The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has had an enormous impact on the world. Many aspects of human life have been profoundly affected, from personal lives and relationships to work and how we spend our free time. Social distancing and other safety measures have permeated our everyday lives and forced us to change how we behave in ordinary situations that we may have taken for granted before.
All this has naturally had a considerable effect on professional reporting and transcription as well. Some reporters and transcribers have lost their clients, or even their jobs, when seminars, meetings and other events have been cancelled. Others have been forced to come up with new ways to practise their profession, without risk of exposing themselves to the virus or unknowingly infecting others.
These new practices are vividly discussed in this issue of Tiro. Carlo Eugeni writes about producing real-time subtitles for video meetings, which have exploded in popularity as most people have been forced to avoid physical contact. He shows that, even though there is nothing good about a deadly pandemic, it has forced real-time subtitlers to create new, innovative ways to practise their profession. In his regular scientific column at the end of the issue, Eugeni demonstrates another way in which new ways of working can affect a profession: the traditional role of professional reporter experiences an interesting shift when the reporter is present as a visible participant in a video meeting.
Social distancing and other safety measures have also had a considerable impact on parliamentary reporting across the world. Henk-Jan Eras recounts how the House of Representatives of the Netherlands has successfully managed to transport its reporting activities almost completely to the home offices of its officials. Pavel Dibelka writes about how parliamentary reporters in the Parliament of the Czech Republic have accommodated their regular method of pen shorthand with working in a special temporary session room instead of the plenary hall. These two articles show how parliaments can use very different approaches to successfully produce the official report in a time of crisis.
While coping with the pandemic, we must nonetheless continue practising and developing our professions. Lately, one rising trend in professional reporting has been multimodality: in addition to auditive information, how do we transcribe all the visual features that are relevant for the recipient? This topic is addressed very strongly in this issue of Tiro. John Vice writes about how different parliaments include body language in their official reports. Katariina Harjunpää and Suvi Kaikkonen provide an overview of conversation analytic transcription for research purposes and demonstrate how, for example, gaze and bodily conduct, and even minute interactional details such as inbreaths and changes in volume, tempo and pitch, may have important functions in conversation. Joel Snyder discusses audio description, which translates visual material into spoken language for people with low vision, helping them to participate in events and enjoy cultural phenomena that they would otherwise have no access to.
While new technologies and techniques provide us new ways to do professional reporting, it is also worthwhile delving into traditional methodologies to develop them further. Paolo Michela Zucco and Fabio Angeloni discuss the classic Michela steno machine, still in active use among professionals, and report several recent projects that have enabled it to be used in a versatile way with new languages – and even for new purposes, such as writing music.
One thing that living through the pandemic has emphasized for us very forcefully is that we should aim to work together. Knowledge and understanding grow when they are shared, helping us to reach new ideas, to create new solutions and even to increase the well-being of ourselves and others with our work. This global co-operation is beneficial to the whole reporting and transcribing community, with or without the pandemic.
Eero Voutilainen is the editor-in-chief of Tiro.