Caption Fail: “Ickle Me Pickle Me Tickle Me Too”

So, my first mistake here was trying to trick the technology. Apparently, YouTube’s closed caption function is flawed enough on its own that I didn’t need to challenge it with a nonsensical recording.  I chose to read aloud Shel Silverstein’s “Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me Too” from Where the Sidewalk Ends because it is a short poem that I have loved since I was a kid. I had memorized the poem in middle school and wanted to read it aloud for this caption fail project because it as a fun, silly, sing-songy rhythm.  There are almost no matching words from the YouTube closed caption to the actual poem, so I’ve posted the actual words to the poem here:

Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me too
Went for a ride in a flying shoe.
“What fun!”
“It’s time we flew!”
Said Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me too.

Ickle was captain, and Pickle was crew
And Tickle served coffee and mulligan stew
As higher
And higher
And higher they flew,
Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me too.

Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me too,
Over the sun and beyond the blue.
“Hold on!”
“Stay in!”
“I hope we do!”
Cried Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me too.

Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle too
Never returned to the world they knew,
And nobody
Knows what’s
Happened to
Dear Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me too.

So those are the silly words I was hoping YouTube would capture. I think the captioning is so inaccurate for a few reasons. First, I was recording my reading in a public space with people walking around and talking, which the captioning seems to have picked up a bit of. Second, I read the poem really fast (even this small bit of performing made me nervous!) and with that sing song-y rhythm I had first memorized it with. Finally, the names and the content of the poem in general are nonsensical.  I guess the rhythm and silly content are important to the poem as a work of art and to my interpretation of it though, and YouTube’s captioning has lost that importance.

I’m not sure this video poem constitutes a “Stir Fry Text” as Andrews defines it, though I do think it may be an example of a cut-up.  Andrews says of stir fry texts that their “spastic interactivity” give to the texts a “unified character or personality even in its transformations.” In other words, stir fry texts work through “meaningful association, not just widely combinatorial permutation.”  The idea of a unified character and meaningful  association seems an out of place description for what YouTube has done with this particular video.  Perhaps in another video post where the captioning was a bit more accurate to the audio recording you could consider the captions and the audio a kind of meaningful, unified stir fry text, but not here because there are hardly any points of meaningful associativity between the audio and the captions in this video.

I do think maybe this video post/caption fail could be considered a cut up, a broader category than that of the stir fry text.  Andrews explains that the “literary heritage of the cut up has been richly congruent with the spirit of a lot of contemporary Web art” because of “the mechanical nature of cut ups that suits them well to Web art” and computers in general.”  More specifically, through mechanical processes, “the computer has contributed to knowledge a deeper understanding of process, of processes. Computers are processing machines, they are process machines” and “the random and semi-mindless experimentation in writing or art more generally” can be picked up computers’ mechanical processes and made into cut ups.  Sooooo, in the case of my silly poem video post caption fail, maybe the YouTube captioning feature is picking up on some feature of language and the way I’ve interpreted language that I didn’t intend or couldn’t apprehend beforehand.  Although, this seems to me to be a generous interpretation of the inaccuracies of the captioning here. And, if the mechanical processes of the captioning feature are picking up on some meaningful linguistic process or features that I’m unaware of, then I guess that might give the audio text and the captioning some meaningful associativity to one another. So, maybe it’s both a stir fry and a cut up…

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