Transcription Tools

The Social Science Research Center at DePaul has a micro-lab where researchers (or their graduate students) can use hardware and software to transcribe audio files.  Typically, researchers have used these tools to transcribe interviews and focus groups.  The process is relatively simple: researchers bring their audio files on portable media, which are loaded onto a machine in the micro lab.  This machine has a software called “Express Scribe” and a pedal.  The pedal is used to stop, start, rewind and fast forward the audio within the environment of Express Scribe.  Additionally, the speed of the audio playback can be modified.

In all, this is a great tool and process for individuals to transcribe audio files.  However, it is not without its flaws.  The main flaw is that it requires users to be in the physical space during business hours.  Also, it requires that someone spend the time actually typing the text of the transcription.  In this post, I review two relatively new transcription tools and demonstrate how they might be used to help researchers transcribe spoken language.

The first, oTranscribe is a web-based transcription tool.  With it, you upload an audio file and from within the web page, you control audio playback.  Keep in mind that if a researcher were going to do this on their own (without coming to the SSRC to use our machine and pedal), this would require playing the audio in something like itunes and typing up the text in something like word.  Which is likely fine, if you’re working on a machine with two monitors.  Even so, stopping and restarting the audio file can be quite cumbersome using this approach.  Remember that hotkeys usually require that you be in the program to use it.  So, you’re typing in word, but in order to get audio to stop you have to get back to iTunes with the mouse and actually press stop (or click in the window with iTunes and use a hotkey to stop the audio file).

oTranscribe allows you to do this all in the same place.  Even better, when audio is restarted, it repeats the the last bit of where you left off.  This gives you a chance to get your hands in place and allows for a much easier orientation.  In the default setup, the key to stop and start the audio is the ESC, but you could change that.  Additionally, the audio can be slowed down quite a lot.  I have demonstrated what the process is like here.

I recorded myself reading the beginning of a chapter in Howard Becker’s Writing for Social Scientists on an iPhone (using the Voice Memos app).  Although it sounds like I might be drunk, I am actually not.  I have slowed the audio down enough so that I can keep up typing it.

Overall, not a terribly onerous process, I think.  I think it beats having to toggle back and forth between different programs.

I learned about Scribe, a tool that does automatic transcription.  According to Poynter, it was developed by some students working on a school project.  One of the students had to transcribe 12 interviews, and he didn’t want to do it (who does?).  He built a script that uses the Google Speech API to transcribe the speech to text.  Based in Europe, the Scribe website asks that a user upload an mp3 and provide an email address.  The cost to have the file transcribed is €0.09 cents per minute.  As of now, there is a limit to how long the audio file can be (80 minutes).  Because the file format from the Voice Memos app is mpeg-4, I actually had to convert my audio file before it could be uploaded.  Once this was done, I received an email with a link to my text when the transcription was finished.

Below is the unedited output that I received.  I pasted the text into OneNote so that I could add highlighting and comments.

scribe_edit

In all, I am fairly impressed with the output from Scribe.  Obviously, there are some problems with it.  The text is generally right- organized in paragraphs, but not naturally.  For example, the second paragraph is separated from the first, when they should have been kept together.  There were periods at the end of the paragraphs.   Also there is some random capitalization (i.e. “The Chronic”). Amazingly, names were capitalized (Kelly and Merten), which I thought was remarkable.  My guess is that the mix-ups with chutzpah/hot spot and vaudeville/the wave auto are fairly common with words borrowed from other languages.

Obviously, the text will need a little work.  While I think Scribe works well for interviews, I am not sure how well it would work for focus groups.  Of course, the text needs some review and editing, but I think that in the long run it would be faster to correct mistakes than it is to manually type the transcription.  The kicker for me, is how cheap it is: at €0.09 cents per minute, an 80 minute interview could be transcribed for less than $10.00.

I think that both oTranscribe and Scribe lowers the bar to entry for researchers wanting to transcribe audio material.

 

 

 

Good Work Does Go Noticed

Congratulations to Sarah Read, assistant professor in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse, for the award she recently received for a paper she delivered at a professional technical communication conference at the University of Texas in Austin. The James M. Lufkin Award for Best International Professional Communication Conference Paper is given annually by the IEEE Professional Communication Society in recognition of work that supports their mission to promote effective communication within scientific, engineering and technical environments.

In the paper, Sarah and her co-author and fellow award-winner Michael E. Papka propose a more comreadaward_0001prehensive model of the document cycling process to capture significant activities not normally found in conventional project management plans. The paper emerged from an ethnographic study she conducted as a guest faculty researcher at Argonne National Laboratory where she analyzed the technical documentation and reporting processes that went into creating the facility’s 2014 annual report.

Operated by The University of Chicago Argonne LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy, the research lab and its high-powered supercomputer are used by scientists from academia and industry. Each year it produces a lengthy, polished report for the funder, “an extended statement about how the facility has met or exceeded the performance metrics set by the funder based on the previous review process,” as explained in the paper.

Sarah’s interviews with staff and her observations of the lab’s operations revealed hidden activities involved in gathering and generating data that indirectly fed into the annual report. This data-gathering had become incorporated into regular operational activities and fell outside the designated time frames for generating reportable information. These submerged activities not only informed the report but constituted a creative endeavor in their own right. (See a previous SSRC blog about Sarah’s project in which she vividly described the efforts demanded of staff in learning how to “write down the machine.”)

They did not arise sui generis. Papka, a senior scientist at Argonne, is the director of the Leadership Computing Center and an associate professor of computer science at Northern Illinois University. In 2012 he revised the annual report document creation process “from an annual last-minute all-out effort to a well-managed, well-paced drafting and revision process,” according to the paper. Reporting became on-going, rotating and cut across multiple divisions of the facility. Crucially, it entailed the development of processes “to more efficiently and accurately generate” reportable performance data.

The success of those efforts leads the paper’s authors to raise some provocative questions, including whether the staff time and effort required to write an annual report—a full-color, printed and designed document totaling 126 pages in 2014—is warranted when reportable information becomes readily accessible and available. “It is interesting to reflect upon how the imperative to develop a more accurate and efficient annual operational assessment reporting process ended up building processes at the facility…that could make the annually produced report unnecessary,” they point out. And they ask teachers and students of professional and technical writing to recognize and understand that the means of producing reportable information for the periodic reports so common to large organizations “have as much if not more value for the organization than the finished reporting document.”

The SSRC likes to think that our own support of Sarah’s research contributed to this project, from her use of ATLAS.ti, the qualitative data analysis application available in our computer lab, to analyze her data, to her ongoing participation in the SSRC’s Accountability Group in which tenure-track LAS faculty meet twice a month to set and discuss self-imposed professional and research goals. She worked on the paper during spring break at the off-campus faculty research retreat in Wisconsin that the SSRC organized to offer faculty designated writing time away from usual distractions. Sarah plans to develop the epistemic dimensions of the model in another paper.

SSRC Solicits Applications for the Second Annual Academic Research Retreat

One of the missions of the Social Science Research Center is to facilitate and support faculty research.  To this end, the SSRC is hosting a faculty research retreat in Kenosha, WI during Spring Break March 20-23, 2017.  During this time, selected faculty will participate in two and a half days of intensive research time.

The retreat will take place in a rental property large enough to accommodate 3-5 researchers for three nights.  The retreat events will be organized by a facilitator, who will organize the retreat and conduct accountability sessions.  Attendees will be responsible for their own meals and for securing transportation for themselves to the retreat location.

Applications are due by 5pm Monday February 27, 2017 and should be emailed to Jessi Bishop-Royse at jbishopr@depaul.edu.  In 2-3 pages, potential applicants should indicate the name of their project, its current status, and what they intend to complete during the retreat.  The competitive review process will favor established research projects over those that need more development.

Last year, participants from Sociology,  Public Health, The School for New Learning, and Writing, Reading, and Discourse attended the retreat.  Generally, participants appreciated the opportunity to network with faculty from other departments.  On average, participants completed about 90% of planned research tasks.  Two of the four participants submitted manuscripts for publication within one month of the retreat.  Additionally, the manuscript that participant Sarah Read completed during the retreat was recognized for the James M. Lufkin Award for Best International Professional Communication Conference Paper.

Tentative Schedule

Monday 3/20

6pm-8pm Check in and Welcome Chat, Dinner +Evening Accountability Meeting

8-10pm Writing Session

Tuesday 3/21

8am-9am: Morning Accountability Meeting/Breakfast

9-Noon: Morning Writing Session

Noon-1pm: Afternoon Break

1pm-4pm: Afternoon Writing Session

4pm-7pm: Evening break.

7pm-9pm: Evening Writing Session

Wednesday 3/22

8am-9am: Morning Accountability Meeting/Breakfast

9-Noon: Morning Writing Session

Noon-1pm: Afternoon Break

1pm-4pm: Afternoon Writing Session

4pm-7pm: Evening break.

7pm-9pm: Evening Writing Session

Thursday 3/23

8am-9am: Morning Accountability Meeting/Breakfast

9-11: Morning Writing Session

11-12: Evaulation +Check Out

Questions should be directed to Jessica Bishop-Royse by email (jbishopr@depaul.edu).

SSRC at the CCHE Health Disparities and Social Justice Conference 2016

Last week DePaul’s MPH Program and the Center for Community Health Equity co-hosted the Health Disparities and Social Justice Conference at the Loop Campus in conjunction with DePaul’s MPH program.  The day was full of fantastic events regarding health disparities and social justice issues in Chicago and beyond.  The opening keynote was delivered by Patricia O’Campo of the Centre for Urban Health Solutions at St. Michael’s Hospital in Ontario, Toronto.

Friends of the center Noam Ostrander and Fernando de Maio participated in a panel discussion of the Chicago Health Equity Reader, a year long project whose ultimate aim is to produce a reader of the essential readings on Chicago Health.

safeshape

SSRC Director and Sociology Faculty member Greg Scott was on hand with the Safe Shape exhibit as well as two collaborative film projects (Everywhere but Safe and Making a Place Called Safe) he has produced with  VOCAL-NY and the San Francisco Drug Users Union.  Noam Ostrander presented his collaborative project with SSRC Senior Research Methodologist Jessica Bishop-Royse on seasonal patterns in homicide mortality in the US.

The event brought together a wide variety of public health professionals, students, researchers, public officials, and community stakeholders, who were afforded the opportunity to engage with presenters and provide feedback and comments.

Are Chicago’s Safe Passage Routes Located in the Highest Risk Areas?

Safe passage routes to school provide not only a sense of safety for Chicago students from pre-K through high school, but they reduce crime involving students and help increase school attendance. Chicago’s Safe Passage program was introduced in 2009 after the beating death by gangs of 16-year-old Fenger High School honors student Derrion Albert, which was captured on cell phone video. His death and the circumstances received national attention along with a series of other incidents involving CPS students caught in gang violence. Since then, the program has expanded to include schools, parents, residents, law enforcement officials and even local businesses in efforts to provide students with a safe environment. The various types of safe passage programs among the 51 safe route programs currently available include: safe haven programs in which students who fear for their safety can find refuge at the local police station, fire house, library and even convenience stores, barbershops and restaurants; patrols along school routes by veterans, parents and local residents; and walking to school programs in which parents and local residents create a presence to help deter unlawful incidents.

The map below shows the number of all crimes committed in the city of Chicago during the current school year, and the locations of schools and safe routes among those communities that have safe routes. Currently, there are 517 Chicago public schools, of which, only 136 Chicago public schools (26.3% of all schools) fall within the 51 safe routes. Although the safe routes are located in 37 of the high crime communities in general (south, west and northeast sides of Chicago), they do not exist in the pockets of the highest crime incidents (1,500+ highlighted in burgundy) where children are the most vulnerable. Of the 47 schools that fall within the extreme crime areas (1,500+ incidents a year), only 6 have safe routes; the others offer no safe passage options. A list of the schools appears at the end of this blog.

Click through to see the enlarged image.


SafePassage_Routs

Schools located in extremely high-crime areas of Chicago (Schools highlighted in green have safe passage routes):
Bennett, Bowen HS, Bradwell, Camelot Safe – Garfield Park, Camelot Safe Academy, Clark HS, Coles, Community, Ericson, Frazier Charter, Frazier Prospective, Galapagos Charter, Great Lakes Charter, Gregory, Harlan HS, Hefferan, Heroes, Herzl, Hirsch HS, Hubbard HS, Learn Charter – Butler, Leland, Mann, Mireles, Noble Charter – Academy, Noble Charter – Baker College Prep, Noble Charter – DRW, Noble Charter – Muchin, Noble Charter – Rowe Clark, Oglesby, Plato, Polaris Charter, Powell, Schmid, Shabazz Charter – Shabazz, Smith, South Shore Intl HS, Webster, Westcott, Winnie Mandela HS, YCCS Charter – Association House, YCCS Charter – CCA Academy, YCCS Charter – Community Service, YCCS Charter – Innovations, YCCS Charter – Olive Harvey, YCCS Charter – Sullivan, YCCS Charter – Youth Development

 

Implementing visualization techniques in faculty research
The image of the map reflects the different visualization techniques that might be used to effectively convey data or research conclusions to different types of audiences in various disciplines or industries. Visualizations can help identify existing or emerging trends, spot irregularities or obscure patterns, and even address or solve issues.

Ask us how to visualize your research
For help visualizing your own research findings or seeing if your research lends itself to similar techniques including data acquisition and pre-processing of both quantitative and qualitative data, contact Nandhini Gulasingam at mgulasin@depaul.edu.

Master Hoaxing at DePaul

AlanAbel

Long before punk’d became a verb with a hip spelling, self-styled professional prankster and provocateur Alan Abel was pulling the legs of the unsuspecting. There was his fictitious Society for Indecency to Naked Animals, a years-long campaign to put animals in pants; golf-course dance lessons to corporate executives in the fine points of ballet positions promised to ratchet up their golf scores; or his school for beggars, a front for spotlighting the conditions of the homeless.

The incorrigible satirist, writer, comedian, lecturer, actor, musician and public interest champion has been tweaking the media and pointing the way to his provocative punch lines for almost 60 years. This week he’s bringing his hoaxing moxie to DePaul for a series of special events sponsored by the SSRC and the College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Dean’s Office.

Meet the man at Abel Raises Cain, a documentary by his daughter that recounts the history of his elaborate and thought-provoking exploits and their too-often unquestioned acceptance. The film will screen at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 2, in McGowan South, Room 108, 1110 W. Belden Ave., and will be followed by a Q&A with Abel in person.

On Thursday, March 3, Abel will lead a workshop in which participants will devise some mischief of their own, which will be tested on the city’s streets the next day. The workshop begins at 6:30 p.m. at the DePaul Art Museum, 2nd floor events room, 935 W. Fullerton Ave.

All events are free and open to the public.  The only requirement is no requirements.