Over the last two months, I have been transcribing filler words from recordings of dialogue, TV and films. I started by recording people talking with a Dictaphone, instructing them to talk with no topic or guidance given. This was a way of getting recordings of natural dialogue, from which I could later extract filler words. I also recorded presentations and meetings etc. to capture individuals talking in front of an audience and also group discussions. I then started to transcribe footage of celebrities in interviews and documentaries. Some of the most interesting pieces of footage I transcribed were interviews with Quentin Tarantino. I chose to transcribe footage of him, firstly because of my respect for him as a writer and director and secondly because of his mannerisms. I have always noticed that he is a very fast and expressive talker, using lots of physical gestures and filler words. After transcribing footage of him, I decided to transcribe one of his movies. At this point I drew up a list of filler words that I would transcribe from all of my found footage (oh, ah, uh, um, erm, er, mm and hmm). I set myself certain words, to keep things simple and to allow patterns to form in my transcriptions. I transcribed the listed filler words from Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (results below).
Oh mm hmm oh oh uh mm hmm uh uh uh uh oh oh oh hmm uh uh uh uh uh oh oh oh oh er oh uh oh mm hmm um ah mm uh uh uh mm mm uh uh uh oh oh oh oh uh uh oh oh uh oh oh mm hmm uh uh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh mm oh oh oh mm hmm mm hmm mm hmm uh uh uh uh uh oh uh um mm uh uh uh uh er uh uh oh oh oh oh uh um ah um mm hmm.
Although I was happy with my results, I wanted to capture more natural dialogue. As movies are generally script based, I decided to look for something with more improvisation. This is when I decided to transcribe news programmes. News programmes do not follow scripts in the typical sense and are mainly made up of live footage, interviews and updates. I transcribed a one hour news programme to see what results I would get (results below).
One hour of news (Channel 4 news)
Er, erm, er, er, er, um, um, um, erm, er, er, erm, er, er, er, er, er, erm, erm, er, erm, erm, er, uh, uh.
After this I decided to take it up a notch, and following Kenneth Goldsmith’s example, I transcribed 24 hours of news from the digital BBC news channel. Until this point I was using my information to produce short readings and was unsure of what I would do with the information, but after I got my results from the 24 hour news project I decided to start producing books.
After this I decided to take it up a notch, and I transcribed all of the spoken filler words from twenty four hours of news from the digital BBC news channel. As well as wanting the information; I wanted to use this as an experience. I was curious about what it would be like to undertake the task of transcribing twenty four hours of news. This was a way to gather data and also a create act and a kind of endurance test. Until this point I was using my information to produce short readings, resemblant of abstract poems. After I got my results from the 24 hour news project I decided to start producing books, as I wanted to undertake longer projects and produce bigger, more complex works. I would consider the medium of the handmade book to the most efficient and appropriate way of containing and presenting my text works, because books can be used in various different ways and are accessible to most audiences. I aimed to produce simple, cheaply made paperback books, that are fairly uniform in style to encourage the spectator to handle them and not treat them as artefacts.