Tuesday, February 6, 2007

The power of speech

Many of the 'oral history' posts that were linked to this week don't exactly fit the dictionary definition - they're personal histories, true, but they're stories that were typed up and and created specifically for a textual format. "A Day in the Life of a Bike Courier," the blog of the public defender, and McSweeney's interviews all fall into this category. Personal blogs especially seem to be specifically non-oral histories, although, then again, some blog sites provide the option to put up a 'voice-post', thus blurring the line of definition yet again. Where does the madness stop?

The experiences of writing and speaking are, for me at least, very different. If I'm telling the story orally, I can never resist the temptation to exaggerate, to add a funny punchline - especially when I can see the reactions of people in front of me. I tend to get too excited in the telling if it's something I find cool, and then try to justify that excitement by making it as entertaining as possible - which often becomes overkill, which means that I spend half the time of telling longing for the self-edit function that typing something on a screen allows you. Visual mediums allow for much more control than aural mediums. You can change everything about the way your font looks pretty easily, but there's a limit to how much you can distort your own voice.

In the interests of exploring that line of definition, I decided to approach the oral history project by working backwards. I started with a medium that was not only textual, but couldn't be anything but textual: an interview with SmarterChild, the IM info-bot. The full text of the interview, in the original format as it appeared on the screen, can be found here. Then I used a text-to-speech converter program to translate it (with most of the obviously text-y bits taken out) into an audio format, which can be heard here.

So you tell me. Is this an oral history?


Lauren said...

I don't know if it's an oral history or not, but I do know that I laughed out loud during the part with the cat.

JessicaJ said...

Wow. That was hilarious. I think he was playing the question game with you. And he won. Evasive little guy.

Adam said...

I so loved your oral history. I played the mp3 for my wife, and she was in hysterics. Well done.