Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Trying to learn a three-dimesional language

Ever since the IFLA conference (#WLIC2016), I have been thinking more about digitization. It perhaps helped, too, that I guest lectured in a class last week talking about digitization and digital preservation, which means I've been mentally preparing for that for a few weeks.  Also last week, a colleague stopped by and showed me the not-final-version of two projects, one of which includes 3D images, which can be rotated on the screen. And that got me thinking about a language that I'm trying to learn which is three-dimensional.

Many people suffer a hearing loss (statistics). It is estimated that 2% of the U.S. population is deaf.  Given the number of people who could benefit from communicating in American Sign Language (ASL), I've been trying to learn some.  It is not an easy language to learn because word use and sentence construction is definitely different from oral English.  It is also a three-dimensional language that uses space and distance to communicate concepts as being in the past or future, or having a specific relationship.  Thus learning ASL from static photographs is difficult.  Imagine not understanding that a sign has movement to it or how the movement is to executed.  It can also be difficult to learn ASL from videos, since videos are also flat. You cannot see a standard video from the front and then watch it again from the side!

Having now seen images (example) that can be rotated, I am imaging people "digitizing" ASL so that signs can be seen from every angle.  That would be a huge undertaking, but then digitizing books was a huge undertaking and we're doing that.  This would could have the ability to improve communications and that would be a good thing. Anybody interested in getting started?

If you've never considered learning ASL, listen (and watch) Amber Galloway Gallego below. 

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