Transcribing as a performance and somatic understanding

I was speaking with MC the other day and he asked me if I had been writing about the process of transcribing. At that point I had intended on writing reflections and analyses of the stories I was transcribing, but not about the act of transcribing itself.

I have been looking at how my thesis is a meta performance, one that will contain the performance of other stories (more on this later). And then there is the performance of transcribing: being transported from my physical place to the place that is being reflected back to me through audio. It isn’t just the words that other people and I say that I am looking to represent on paper, I want to capture the feeling of the situation, the sounds and silences that tell stories about people-place: our relationship to one another, the landscape, birds, wind, sunset, heat, affectionate dogs, insects, tides and other people coming and going. They are all part of how our conversations and stories were performed.

The idea that I can even translate what exists in these audio recordings onto paper as some kind of accurate reflection seems stranger and stranger to me the more I contemplate it. What I hear and what holds meaning for me might be completely different to someone else. There is no way that I can hand this time-consuming process (transcribing) over to someone else. I reground in my somatic (embodied) awareness of people-place when I listened to these stories being performed. There is a texture, feeling, an ability to anticipate what happened next when I listen to these stories. I feel the sand, the wind, sun and see the movement when I listen to these stories. The somatic memory of these stories is fanned when I listen to these recordings.Where I am when I listen, how I am feeling and all the other factors of my context are too part of the performance of transcribing.

When I listen to these story performances I realise that they are in me, embodied. So, a process of translation now unfolds as I try to make sense of the knowledge that is already there. In expressing his views on somatic understanding, Egan (2005) writes that it is the embodied knowledge of the world and underlies linguistic understanding. Something that is prevalent in the stories that I listen to, is my own and the inability of others to articulate some of our somatic understanding/knowledge/learning. This inarticulation is a fertile site is an interstice, a gap, an in-between place where the body’s knowledge is struggling to be translated into a linguistic, cognitive concept. Is this why we look to the worldviews and languages outside our own ‘normal world’, to make these translations possible?

 

Egan, K. (2005). An imaginative approach to teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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