Organizing Dialogue, Experience and Knowledge for Complex Problem-Solving

Tornadoes and the Deaf Community in Western Massachusetts

by • October 13th, 2011

<center>One in Five (20%) Received Warning through their Town's Special Registry</center>

This survey generated some interesting data which might be useful in generating hypotheses for future testing and eventually guiding design for better warning systems, improved emergency preparation, and the smooth integration of emergency response service delivery to people with so-called “functional needs” or otherwise requiring “additional assistance” – particularly the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing.

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two talks at Heriot Watt

by • March 10th, 2009

for the
Centre for Translation and Interpreting Studies in Scotland, Heriot Watt University & the Translation Studies Graduate Programme, University of Edinburgh

Fishing for Culture and Missing Language:
Interpretation and Organizational Creativity

Culture(s) and discourse(s) are among the most unmanageable elements of international business. “You can’t model panic.” Patterns of cultural interaction and, especially, the range of interpretations of these patterns, have profound effects on the design and implementation of business plans. For instance, are differences of language a problem or a benefit? Do the homogenizing effects of using English as the language of international management outweigh the constant adaptation required by working multilingually? Discourses about simultaneous interpretation (SI) at the European Parliament (with its 23 working languages) pit danger and loss against loss and resignation. “Loss” of fluency and clarity worries professional interpreters at the European Parliament (EP) and “loss” of direct contact between interlocutors (users of interpreting services, in this case Members of the EP) seem – counterintuitively – to express anxieties about multilingualism and the possibilities for control. Understood as a practice of intercultural communication, the tensions made evident when simultaneous interpretation is used are a vital source of creativity typically overlooked because of conditioned (monolingual) preferences for using a

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Rosa Lee: got it going on!

by • January 2nd, 2009

Grrl is rocking, there’s no doubt! 🙂

I wrote about another music video that she has interpreted in her wonderful style, from artificial code to organic language. In Cry Me A River, she has adapted the lyrics about a heterosexual (male/female) relationship to apply to the cross-cultural interaction of Deaf and “hearing” (non-deaf).

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It just ain’t the same!

by • April 7th, 2008

Weird how certain things come up in bursts, isn’t it? In the past month I’ve encountered three situations involving some combination of Deaf people, American Sign Language, and Koko, the “signing” gorilla.
To be fair, as I consider this, I would probably have to converse with Koko myself to know whether I thought there was actual language happening – you know, the kind of communication that we consider the particularly special feature of language. My understanding is that Koko knows some “signs,” responding “appropriately” to some of them and and generating some “signs” herself (is Koko a she?) Please don’t misunderstand me, I think it is awesome that there is such strong evidence of high-order cognition from other animals besides ourselves, and I want gorillas to persist on the planet. In fact, I would be stunned and amazed and thrilled, actually, if humans could develop languages or other means of communication that enabled us to learn from the other animals what they know about living on earth. Maybe signed language is one of those modes – just like human babies can learn to project meaning with signs sooner than they can project meaning with spoken words

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Just like fingerspelling?!

by • December 5th, 2007

fi yuo cna raed tihs, yuo hvae a sgtrane mnid too Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can. i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! if you can raed tihs forwrad it.

Ok – so “new research” is apparently untrue, although there is something to be said for “the role of letter order on reading.” Matt Davis has compiled an impressive corpus of equivalents in at least thirty languages, along with references and commentary from original and follow-up research in this area of word-form research. The number of letters in the word has quite a lot to do with whether the mind can

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reducing art to programming :-(

by • September 16th, 2007

I have a mixed reaction, leaning to the negative, concerning news of a software translation program for British Sign Language. The avatars look cool, and the idea is neat, but I cannot imagine that Artificial Intelligence has suddenly improved so much that the translations represent a wide swath of potential meanings instead of a cookie-cutter one-size-fits-all reduction to dictionary definitions.
I was surprised at the endorsement from the Royal National Institute for Deaf people (RNID), until I looked at their website. I admit, I have not looked all that closely and do not know any contextualizing history…but the RNID is registered as a charity and the products on the home page are geared to late-deafened and hard-of-hearing people, not the culturally Deaf who use BSL as their native language.
In other words, the avatar system might work just fine for people using BSL now but whose first language is English. Notice the difference in the homepage of the British Deaf Association Sign Community. In fact, looking at their internal link on language, I’d say it looks like the most useful thing allies and advocates can do is make BSL legal and – therefore – subject to anti-discrimination law.


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Instruction in ASL

by • September 9th, 2007

I should have watched these training clips about using a Blackberry before signing my presentation in class the other day! The discourse structure of ASL is evident in each clip: first, the point, second – the illustration, third, the point again/expanded. One can watch how technical terminology is introduced and then incorporated naturally – with the side effect of contributing to the standardization of new terms in the lexicon. (I notice he does not fingerspell “email” for instance, which will annoy at least a few of my purist friends!) There’s evidence of contextualization: the same sign is used for “escape” and “sprint” – illustrating how meaning coheres in different combinations of signifiers/signifieds within different languages. (Hence, why interpreters, when asked, “What’s the sign for _______?” usually say, “It depends.”) Finally, there is much to notice about the logic of the visual in ASL.
This is an area in which (it seems to me), non-deaf people need serious education. I, myself, am still learning how to shift out of the linearity of sound-based logic to the three-dimensionality of the visual – eighteen years (!) after I began to learn ASL. One of the most

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Interpreted Music

by • September 7th, 2007

God is a DJ, by Faithless.
The signer is using British Sign Language (note the two-handed alphabet for “D” and “J”). He seems to rely on a literal translation, taking few liberties with BSL’s capacity to generate meaning beyond the coded English. Since I do not actually know BSL, this is just an impression, but notice the production difference between the song lyrics and the clip of Deaf Britons talking. I’m not referring to the stylistic use of no facial expression – I assume this is an aesthetic choice by the interpreter – rather, the difference in the general animation of the language in use.
Cool. Very very cool. 🙂 Thanks David!

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by • December 4th, 2006

Uttered in at least five languages (Arabic, Spanish, English, Japanese Sign Language, and Japanese), this film plays with the stereotype that different languages are a problem. As we follow the stories of four families, one realizes the source of confusion is not “in” the language; rather, it is the challenge of interpreting language in the context of a given person’s life story.
The relationships and connections among members of these families range from the incidental to the intimate. “May I speak with you, sir?” inquires a police officer? “There’s been an incident.” “I have raised these children, fed them breakfast, lunch, and dinner their entire lives, can’t you tell me if they are alright?” “That’s none of your concern,” replies the immigration officer.
There are two threads linking these families, two factors that bind them together tight: violence and the law. More specifically, a rifle and the institution of law enforcement, with the manipulations of politics hovering in the background. Acts of innocence and practicality unfold in scenarios of accident and opportunism. Babel exposes the vise of circumstance and consequence: in Morocco suspects are brutalized by military police, in Japan interviews are civil and police

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Language and Me

by • October 24th, 2006

Disability comes in all shapes, sizes, modes, and effects. There are legally-recognized versions and emotional varieties. These, or any number of indeterminate cognitive and psychiatric peculiarities, can interfere with intimate relationships and social interactions. For instance, people look at me and see a woman with a mullet who appears physically fit. What do they know? No, I don’t meet the federal criteria of “impairment of a major life function” (Americans with Disabilities Act 1990). I can breathe, walk, grasp, talk, feel, think, and otherwise function within the range of physicality deemed normal. Who decided to limit “normal” and impose such a measure for judging character or the potential worth of one’s contributions to society? Individuals will not claim responsibility, of course. Such boundaries and markers of difference are established ‘out there’ by impersonal forces of culture. The representations are propagated through the media, religion, and a disturbing range of incidental, informal taboos and negative sanctions. Questioning these norms is often considered problematic, disruptive, or unpleasant. When I do wonder about the so-called normal, people situate me clearly: I am deviant.
Fitting few standard stereotypes, I have learned to live through language. Sentiments not spoken affected me first.

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