Which sounds are significant? Towards a rhetoric of closed captioning

Click here to find Sean Zdenek’s, Texas Tech University, article as published by Disability Studies Quarterly which is published by The Ohio State University Libraries in partnership with the Society for Disability Studies.


This article offers a way of thinking about closed captioning that goes beyond quality (narrowly defined in current style guides in terms of visual design) to consider captioning as a rhetorical and interpretative practice that warrants further analysis and criticism from scholars in the humanities and social sciences. A rhetorical perspective recasts quality in terms of how genre, audience, context, and purpose shape the captioning act. Drawing on a range of Hollywood movies and television shows, this article addresses a set of topics that are central to an understanding of the effectiveness, significance, and reception of captions: overcaptioning, undercaptioning, subtitles vs. captions, the manipulation of time, non-speech information, series awareness, and the backchannel.

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