Deaf geographies, and other worlds.

Stretching informatics

My brother‘s been in touch… he works in informatics in Henley Business School. His particular interests are

  • Social informatics and collaborative systems – computer-supported cooperative work, community systems, social networks, human-computer interaction, information retrieval, data mining, business intelligence, media informatics.
  • Perceptual, Usability and Information Acquisition – Quantifying the perceptual impact of emerging technologies; human-centric data manipulation; eye-tracking and attentive displays, as well as intelligent systems and human-computer interaction.

All so much jargon?

OK… put it this way. At the moment… if you’re Deaf… all you get in terms of technology are things to ‘assist’ you in a predominently hearing world… things like vibrating pagers for fire alarms and flashing doorbells…

Imagine then if – instead of this – your predominently visual way of accessing information was simply another, equally valid way that wasn’t so much ‘catered for’ as simply ‘there’…

The significance of the shift is hard to make if you’ve not seen it in action… so here’s a taster from the world of architecture.

For the last three years, Hansel Bauman has been leading a project in Gallaudet, in the US, to define what a Deaf Archtecture might look like. The results of this are stunning… built spaces formed in the round rather than at angles, transparency and waist-high walls, inter-storey permeability, sign language-tailored walkways with no street furniture to bump into, polarising windows for privacy rather than doors… You can have a look at the blog that emerged here and at some of the feedback information in a magazine article here.

What’s key to this is allowing Deaf people to entirely re-imagine the role of the built environment in a way that originates within Dear people’s visual being-in-the-world as ‘People of the Eye’ (Veditz 1913), rather than taking a hearing-centred design and simply ‘adapting it’. ‘Deaf space’ as they’ve (somewhat confusingly) called it is not a ‘secondary’ space… but a space that is entirely valid… with a different point of origin.

So, what might this do to informatics if the same idea was applied? It’s hard isn’t it… we’re so used to text-oriented, linear-string information storage and retrieval… But imagine what the world of informatics might look like if it originated within the visual spaces of the Deaf community? A focus on visual communication quality?  Control interfaces that leave the hands free? Circular and multi-entangled information storage and retrieval? Multicast communications to a linguistically flexible audience? Semiotic rather than text bookmarking?

I can’t begin to imagine what it might be like… but I’m looking forward to finding out!


This entry was posted on June 2, 2010 by in DEAF and tagged , , , , , .
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