Where are the V-lists

I’ve been following several debates on a list for Deaf academics recently. It’s predominantly a list with academics in the US, UK, Australia etc… there are very few from non-English writing countries and all discussions are held in written English.

So, a recently mail caught my eye asking why it was that there was no method for posting in sign language – either ASL, BSL or any other – to help those academics who aren’t so comfortable with English to quickly access the discussions.

The idea that this is even a sensible suggestion is one that asks some pretty tough spatial questions of the linguistic prowess that the hearing world professes over the DEAF community. Hearing world taken-for-granted linguistic/national divisions look rather silly when you consider that a group of internationally dispersed DEAF academics could conduct academic discussions using sign languages and all make sense of each other.

When you see DEAF people communicating at something like a World Federation of the Deaf meet, the idea that hearing people struggle to communicate effectively with a person who’s grown up only a few miles from us makes our spoken ‘languages’ look rather pathetic.

Compared to the way in which natural sign languages are able to flow towards each other in the iconic – spoken languages’ sound=morpheme system is very limited.

So sure – sign language can’t talk round blind corners – and isn’t so easy if you’ve got both hands full. But spoken language is just as limited, but in different ways.

No one is ‘better’ – just different – and to work effectively – each exudes different space.

Anyway – back to the original question – where are the V-lists?

Well – the fact I’m writing this in English suggests that it’s not quite as easy to post in sign. I’d have to record it first using tech that’s not always available, then store it somewhere, then embed it – whereas with WordPress I simply point, click and type.

But it is possible with something like Twitter – you can simply start the tweet, and then video – twitter does the linking and sends out a message with the URL included.

The web is still a largely text-based space – that’s a systemic limitation imposed by the space that a text vs. a video file takes up. But there are ways around that. Clunky though they might be, perhaps we need to start exploring those as a way of suggesting an alternative use of online spaces, one more suited to Deaf geographies?

A different version of this post, with thoughts expanded slightly differently, is available at http://mikegulliver.wordpress.com/2011/09/08/where-are-the-v-lists/

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