Louise Hickman and Shannon Finnegan: Captioning on Captioning

Captioning on Captioning

Louise Hickman and Shannon Finnegan

7 minutes 52 seconds

Note: An audio described version of Captioning on Captioning will be released in the future.

This exhibition has ended.

Captioning on Captioning (2020) is a short film by Louise Hickman (London, UK) and Shannon Finnegan (New York City, US) in collaboration with real-time writer Jennifer (San Diego, US). The film was first conceived as a way to document the failure of speech-to-text translation work and to focus on the intimate knowledge and care required to produce access. Louise is a reader of real-time writing and a researcher of data, AI ethics, and access work. Jennifer previously worked with Louise for over eight years in San Diego. Shannon is a disabled artist who utilises and folds the collective practices of accessibility into their artwork.

Over a period of four meetings in late 2020, the group worked to externalise the process and practice of real-time writing for Deaf and hard of hearing readers. By inverting the invisibility of real-time writing, we edited the film to show discrete moments of care, vulnerability, and intimacy. Utilising the share-screen function on Zoom, a cultural artefact of pandemic mediations into our private living spaces, Louise and Shannon were presented with an insight into the machination of Jennifer’s work, including dictionary building, transcription errors, and speech-to-text latency. How do we cultivate a shared responsibility for workers labouring to produce access? In the process of editing the film, we questioned the impulse to edit out phonetic mishaps or tidy up the dialogue between the collaborators as a testament to the growing demands of real-time work. And those demands replicate the ideal of the automation of text (i.e., mechanical labour) that is shaped by a complete and objective view of translation work: that is, the implicit assumption that captioning is moving audible information from one medium to another. Instead, Shannon and Louise assumed partial views of the captioning process to find and situate a meaningful engagement with the process of captioning under real-time pressure.

Captioning on Captioning is commissioned by LUX as part of a new ongoing series exploring access in artists’ moving image.


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