If, based on the title, you think this post is going to be animated and entertaining turn back now: I’m talking about transcription. Since returning from the villages I’ve been typing observation notes and transcribing over 20 hours worth of interviews.
For those who have never done transcriptions, let me tell you now, they are time consuming. For every minute recorded it takes 3-4 minutes to transcribe. I listen to the recording of an interview, and type everything verbatim. I’m a somewhat decent typist, but I am constantly lagging behind the recording, and am amazed by how I will unconsciously reword sentences in my head when I’m trailing the recording. I’m constantly pausing and skipping back 10 seconds to double check my work.
I mentioned the myriad distractions in my interviews in an earlier post. Background noise is present in all my interviews: meowing cats, screaming children, whistling birds (these are the competitive songbirds present in most houses — gambling is popular in Thailand and many Thais bet heavily on songbird competitions), and rain on tin roofs.
Slowing the recordings down to half speed makes keeping up with my typing easier. Though, when slowed to half speed the sound of rain on tin becomes a strange musical accompaniment. Rain no longer sounds like rain. It starts to resemble background music from an 80’s video game. That music is then stuck in my head for the rest of the day.
The soundtrack closest to my tin roof and rain background noise starts at 6:41.
Despite all transcription’s annoyances, the transcription process definitely strengthens my analysis. As I transcribe recordings I take a second look at what was said. Sometimes I hear things for the first time, comments I missed in the initial interview. Other times I note recurring interview themes. Notes taken during the transcription process are just as important as those I took at the actual interview, and they can help reinforce the presence of certain themes.
One recurring theme is in response to my questions about tourism impacts. Many people mentioned how tourism has “opened their world” as a positive tourism impact. Villagers around Kuraburi like interacting with outsiders, showing tourists their lives, and learning about outsiders’ lives. I cannot help but think of this as the Aladdin theme. Every time someone said this in an interview I heard the song “A Whole New World” playing in my mind. In the Andaman Discoveries office I can smile without reducing the seriousness of my interviewees’ response.