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muse: "the heart may freeze, or it may burn" (Default)
[personal profile] muse
"disability often rejects and transcends what is considered “correct” body language. maybe we are stimming. maybe we are using an interpreter. maybe we are interacting with physical pain, depression, assistive technology. maybe we are sitting when we are supposed to be standing (or vice versa). to try and deny ourselves these needs are either exhausting or impossible. that’s just who we are. i have been thinking about what it means to listen deeply."

People with disabilities frequently commmunicate differently, online and offline. In cross-disability gatherings, we use a plethora of communication technologies, from the simple expedients of other people to complex assistive technologies; we also use technologies for being in the world that affect our embodiment. What does it mean for us to listen to each other in real life, mediated by technology as our listening and speech often is? And what does it mean to listen to each other online? How is good listening in online communities different for the gimpy, the crippled, the crazy?

Many of us use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) to "speak" with devices - we may use symbols as body language, or synthesized cyborg voices as bodily technologies. Our speech may be slower, our inflection different. Others may speak with voices which are different because of auditory or physical difference, or hear voices differently because of auditory or cognitive difference. Our body language may be different because voices sound far away, distant, remote, or too close, invasive. Some use interpreters to communicate in sign language - which are different languages entirely - and as a result may miss the subtleties of the body language and language being used by the orally speaking person. Still others sit "waist-high in the world" - as Nancy Mairs says - and frequently communicate with others from this perspective, making it harder to read body language directed at standing level. Many of us speak and listen slower - some of us speak and listen quicker due to anxiety or other disabilities, but speak often in circles or make different sense. Many of us are listening to the internal noise of our bodies to the point where it is challenging and difficult to listen to other speakers - listening to pain, listening to noises we hear that no-one else hears.

What does it mean for us to listen to each other online? How can we affirm each other? How do we pass our bodies through the wires to "hear" what the challenges of our listeners and the other speakers are and respond to them? How does this apply to speaking and listening in online community, much less being a thoughtful leader and moderator of an online community? People say that the internet is the great equalizer for people with disabilities - I'm not sure it is for all of us with communication disabilities. Many of them still exist online, or exist differently.
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muse: "the heart may freeze, or it may burn" (Default)
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December 2015

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