Deaf geographies, and other worlds.
Apologies to those who have no cultural reference for the title… I seem to make a habit of using song lyrics to sum up how I feel.
This time, it’s from a song by Dire Straits, where the lyrics run:
Sometimes you’re the windshield
Sometimes you’re the bug
… Sometimes you’re the louisville slugger
Sometimes you’re the ball
Sometimes it all comes together baby
Sometimes you’re going to lose it all
So, why do I suddenly feel like the bat that knocked the ball out of the park… more importantly, why did I include the end of the verse “you’re going to lose it all”?
Well, you’ll know if you follow the blog, that I’ve been involved in a project to create a Deaf map of Bristol. The project, variously entitled “Map Your Bristol”, and “Know Your Place: On The Move”… runs through to March next year, with the aim of co-producing something around the idea of mapping Deaf people’s knowledge of the city.
Again, if you follow the blog, you’ll know that I’ve struggled to elicit interest from the local Deaf community around this project. One of the reasons for this is that we (at the University of Bristol) have such a poor record of co-production with the Deaf community. Most of our engagements with the Deaf community have been one-way (we take from them), and tragically short (running for the term of a project, and then stopping).
This means that, even if Deaf people are interested in the subject, we’ve never really modelled any way to work with them to set up and run a project that is co… CO-produced, where the Deaf community (or communities) have an equal say in what we do, where we go, and why and how it runs.
It took a while to realise this. And once I did, it completely shifted the focus of the project for me… from “I need to find Deaf people who can work with me to get data into the project”… to “I need to find Deaf people who can begin to talk about how we create a healthy working relationship between the university and the Deaf community”.
I know Deaf people like that nationally – but not locally.
And then yesterday, I met some. A planned encounter, set up through a vague link with someone else on the project… ended up with me sitting down for coffee with four local Deaf people, who quickly understood the project, loved the idea, and immediately started coming up with suggestions of not only how to work within the project framework, but how to extend it beyond and into something much more sustained between the Deaf community and the University.
After over 6 months of being the ball… yesterday, I picked up the bat, and smacked the ball out of the park.
Or, did I…?
Because of course it’s not ‘me’. Now, it’s ‘us’. In fact, the initial plan for how to proceed isn’t even ‘us’, it’s ‘them’, with me riding in on their coat-tails offering advice, expertise and support.
In fact, it all happened so quickly, that I’m not sure that that even accurately describes the situation. Or that I entirely understand what I’m now involved in. All I know is that I’m not running it on my own any more.
And that necessarily means a loss of control.
Is this… maybe, actually… co-production?
It’s wonderful !