Presented "Sign Language Description: A Deaf Retrospective & Application of Best Practices from Language Documentation" for #SSLL2019 I appreciated the space to start a dialogue about how us who work w signed languages can reflect on our research practices
Part of what I discussed included "open access" - sharing information online freely and immediately. In that spirit, I'm creating a thread that outlines my presentation. I will be submitting an article for the journal linked to #SSLL2019 too. So here goes! CAUTION: LONG thread.
I started off introducing myself as a Deaf American woman with some discussion of my life experiences because as noted by many (e.g. @AnneliesKusters & @hildemh) the researcher's effect (including their lived experience, research training/goals, etc) is undeniable. I then Photo of a young Julie smiling at the camera from afar. She's standing in a water-filled installation somewhere on Gallaudet campus.
described the work that I do- language documentation which is similar to lang description in that the main concern is describing langs & patterns of use but different in there's perhaps more of a methodological focus on how that's done, esp digitally providing access to data
I was invited to present for my langdoc work & #SSLL2019 had a "language description" focus so I wanted to tie those two (which already overlap considerably-if they're even different today) together by doing a retrospective on the sign language description that has been done
While clearly that retrospective will be filtered thru my own experiences as a Deaf American woman, I also wanted to include other deaf perspectives like @linasigns who discusses deaf-led work, @jonhenner who doesn't trust any work that does not situate itself,
@gab_hodge who suggests that sign researchers be transparent about their signing experience, Ardavan Guity who often shares the traumatizing experiences of hearing non-signer scholars entering his life to collect data then leaving without any reciprocity, and
@jaceyhill who notes that deaf linguists [scholars] haven't been given enough credit for their work, and @ErinMoriartyH who reflects upon her place in the communities she researches. While I appreciate the work done by hearing scholars, I also wanted to #citedeafscholars more Row of pictures of deaf scholars with text
I used their work to help develop a meta lit review checklist like @superlinguo @AndreaBerez1, Kelly & Heston (2017) & @AdamCSchembri (2019) did in their survey of langdoc. I looked at 31 articles in Sign Language Studies from 1972-2019 to examine authors' research practices
E.g., Did authors discuss their relationship with the community they studied? 4 out of 31 did - e.g., Uiko Yano (2018) who stated that she was born and raised in one of the three deaf signing families she included in her work. Image of Sign Language Studies journal (old and new version) in top left corner, text:
Did the authors explicitly discuss their signing experience/knowledge? 5 out of 31 did. e.g., Fred Peng (1974) studying kinship terms in Japanese Sign Language, said he learned JSL “to a considerable extent” after working on the project he reported on. Image of Sign Language Studies journal (old and new version) in top left corner, text:
How are the data represented? (Note here I just collapsed all of the numbers. Some of the articles used more than one way of representation) For example, Sagara is pictured showing a name sign in JSL along with the gloss. Image of Sign Language Studies journal (old and new version) in top left corner, text: Blue box on top with text
Are the primary data accessible (archived and linkable)? Unsurprisingly given tech limitations before 2000s, not many. 1 out of 31 said yes; 2 partially. 1 had a link but that link was broken when I tried it. A reminder to us all to preserve our online data as best as we can. Image of Sign Language Studies journal (old and new version) in top left corner, text:
Did the authors state how deaf people were involved? If yes, how? (See chart). For the 4 articles where the authors stated the PI(s) were deaf, the research team, consultant(s) and research participant(s) were also deaf. Image of Sign Language Studies journal (old and new version) in top left corner, text:
So overall there is little transparency or explicit reflection of positionalities, especially with sign language experience or connection with the deaf community, nor is our language data accessible. As you can see from work from deaf scholars, these are what we value
My intent isn't to criticize or shame anyone. 1 of the articles was my own! Instead, this is an opportunity to reflect on our practices and about how we can navigate our work with signed language communities. This could be a checklist of sorts of what to include in articles
There are plenty of things I’m still figuring out & am interested in a dialogue. To start that, I discussed three tools that I use in my langdoc work that I think honor the characteristics that diff deaf scholars would like to see in work about signed languages & deaf communities
First, it’s handy to consider ethical guidelines for working with signed language communities, e.g., or For example, in working with Deaf Haitians, they were the main stakeholders in shaping knowledge about their own language Series of images of 1 Deaf Haitian woman and man seated. They are talking with one another. Glosses and translations below each image. Contact me for script. Too long to include here
Another is thinking about how to represent signed language data in a way that's accessible to the community, and that one is easily summed up by #glossgesang
And finally, open access, which is prob least explored in our field. Austin Principles of Data Citation is a general push to make primary data (spoken, written & signed) accessible…
<note gif sign is "open-minded" but signed by chest, that's open access!>
So I don’t have it all figured out. But what I hoped to show was how to reflect on the work we do, which is important because we are working with communities that are traditionally marginalized and struggle to have a place in academia. /fin
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p.s. much gratitude to my colleague @emilypshaw for brainstorming with me during development of this presentation

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More from @jahochcam

Jan 18, 2021
This open letter to the Springer Editors has been emailed to the editors in response to a chapter that included offensive language and highly problematic claims about deaf communities and signed languages…

cc: @SpringerEng @SpringerNature
Thank you to all who contributed, gave feedback and signed, which are too many to be tagged 😳! About 200 signatures. AND over the weekend AND during these apocarevolutiondemic days?!? Wow it’s things like these that keep me working...
Along with sharing the open letter which I hope can be the start of a template of a more general letter that can be re-used in similar cases, which hopefully are few and far between, and thanking everyone who co-signed, I also wanted to highlight a few things…
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Jan 16, 2021
Appreciative of everyone's mutual dislike and with the support of some of you, I've got a draft in progress for the editors. Let me know if you want me to add you to the letter.
I will send the letter to the editors by Monday morning (January 18, 2021) 10 AM EST. So let me know by then.
Wow blown away by the response... thank you for rallying to the cause. This has been restorative as I worry about other things happening these days. FYI still collecting responses until tmw. Please be patient as I make sure I reply to all.
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Emboxed Discourse Musings. A thread...


Our new normal these days as we’re Zooming means we're living part of our lives in boxes. We’re having meetings and classes and happy hour on Zoom. Our discourse is being shaped by these boxes we’re appearing in, hence...

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From my perspective as a white Deaf sighted woman who uses ASL and teaches linguistics at a university, it’s been amazing seeing our language and communicative practices being shaped (and re-shaped) by those boxes.

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