Deaf geographies, and other worlds.

The ‘Toothpaste tube’ effect

I was reading something this morning, and I came across a phrase I’d not seen before. The writer referred to the ‘Toothpaste tube’ effect.

Puzzled, I went to look at the article.

Apparently, the toothpaste tube effect is when: 

… if you « squeeze » controversial images and comments from one [Internet] service, they outflow and relocate elsewhere.

I’ve not seen this label used before, but I’ve seen the effect… in particular, in Deaf history, where Deaf people become used to being able to produce Deaf spaces in particular locations, and then find themselves squeezed out of those locations, and set up others.

I’ve even written about this in my own work, and used the word ‘squeeze’.

Who knew..?

Anyway, that’s not really the point. The point was that it set me thinking about what happens after the squeezing, and the relocating. And what tends to happen is that there’s always a redistribution. Spaces are never quite the same.

Do they change because of attrition? In other words, do some elements never move, and just drop by the wayside?

Do they change because of evolution? Were they, perhaps, ready to change and they took advantage of the move to do so?

Do they change to fit? Is it the case that the new context into which they go isn’t just a void… there’s always ‘something’ there that has its own rules they have to fit with? 

Or maybe all, or none, or some of these… and I’m sure there are more.

But it did make me wonder how much work has been done looking at the spatial toothpaste after it’s left the tube, and what spaces and forms it takes. It doesn’t, after all, simply sit there as a minty puddle… it gradually forms another container around itself, another structure, another set of ‘normals’, and then moves on into another life. 

Which then took me to a potential project that a friend and colleague of mine is working on to look at what happens when a community (the Deaf community in this case) loses its spaces and places. 

The more I think about it, the more fascinating that project is becoming to me.

2 comments on “The ‘Toothpaste tube’ effect

  1. MM
    August 13, 2014

    Deaf need not lose any space, if they don’t keep chasing the impossible, i.e. a static and permanent deaf community area. I think that has gone, like many others, unsure transferring it online is good for any community, hearing are already losing the ability to manage relationships one to one, let alone belong to a community of real people day in and day out, which is the corner-stone or used to be, of the deaf community..

    The deaf ‘space’ collapsed with the internet. Sadly so did the community as it was. I recall desperate attempts to prevent anyone hearing or non signing/cultural from joining deaf sites of any kind, they lost that approach and were left with sites that got no input. They went to social media and still attempt the same approach, even deaf youtube signing sites still attempt to prevent anyone else having a look in or to participate because they are scared of inclusivity and ‘loss of cultural participation’, it’s called equality, which has been a double-edged sword to the deaf and an area they struggle with.

    There are many who hold the view deaf culture is done for if it accepts equality, since they feel deafness is no match for hearing, and they would be buried out of sight. So they exist in ‘enclaves’ online until some get bored and move to other areas where they see more of ‘their kind excluding this hearing 5th column.

    • Mike Gulliver
      August 14, 2014

      I think things do have to move with the times… certainly, it’s going to put the Deaf community increasingly out of step with the rest of Western society to have specific ‘static and permanent Deaf community areas’… That said, they exist for other groups: churches being one (although in many ways, churches are facing the same debates).

      Whether a ‘space’ is constituted as a permanent and static location is another question entirely. My understanding of spaces is that they don’t have to be locations… but can exist as gatherings; comings together of people alongside, and inside the rest of humanity’s other ‘spaces’. In many ways, that’s the fascination of the toothpaste effect, that each group has to find another way to position itself when the spatial set up that it previously enjoyed, and filled, is no longer either available, or sufficient.

      The question is, I guess, recognition. Without recognition, then the response is to create ‘enclaves’. It’s protectionist, yes… but a legitimate response to denial of valid presence within the mainstream.

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This entry was posted on August 12, 2014 by in Musings.
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