Accessibility in Podcasting… and Twitter History

Accessibility and podcasting…

Access… what does that even mean? Truthfully it is a personal idea, while of course there are laws based on public means and access for everyone in a public forum. Podcasts are not required to have a transcript. What does this mean for a Hard of Hearing or Deaf user? When transcripts are available at times they are faulty… To say the least. But at times podcast post complete, well done transcripts that are easy to access. This takes on a different form of media from that of the traditional podcast. I believe though that it is closer to the podcast than reading tradition academic writing.

Let’s start with inaccessible transcripts. A prime example of this is Onthemedia’s transcript of the playboy podcast.  While I am grateful at the fact that there is even a transcript, to say it is a “rough, uncorrected transcript” is an understatement; whole sections of the podcast are missing. For someone like me, who still has hearing and just needs help this is not a huge problem, although I missed about every other word that Hef said, which was also missing from the transcript. While transcribing can come at a cost, it seems priceless to allow for everyone to be able to access these podcast.

Now what about when transcripts are available, how does this change the technology that is podcasting? Growing up I always listened to podcast with my mom and for someone that uses closed captioning and reads the lyrics to songs, I believe that the transcript is closer to a podcast than to traditional academic writing. Let’s take a look at for examples. Traditional monolithic writing often is not readable in a way that speaks to modern conversation and lingo. Transcripts of most podcast are easy to read. In Serial, Sarah Koenig uses phone calls and interviews to detail the accounts of a murder. The transcript is perfect, I can hear the sounds of how people are talking. This is huge for a transcript from a podcast and one of the biggest differences from traditional history work. Podcast remind me of oral histories, they lock into time the essence of how people sound and interact.

OHA TWITTER WORLD: Historical interaction.

Twitter is an important feature of social media for historians. Working with the Oral History Association we use Twitter similar to how AHA uses their Twitter during conferences, but also Twitter is used to promote our website, new oral history excitement, professional opportunities and information about the conferences. It is less about history and more about the profession of oral history, an important distinction in my mind. Twitter opens a space for historians to speak to each other in public easier than waiting for a conference to interact. Being able to access various groups of historians that one would have never been able to reach before is the greatest gift of Twitter. One good example of Twitter as a historical story telling tool is from when the Atlanta History Center used twitter (accessible through tumblr to tell minute by minute events that took place during the 1906 Atlanta Race riots. This would be a great forum for some type of final project, they used historical evidence such as first-hand accounts and newspaper articles, to give small details on each event that took place. It is effective, attractive and easy to read.


Shawn Clements


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