All I’ve been up to…
After my last post, I discovered that mind-mapping was invented. I heard about it from my older sister when she was finishing her Early Childhood Education degree. Although I thought that connecting-the-dots and including visuals was pretty much how our brains work in general, here’s the story of mind mapping’s technique as developed and popularized by Tony Buzan. Wikipedia article on mind mapping. It seems fair to credit the fellow after he put so much work into making a program and all.
According to this article, I used concept mapping, not mind mapping, because I used multiple words per image. I suppose defining one’s terms is a good idea. In any case, I was tackling organization.
I got started looking at digital tools for organizational purposes and, although I started looking at a couple of recommended free tools, I stepped off the path a tad, because I’m juggling mucho
With my thinking shifting toward finding a way to work that would be location independent, I reflected – per expert advice – on my strengths and weaknesses, my preferences and interests. What can be done digitally? A whole lot, it turns out – just not baking bread, or feeling the ocean’s spray. I wasn’t doing any of that work for cash anyway. I was in administrative support – a field suited to a remote platform. I’d also worked in the arts, customer service, and restaurants. Okay. Some of that can be done digitally. My older sister suggested that some aspects of graphic design/illustration are like waitressing or bartending. The client orders a lovely image, you take the order back to the kitchen, etc. Funny, and I can work with that. Since I’ve always had a tough time with ‘explicit thesis statements’ and pinning down my interests, I figured I’d start as narrowly as I could manage.
Well, I enjoyed helping craft business documents. I liked collaborating with folks to solve problems or point to places they could look for their own answers. I loved thinking about innovations. I’ve never called myself a writer – a loaded word for me, carrying some uncomfortable creative responsibility. My first thought was proofreading and editing or drafting Word documents, presentations, posters, and etc. Any of those daily tasks that were high on flow and low on boredom. Sure. But before I tried that approach, I looked online for ‘work at home’ suggestions. Most options were right out. Transcription though – that might be interesting!
Going back to school at 27 to finish a degree, I needed to declare a major right away since I already had enough credits to be counted as a third-year student. So I first chose Anthropology. One of the grand ideas I had in jr-high was to become a polyglot (my much older cousin was multilingual and worked as an interpreter – so inspiring!) and work for the UN. All for Peace on Earth! You know, since we only have this one. Why are we
To me, Anthropology, of all the social sciences, seemed to be the most willing to own up to its mistakes. I did just listen to an audiobook by philosopher Daniel Dennett where he says that Philosophy most readily admits its errors. Still, philosophy didn’t seem like a marketable degree choice – except for Steve Martin, I couldn’t think of any working, degreed philosophers outside of academia – probably myopic of me. Too many factors influenced my formal education goals. I wouldn’t be able to go further than undergraduate, so. I may have overlooked some options there. No worries. That was naive, too, but there you go. Although mostly dissimilar to my life experiences, I identified with Rita and her
Anyway, Ethnographers use transcription. My romantic idea about ethnography centers around the idea of hearing a life story with the intent of trying to deeply, and personally understand the world from the interviewee’s perspective. Appealing.
I found a free email mini-course on from-home transcription services and signed up. While processing the advice and explorations that Janet Shaughnessy offered. If you register, she sends out a short email orientation to transcription with need-to-know topics. I also took an entry exam for TranscribeMe. I scored high enough to be accepted and started giving it a go. The thing is I’ve never been a speedy typist – topping out at 55 wpm at my best. As a kid, I took typing – using typewriters. I finagled a side gig with my teacher to do some illustrations for the school paper and paid attention to that instead. So I did get comfortable with the home row but spent more time doodling. Any proficiency I have developed on the job.
TranscibeMe offers a few different service levels. Straight machine transcription and a few package choices that are people-processed. What I discovered? Transcription is hard – more difficult than math or shopping, and shopping’s pretty tough. The ‘work from home’ part – manageable, even in my non-optimal office. Their setup works well, though, from distributed file processing to community support. My biggest error category was mishearing the spoken word. Oh, I think my hearing would still test out okay. Toward the end of my few weeks with them, I did start to wonder what I might expect around hearing loss going forward. Working with varied accented English posed more challenge than anticipated. I’m not just talking about folks speaking English as a non-dominant language. I have a good ear – musical even – for languages and, around town, have little difficulty hearing what’s said. In these audio files, all ranges of dialectical American speech factored in. Huffington Post presents maps of U.S. dialects. I had problems with listening accurately to fuzzy diction, mumbles, and southeastern dialects. The next time someone reads that transcription is easy, allowing them to feel all right about paying 10 cents/minute for someone’s service, I hope they’ll reconsider and give it a try first. Eye opening! And it’s not just the listening and typing that was challenging.
Oral communication differs tremendously from the written word. We all know that intellectually – except maybe kids, bless ’em – but pinning down those differences and applying accepted grammatical norms to your transcription opens up a whole other level of understanding style sheets. I came away with even greater awe for writers who compose dialogue that reads as honest and authentic. TranscribeMe uses their own style sheet which is loosely based on the Chicago Manual of Style – the go-to reference for prescriptive grammar in literary publishing.
I learned from my linguistics courses that grammar, studied formally, divides nicely into two categories – prescriptive and descriptive. So all the style sheets count in the prescriptive grammar group – unless they get modified to include a new and accepted change based on how people are using language, and then it’s more like descriptive grammar. It’s a little like i before e except after c for English spelling – due to the necessary inclusion of
Style sheets are helpful for at least two reasons: assisting with clarity and understanding the ‘code’ for whatever group one writes. I connect it with the idea of code-switching in multilingual speakers. In the market, you may speak Farsi, but in an international business meeting, you may need to use English. So if graffiti messages were my thing, I’d either accept tagging norms, or I’d switch it up stylistically, depending on my ingroup/outgroup intentions. I’ve been worrying over stylistic choices and retaining the artist’s voice since working to understand the differences in editing between business prose and more creative writing styles- of course, anyone wanting to earn from writing has to consider both.
My transcription experience provided exposure to the variety of style sheets out there and helped me with some questions I’ve had around how to edit effectively when considering an author’s voice. In transcription’s case, we edit an author’s voice literally. So which rules are hard and fast, and which are flexible? My older sister’s often said that one has to know the rules to break ’em. People accidentally break the rules all the time – pointed out to me by my five-year-old son one day. I don’t think my sis was talking about that type of rule-breaking. She meant rule-breaking in a creative context. The gist of it applying to writers like E. E. Cummings famously publishing his poetry with syntactic switch-ups and using lower case lettering for his name. I just finished reading Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst by Prof. Robert Sapolsky. He writes much like he lectures – as seen on Youtube’s Standford channel. So many fragments. The material is presented conversationally. I think if he’d taken a more formal, highly-educated approach with his writing style, the complex hard-science based subject matter would have seemed less accessible to me. Getting reacquainted with the variety of rules for written language was an added bonus to starting out with transcription. To articulate all the resource material I learned from them, I’ll have to add an ‘All the Stuff’ page.
Additionally, I brushed up on my knowledge of British English spelling conventions. I hadn’t previously checked out how those differences came to be. Noah Webster decided to take English spelling inconsistencies to task – publishing his dictionary and solidifying the split from Britain linguistically as well as sociopolitically.
After I am more centered in my digital-home-business pursuits, I’ll circle back to TranscibeMe and try more. I can’t speak to its sustainability earning-wise because I didn’t put in the time necessary to become proficient. They provide testing to access special projects and transcription groups where the per minute pay rate is higher. I’ll need to take the re-entry exam because I let my activity lapse. Their general transcription pool requirements ask that a transcriber complete one job per month, so it’s lenient and flexible.
While I was active with them, I did transcribe some fascinating audio. One group conversation about designing apps for an older demographic – like me – tickled my funny bone. Hearing about one’s demographic as seen by corporate leaders, designers, and marketers gave me a little insight into my own app/internet usage. I had to keep in mind that they were making observations about the norms, not the outliers – since they’re building applications to appeal to the
Another one was a heartstring-puller, an interview between a younger journalist and a senior who’d grown up in pre-WWII Germany, describing his early life. I’m grateful for participating in that audio’s transcription. I wished I had audio records somewhere of my grandparents, or my mom and dad, telling about their life. Now and then, when I’m feeling nostalgic about the past or my genealogy, I remember something I read about Ken Burns researching personal letters for his documentary The Civil War.
During the film’s development, he used research material from ordinary people and historical giants alike. Somewhere I read that it’s particularly tricky constructing an accurate world-view of ordinary -by status, not character – historical women, as the stories they left must be inferred from mostly household records, possibly recipes, and maybe a few personal letters.
All in all, my short time spent with TranscribeMe was beneficial. Learning even a little about the process increased my respect for those working in that field. I found their community genuinely supportive of continuous growth, deep learning as opposed to ‘teaching the test’, and freelancers’ well-being. As a bonus, I reconnected with that aspect of ethnography from my Anthro studies that I found so compelling.
While investigating oral storytelling, I was pointed toward Studs Terkel – that’s a link to his radio archives via WFMT – and his amazing conversations with regular folks in Chicago – a recommendation from my room-mate and older sister. Maybe because his background came from journalism or possibly due to my relative youth, I’d never heard of him. That’s curious because he was affiliated with the same group of folks who participated in FDR’s works projects, so influential to the course of American theater evolution – which we covered in my college theatre programs. Since he was a consummate storyteller, an actor, and radio broadcaster, I’d think he’d be included in the canon of important performers. In my content-mapping, that would link to gatekeeping in education, something I’ve been mulling over since the entrance scandal from a couple of weeks ago.
Seattle Public Library has an ebook section, and I checked out two of Stud’s books right away. I also found his archived radio series. You can listen to original interviews and hear the people he wrote about directly. These recordings turn out to be more like my romanticized version of ethnography than the actual practice – in writing anyway. Studs just had a chat with a few folks. Ethnographers have the science/observation agenda in the background. As pointed out to me recently, science writing can be
Okay. Transcription was out as a dominant money-maker. It’s on my list of activities to check into later. Since I started out thinking about organizational tools, here’s a time-management technique I learned from TranscribeMe’s community forum. One experienced, multilingual transcriptionist recommended it for help with managing session burnout. The Pomodoro technique. I found a website where I could just use their timer, so it didn’t require much effort. Thankfully, I didn’t need to download and work with another new program or source a kitchen timer.
That this method has been around since the 80s and has become so popular without me hearing a thing about it astounds me. Working in admin for so many years, I’d imagine office managers countrywide would be offering it up to assist support staff in attending to their health, workflow, and output. Huh. It’s an
Processing my interests around what to do for work so far included admin tasks I enjoyed, art-based work I could do, and then there was the possibility of writing. When I began to consider writing publicly – and for money – I found a freelance job offer to write for chatbots. Heh. I don’t know how I imagined those got created, but I hadn’t thought of the people behind the text boxes. So out of curiosity, I checked the site which brought about a slight pathway diversion into learning a bit about computational linguistics. I found this site: LIWC. It’s a computational device for this, ” Learn how the words we use in everyday language reveal our thoughts, feelings, personality, and motivations.” Licensable for academics and researchers looking to analyze texts of any sort, it also has a try-it-out box at the bottom of that linked page.
Naturally, I tried a couple of paragraphs and read the definitions of their assessment categories. And then I went back to the library to find out more about James W. Pennebaker. I borrowed his book on pronouns, and what our words say about us. I found a particularly notable bit in the endnotes. Computational linguists use just about any printed text available, adding to the giant data set about who, where, what, why, and when people write. They have a project that analyzes tweets! Here’s the link. I’ve only tweeted nine times or so. Still, I ran mine through their sorting hat.
I can add this oracular method to all the other personality self-profiling I’ve done. Most of it seemed just about right. I am worried. There’s a lot to worry about lately. Also, that pretty much fits with my Big 5 score. I may do an artboard project about modern oracles – from pseudoscience to big data – around the question, “Who do I ask for advice in my self-development journey?”
I was curious about their label choice for ‘Spacy/Valley girl.’ I don’t disagree with the sorting output. The hover-over text says it’s measuring the level of excitement and shows that this person may use a lot of lol’s. That’s paraphrased. I’m unsure of how I’m going to process that. I do tend toward the pom-pom shaking, go-team type encouragement style. I’m pretty spacy at times. I do a lot of side-tracking. I don’t typically post that way publically. These were all tweets in syllabic form 5,7,5, based on my limited understanding of Haiku learned in grade school. On that topic, I’ll need an update to my
All of this exploration is a fun diversion from looking for freelance work, developing my social media profiles, learning to write content, and boosting my skills. –
I’m particularly fond of multipurpose/multifunction tools – like a Swiss Army knife, or a Leatherman – and doing a little side learning while researching and finding alternate pathways toward work in general. So as I was doing all that thinking about developing myself, my work options, my business trajectory, I was implementing some of the tools I’m trying out. This includes digital tools, physically present tools or techniques, and borrowing from Dennett, Buzan, and many other experts:
- My sketchpad – exploring repurposing stuff I didn’t like – errors on purpose re Dennett
- Art supplies readily available in Nica – No Dan Smith here – needs foraging skill-up – Digital only? International mail?
- Digital Organization – Gmail tags, G Calendar, Draw, Jamboard, Asana?, Trello, Hello Bonsai
- Social media choices? – TBD – for now, FB, Pinterest, Twitter
- Freelancing platforms – Upwork – still working out the ROI – including soft cost/benefit – appreciated the opportunities so far – Writing for Content Mills? A possibly painful,
bootcampmethod to learn while doing?
- Publishing tools – Kindle Create, Reedsy, Calibre (needs HTML)
- Graphics tools – Adobe CC – PS (for now), Canva, Visme, Snappa, GIMP, Inkscape, ArtRage ($), Clip Studio, Powtoon
- Interesting groups to join – Medium ($), Patreon, Goodreads
- Creative approaches – brainstorming, Mind Mapping, Intuition Pumps
There’s more I’m up to but investigating transcription got me started on a path toward, “Hey, what if…,” another swell intuition or creativity prompt. Stopping there. My Google calendar just let me know that my writing time for today is done.