Missing Heartbeat: Non Speech Information or Mood Creator?

While researching captions and captioning, I came across the work of Brenda Jo Brueggemann. I then found her video, Why I Mind, on YouTube. Short, intense, focused, and engaging. However, I encountered a component that interested me: from minute 2:00 to 2:30 in the background a heartbeat can be heard in the soundtrack while describing a tense situation. The heartbeat works to increase the feeling of tension, anxiety--especially because it ends when she describes the death of a D/deaf student.

However, there is no indication of the heartbeat in the captions.

The heartbeat does not seem to be non-speech information, from what I can tell, as Zdenek describes it: NSI "includes sound descriptions, speaker IDs, manners of speaking, music lyrics, and any other information that might be needed to convey a full understanding of the sound track." The heartbeat has nothing to do directly with anything depicted in the images or the speech on the video. However, the heartbeat is there and it directly impacts the viewer and potentially their experience of the text. Perhaps it could be considered akin to a musical soundtrack? If we look at Snell (2012), this omission is important:

“Closed captioning’s success ... lies in its ability to assist the viewer in not only understanding the denotative meaning being expressed in the spoken dialogue of a captioned piece, but also more importantly by captioning’s proficiency in facilitating in its users emotional experiences that coincide with those suggested by and made available through the mix of spoken dialogue, music, and the visual action of the captioned media.” 

“Such an understanding of closed captioning departs from general conceptions and studies of it that define its effectiveness and efficiency as being nearly exclusively contingent upon logo-centric variables. That is, the previous conception of it as not only assisting the viewer in understanding the denotative meaning being expressed in the spoken dialogue via its textual translation but also as enabling emotional experiences, departs from the traditional view of captioning’s success as being dependent on language –based variables that enable denotative comprehension alone” (emphasis added; Snell, 3 2012).

If we want captions to connect with the viewer, the reader, and to fully convey a level of connection that Hearing viewers have, if one of captioning's key goals is to provide equivalent experiences--at least so far as possible--for those hearing the soundtrack to videos and those who are D/deaf (and Snell asserts this reading of U.S. Public Law (PL) 85- 905 and PL 87-715 on pages 5-6 in her dissertation), then something seems to be missing. When considering the ethos and pathos that Brueggeman builds in the piece, the heartbeats clearly add on value and weight to the text.

This is situation is interesting, important, and compelling. It is exactly this type of situation that could benefit from additional or new approaches to captioning. Perhaps a caption could have read, "sound of heart beat" or "heart beating in background." Perhaps the screen could have pulsed along in time with the heart beat. Perhaps the captioned text could have pulsed. Or perhaps something not mentioned here.

My purpose is not to be difficult or to pick on an independently produced video. Well-captioned videos are hard enough to find, much less an indie video with good captions. However, I wonder if it is not with these smaller videos, with the independent producers and creators, that we can test out new approaches to captioning, that we can experiment with new technologies or try out innovations. 

A final note: I literally just stumbled across this video, and it happened to have a gap that I've been reading, writing, and thinking a lot about lately. This piece was selected for no other reason than that.