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 On September 12, the conference room of Palazzo Marini in Rome was the scene of a press conference during which the Board of the Association onA.I.R. presented its activities and especially the project “OltreSuoni”.

 I will neither dwell on the details of this project, as they have been widely explained by the Board in the press releases and in other online notices, nor will I expand on the other ambitious goals this newly found Association wants to pursue. I only want to underline a few points which have favourably impressed me and which I feel compelled to underscore, as I consider them meaningful and strategically important, not least because of the future possible cooperation with the Academy “Giuseppe Aliprandi-Flaviano Rodriguez” and, more generally, because they will likely lead to fruitful partnerships with other bodies, also at international level, such as Intersteno.

 The first documents analysed already show a solid background, much enthusiasm, strong motivations and shared projects, which brought the young members of the Association to the awareness that, when the goals to be pursued are clear, it is possible to go from mere theoretical debates to practical actions, thus giving substance to an organic plan of shared efforts, instruments and strategies. The theoretical structure is well thought-through: the various engagements are clearly scheduled and the results are verified by means of continuous assessments. These elements shall be one of the strongholds and pillars of credibility of each action; this makes it possible to avert the risk – which all too often becomes real in collective bodies – that the promoters of remarkable initiatives waste precious energies on sterile, wearing, sometimes misleading debates or on abstract analyses. This occurs because the principle on which all the activities of the association are based is often misunderstood or overthought, i.e. to ensure everyone’s conscious and democratic participation in common decisions.

 In its first contacts with the outside world, onA.I.R. has already proved that, when the goals of a project also include an approach to social issues as well as the will to identify and find a solution for some of the needs that today’s society can’t always define clearly, the path chosen will inevitably present obstacles, which can, however, be overcome. This becomes especially challenging when trying to respond to needs which state institutions cannot satisfy in a qualified, professional and timely fashion. It is precisely the amount of effort required that makes this project credible in the eyes of the public; it also serves as catalyst of new energies, attracting in this specific case new members: the many membership applications received by the Association in these past few months are clear proof of its ability to attract interest and spur public opinion. Interest has been shown not only by recent graduates, but also by transcribers, stenotypists and other professionals of written communication, such as translators and interpreters, who consider onA.I.R. a good partner with whom to tackle subjects of common interest. Together they pursue a gradual and mutual enrichment and want to overcome that barrier of indifference, or sometimes even hostility, which has so far prevented the tackling of common problems, among which the real recognition of their professional value, not only from an economic perspective. Thanks to its nation-wide network of members and the partnerships it has been establishing and will soon consolidate with the academic and professional world, onA.I.R. has all it takes to become a qualified impartial body giving voice to all the various professions dealing with speech processing, regardless of the instruments and techniques used.

 Unfortunately, as is often the case, onA.I.R. has already received criticism. During the conference Francesco Cellini, who works as a court consultant, presented a report in which he explained how, even before the actual launch of the project “OltreSuoni” – and generally speaking of the activities of the Association, – there have been sceptical reactions to this innovative approach which is tentatively and strenuously being applied to the world of language processing.

 These opinions are a priori negative, result from a lack of knowledge and often from the malice of narrow-minded people or anyway people who have an obsolete and limited idea of a one-sided job; trying to start or rekindle sterile debates over the alleged superiority of one instrument or technology over another means ignoring a generally acknowledged principle: now, and even more in the future, our instruments will not be alone in undergoing a process of constant and frantic evolution and subsequently of equally fast obsolescence; the operators shall have to change their approach and mindset to be in tune with technological evolution. Each professional shall be flexible enough to adapt to an ever-changing field of work presenting continuous new incentives, contents and motivations. The alleged superiority of one instrument over another only stirs up sterile debates which damage everybody, but nevertheless do not scare off these young people, who are well aware of the challenges they will have to face and know that new impetus will derive from such criticism.

 In this case as well – as in the recent debate online - I could perceive the truth of what influential colleagues, among whom I feel compelled to mention Gian Paolo Trivulzio, have always asserted and proved in their work, i.e. that the work of report writers does not gain in quality and stature only through the instruments and technology used, but above all through a solid cultural background. This cultural background is the cornerstone granting distinguishing character and adding value to each performance; the best results can be achieved with the most advanced software and technologies only if culture is combined with the intelligent and skilful use of said technologies. This is a generally valid principle which positively affects every human activity. An expert of written documentation plays the role of faithful “intermediary” between a subject (the source of communication) and another (the target of said communication) and shall, as such, be aware that the transformation of speech into writing entails a vast-ranging knowledge, strong motivations and continuous self-training or, in modern words, lifelong learning.

 The Board of onA.I.R. and the members attending the conference which took place at the University of Roma Tre showed the same enthusiasm which in the past pervaded shorthand writers who fought hard to overcome contending opinions of the different systems, currents of thoughts and underlying economic interests; not many years ago these divisions hindered the development of wide-ranging projects targeted at real progress and research.

 On the contrary, the perseverance of onA.I.R. in pursuing the goals of the Association is confirmed by the network of contacts the Board has already put in place, both at the level of university and applied research and in the economic, social and also political field.

 The initiative is supported by authoritative political figures, who have personally contributed to the passing of legislative measures in Parliament which will serve as clear framework for the future actions onA.I.R. wants to launch at national level. New ground is now open at university level for those working in the field of electronic speech processing, i.e. respeaking or stenotyping. This is proved by the excellent projects launched for instance at the universities of Roma Tre, Macerata and Parma, where courses and masters have been started, in which both recorded and real-time subtitling is taught. These experiences concretize within a privileged environment the results of the research Carlo Eugeni started back in 2004 at the University Federico II of Naples. The relations with and the involvement of universities were wished for by stenography and typewriting teachers – who were especially perceptive towards the new trends already emerging in the 70s – in their closing addresses for conferences and research meetings.

 A last thought: with reference to the research and studies at university level, I had the chance to read some excerpts from the masters thesis written by Francesca Marchionne, current President of onA.I.R. It is a well thought-out essay, undoubtedly the most recent contribution in the field, a unique reference point with many and rich in-depth analyses of the various aspects of text processing through speech recognition software. Other theses in the past researched issues relating to written documentation, focussing on the activity of court or assembly report writers. In this area there is the need for specific training courses for transcribers, with the aim of helping them achieve higher quality standards. All these academic studies indicate the beginning of a new phase, which will effectively contribute to the development of speech recording techniques: in the meantime, research and studies in the graphic and stenographic field, which seemed destined to be put aside, have been taken up with renewed ardour, scientific rigour and authoritativeness. It is with great satisfaction that we see new scholars follow the research path which had been traced by great masters, from the inventors of stenographic methods to scholars such as Giulietti, Aliprandi and Rodriguez. I wish them all full success.

 

Mr Luigi Zambelli

Council Member of the “Giuseppe Aliprandi-Flaviano Rodriguez”  Academy 

for Multimedia Writing and Communication

 

Translation by Cristina Tabbia

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