided 12 buildings with 15 legal units into smaller spaces that housed 49 individual tenants, making about $1 million a year in rent. Although her actions reduced veteran homelessness, which was the intent of the program, the city had to enforce safety standards for tenants and neighborhoods. According to the city, her buildings contained jerry-rigged natural gas and water lines, while neighbors complained of overcrowding, noise, and littering.
Based on some quick research, as a result of the city’s actions against her, she agreed to pay the city a $2 million fine and bring all the buildings she owns into compliance with the law. What this meant for the tenants was that 10 of them had to relocate or end up homeless again.**
Another transcription interviewee touched on themes of environmental justice. She had moved to a new housing development in Bayshore, which promised beautiful amenities and a thriving community. She moved in before it was finished, with her family, and were told to “have faith” in the development process. A few months after, a headline in a paper ran, detailing that the housing development company had lied about the quality of the development, and it had been built on land that was radioactive from a shipyard there years prior, and declared officially unsafe for living. The interviewee detailed the injustice of literally living on radioactive land, and how betrayed she felt that the development had lied so blatantly. Most of the new tenants were people of color. After the news broke, the development stopped new construction, and the tenants were trapped in half-finished housing full of radiation. This type of environmental injustice is not uncommon, and hearing an interview about it is incredibly powerful, especially one so close to home.
Update on Project Activities
We started editing the transcriptions of our interviews on Trint and have not encountered technical issues so far. However, one of our group members encountered a difficult interview where the interviewee frequently stuttered and we had a discussion on how to best approach editing such audio. After finding additional resources we decided the best course of action was to have the transcription maintain the authenticity and reflect the interviewee’s speech pattern as closely as close.
In addition, after talking with several members of our team, we now understand the commitment necessary to properly completing the transcriptions. As a general rule we believe it rounds out to a 5:1 ratio between time necessary to to transcribe for every minute of the interviews. This rule of thumb helped us understand the time commitment for the project and plan out our deliverables.
In terms of finalizing our project scope of work, two of us have shown interest in joining AEMP for an interview in San Francisco later in the quarter, but the exact date and time has yet to be determined.
What We Observed and Learned
Our key learning this week was around the transcription process and how to edit interviews with an emphasis on maintaining the original voice of the person being interviewed. It has become evident to all of us that transcribing is a time-consuming process that demands a lot of focus and attention to detail. The literature and frameworks that we used as guidance for our transcriptions all emphasize the importance of maintaining the original voice of the interviewee, which means that for many of us we must go over some sections of the interview multiple times to ensure we’ve been transcribing it correctly. We decided as a team to make sure we maintain the unique vernacular of the interviews by not “editing out” certain portions that some may consider unimportant, things like pauses, filler words, and rephrasings. It is important for the project that we include all the nuanced and unique speech patterns that each interviewee brings as a way of honoring their individuality and voice.
We have also gained insight from the content of the interviews. Many of us haven’t finished our transcriptions yet, so there is still much to learn, but there is definitely something poignant and beautiful about listening to an unedited, raw interview. We have begun highlighting sections in Trint that stick out to us as especially pertinent to the interviewee’s story, and could potentially be parts that we use in our final clip that we’ll incorporate in the website. There was very little description about each interview before we selected them, so the process of listening openly and with care as their story unfolds has been eye-opening.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
We are in the process of reviewing the “Interview Transcription Guide” in order to evaluate the guide for what we believe would be beneficial in our process. We plan on adding to the document incorporating our own methodology and systematic set of punctuation.
We have set on a meeting date with Alexi in order to check-in in two weeks regarding our progress with transcriptions. We have also now shared with Alexi and are adding to the Google Doc, which contains our questions regarding transcriptions or any concerns we run into. This way Alexi can have a direct route of communication with us as we go through our transcription process. We have advanced the date to have completed our transcriptions to November 1 after discussing our schedule with Alexi. She recommended moving the date up in order to have more time to edit the transcriptions and transform into audio clips and video to be integrated into the website. We also plan to continue exploring the AEMP website.