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Reading SoundsClosed-Captioned Media and Popular Culture$
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Sean Zdenek

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226312644

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226312811.001.0001

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Captioned Silences and Ambient Sounds

Captioned Silences and Ambient Sounds

(p.183) Six Captioned Silences and Ambient Sounds
Reading Sounds

Sean Zdenek

University of Chicago Press

Silence isn’t included in our discussions or definitions of closed captioning but it sometimes needs to be closed captioned. Captioners not only inscribe sounds in writing but must also account for our assumptions about the nature, production, and reception of sounds. This chapter provides an ontology of captioned silences by discussing three types: The illusion of audible speech (mouthed words), the termination of sustained sounds, and the insertion of phantom words. The second half of this chapter discusses the challenges of captioning ambient sounds and music, which are too often reduced to discrete captions and lyrics only. This chapter aims to redraw two main boundaries around captioning. First, the boundary that defines captioning in terms of objectively verifiable sounds. Every definition of closed captioning tends towards positivism by treating captioning as an exercise in translating audio content. But not everything that needs to be captioned can be empirically verified outside of specific visual and narrative contexts. Second, the boundary that equates non-speech information (NSI) with speaker identification and screen placement. A broader view of NSI accounts for how sound functions rhetorically (in specific contexts and for specific purposes) and ideologically (according to the rules and assumptions of how sound works in film).

Keywords:   silence, ambience, backchannel, keynote sounds, background music

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