Organizing Dialogue, Experience and Knowledge for Complex Problem-Solving

two group’s dynamics

by • January 18th, 2007

I’ve had a few interesting gigs lately. Each job was for a large “small group” – 20 or more persons but with the expectation of interaction, not just one person giving a presentation. One group had a minority of Deaf persons (roughly 20%) and the other group had equal numbers of Deaf and non-deaf participants. Both groups were composed almost entirely of people who knew sign language – even the non-deaf participants (varying degrees of fluency).
There were two noticeable differences between the two groups. In the former, with the minority of Deaf persons, the dominant language was ASL: interpreters were hired to provide access for the very few non-ASL users – essentially a “one-way” communicative arrangement. In the second group, which was half-and-half, interpreters were needed to provide communicative access both ways – from the visual/gestural to the auditory/spoken and from the spoken/auditory to the gestural/visual.
Several dynamics “flowed” from these distinct demographic and linguistic configurations. Maintaining a steady flow of communication back-and-forth “across” the language difference – the auditory and visual channels – was most challenging in the evenly divided group, however with strong facilitation a surprising amount of equity was established. The ironic

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April in Australia :-)

by • January 18th, 2007

I finally registered for Critical Link V, did I already say I get a whole half hour to present on the question of whether or not interpreters are Guardians of Social Justice? The Program looks amazing.
The main task of the presentation will be to summarize a critical discourse analysis of interviews with spoken language interpreters at the European Parliament.

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identity and “selves”

by • January 16th, 2007

According to Diane M. Hoffman (working for the American Institutes for Research, Iranians conceive of an “inner self” and an “outer self” which “does not presuppose any necessary conformity between inside and outside; the two can, and in fact often do, coexist in mutually contradictory fashion, without leading to what many Westerners might experience as an uncomfortable dissonance” (1989, p. 36, Ethos).
The article, “Self and Culture Revisited: Culture Acquisition among Iranians in the United States,” piqued my imagination regarding the “culture acquisition” of delegates, staff, and interpreters at the European Parliament (EP). Hoffman describes “a dual learning process, involving, on the one hand, knowledge acquisition – a learning about culture – and, on the other, a ‘deeper’ sort of learning that involves the internalization of another cultural set of values and meanings. This second form of learning involves the inner self and affects the individual’s sense of cultural being; it is identity-impacting” (38-39).

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Backdrop

by • January 8th, 2007

As I’m going about formulating a frame for my dissertation research, it becomes clearer that it matters where I draw the line between what will be “in” the project and what must remain “outside” of it. I always knew this, but the difference now, perhaps, is a better sense (?) of what is do-able, particularly in terms of promising an outcome. I don’t mean predicting a particular or specific result, because I do not know, now, the answers to my research problem. I do mean guaranteeing with some assurance that the problem is significant and the results of rigorous examination will be worthwhile and beneficial to the narrow field of language and interpretation studies as well as to (I hope) a broader social science. But I cannot say how the leap from the subfield of interpretation to larger fields will occur. Probably there are several possibilities. I don’t want to foreclose some by too close an interest in others. I cannot see any of them; I only intuit that the connections will become evident.
That penultimate goal must wait. I have been learning a different kind of trust the past few years and I

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Blink

by • January 7th, 2007

I wrote a while back about thin-slicing. I have nearly finished Gladwell’s book on rapid cognition. He spends a chapter discussing the face, linking the ability to discern emotional expression as akin to mind-reading: in his words, “the physiological basis of how we thin-slice other people” (213). Face recognition and object recognition are usually handled by two different parts of the brain, respectively the fusiform gyrus and inferior temporal gyrus (219), but more interesting to me are two things: the interplay between voluntary and involuntary facial muscle responses, and the evidence that simply making certain facial expressions generates corresponding physiological states.
All of us can control our expressions to varying degrees, but people exert this control only after our faces have involuntarily displayed our emotional reaction. He describes several examples, including a slow-motion microexpressions of Kato Kaelin looking like “a snarling dog” during the O.J. Simpson trial (211), the smirking double-agent, Harold “Kim” Philby (211-212), “I’m a bad guy” Bill Clinton (205-206), and a psychiatric patient, Mary (208-209), citing research from Paul Ekman, Silvan Tomkins, Wallace Friesen, and Robert Levenson (singly and in various combinations). “We can use our voluntary muscular system to try to suppress those involuntary

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Controversy and Communication

by • December 17th, 2006

This conference on pedagogy next April is definitely a place I wish I could be, but instead I’ll be in Australia at Critical Link 5: Quality in Interpreting: A Shared Responsibility. I suppose I should not complain? :-/ (But when they finally get transporter technology, Beam Me Over Scottie!)
I submitted two proposals, they accepted one called “Interpreters: Guardians of Social Justice?” Meanwhile, the selected papers from Critical Link IV (held in Stockholm, 2004) are actually being printed (finally!) I don’t know where my piece is placed in the dang thing, but it is my first attempt at the kind of combination of theory-generating research and practical intervention that I hope might become “my thing.” 🙂

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blowing it :-/

by • December 11th, 2006

It has been some time since I made an error in judgment (while interpreting) that sent a deaf and non-deaf person into a spin of communicative confusion. I hope I can explain this clearly, as I realized immediately what I had done ‘wrong’ but could not un-do. Perhaps, by putting this in writing, I’ll be able to catch myself before making this faux paux again. It is familiar, if not common.
It is a classroom setting with the typical many-to-one ratio: one deaf student, a non-deaf teacher, and several non-deaf students. This deaf student has solid verbalization and strong lipreading skills, so it is one of those situations where I only work from spoken English into American Sign Language; the deaf person speaks for herself and occasionally does not even watch my interpretation. The teacher was explaining the difference between compound and complex sentences. One of the non-deaf students asked how a complex sentence is different than a comma splice. The deaf student was taking notes when the question was asked, and by the time she looked up at me I was interpreting the middle of the teacher’s explanation.
Two different ‘realities’ co-occurred. The

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Roving interpreters

by • December 10th, 2006

I tried the non-stationary method again, with one of my favorite Wanda’s as my working team, in a new setting with thirty-one non-deaf individuals and one deaf person. I arrived early enough to meet one of the event’s coordinators in the assigned room and arrange the chairs in a double concentric circle with enough room for us to walk the periphery.
I met the primary facilitator and a few key participants and explained the communication scenario to them. They were good with it, and cooperated by asking people to please keep the circle tight. Some latecomers or others who weren’t paying attention (?) did not comply, so there were a few bottlenecks. The room was barely large enough to accommodate this plan, but it was really only tight at the points where the circle’s edges came closest to the square walls. There was plenty of space in the corners (maybe we could have arranged concentric squares instead of circles?) &emdash; although this fact did not register with the facilitator or group scribe.
The dynamics are so fascinating! I know, in large part, that most people interested in accessibility have been trained to ignore the interpreter: “just

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babel

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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RID gets spammed

by • November 27th, 2006

This email is going around, strategically targeting interpreters by their town of residence.
The first one I received (November 18) read “I am Ben Woods . I saw your contact on (www.rid.org) Anyway, I am an English speaking man from Madagascar .” A few days ago, I received another. Besides the first line, the rest of the text is the same. What’s the scam, I wonder? (But not enough to respond.)
Hello,
I am Tobbie Smith . I saw your contact on (www.rid.org) Anyway, I am an English speaking man from Malta . I will be coming over to the USA(WDummerston) precisely, from 30th of Nov to 12th of Dec with my wife.
Susan my wife understands American sign language. She has never been to the USA before and so she will require the services of an Interpreter who can assist her in the course of our stay, for 10 days ( with the exception of weekends in between) and probably about 8 hours everyday because I will not always be with her on most occasions due to other functions which I must attend to.
I will want to know if you can offer your services

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