Will the murder case in Serial be cracked by speech-to-text?

(Spoiler alert: probably not.)

This week we analyzed the speech-to-text output of all of the available episodes of Serial and ran them through Pop Up Archive data visualization tools to see which terms and themes appear most frequently across episodes.

If you’ve been listening along, you’ll instantly understand why certain tags, like “Best Buy,” and “Lincoln Park” [sic] appear so prominently.

Though the output stops short of pairing “Adnan” with “innocent” or “Jay” with “liar,” it’s thrilling nonetheless to see Serial’s audio-based saga reflected so accurately in machine-made keyword tags. 

Fun fact: Wondering why Serial producer Julie Snyder and This American Life creator Ira Glass both appear in the tags, while Serial’s own creator, Sarah Koenig, does not? Turns out, Pop Up’s software thinks the name Sarah “Koenig” sounds a lot more like “Sarah Kane. Ick.” We edited this tag out, along with some other winners (like “breakfast cereal”). Bear with us, speech recognition is a work in progress!