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November 3, 2005

Decentralisation of Deaf cyberspace

In 1998, Deaf UK was set up as an e mailing list. With 7 years of history, it has made its mark on how Deaf people use the internet. However, its foundations lie within the early use of the net, and how Deaf people defined themselves online. For the first time, Deaf people had a space, ableit through the medium of English, which broke down geographical and communication barriers. For the first time Deaf people were taking advantage of a multi user space, to exchange and debate ideas in near real time without the constraints of organisations. Deaf UK started to be recognised via organisations, and within academic circles.

Since this time, the usage of the net has evolved, and so has Deaf UK.

The typical traits of Deaf UK can be illustrated graphically:

deafuk.gif

The red circle being the group, with various arrows of differing degrees of intensity inputting into this environment. The input is largely dependent on many factors including: dominance of individual personalities, views of the person and compatibility of the purpose of the group. The half circle arrow is meant to represent debate going around in circles some of the time.

Where people do not fit in, this causes friction, and debate tends to dominate a list. A possible collapse of the group, due to poor moderation, or personalities clashing. There can also be disenchantment of users, with regard to moderating styles causing a vote with the feet.

Within recent times, as more people wish to create sub-identies away from a main group, there has been a proliferation of forums and groups online, with friction around rules and personalities this has often led to a high rate of collapse.

How people manage their identity online has evolved, and there are traits whereby users wish to assert more control over their identity, ability to speak out over an issue without moderation. Cyberspace is moving towards Web 2.0, where micro content becomes the norm. To date, central websites have exsisted, with ordinary users having little control over their content, and content they wish to view. To this end, the principle of decentralisation needs to take place. This is the move away from power centre bases towards individuals creating and managing their own content, and allowing enough space for individuality without a big bang collapsing in on itself.

One of the problems around a central space is people do not always take responsibility for their content, due to no sense of pride, and ownership. This lack of responsibility, and own space does not utilise the diversity of the community, and contribution to what and who Deaf people are.

To address this, the diagram below is an illustration of how blogging could work within the Deaf community:

blogs.jpg

Each circle represents a blog, none of them uniform as they represent very different personalities and individualism. The content could be varied, as shown by some pictorial representation on each of these circles. Each blog creates a space whereby each person takes responsibility for building their own virtual property, and maintaining this. With responsibility comes quality, and with quality we start to move fowards with a grass root movement, away from centralisation of deaf organisations. Blogs could consist of vlog posts, with the primary language as BSL.

However, each blog cannot exist well within a vacuum, and to this end, there needs to be some kind of communication between blogs, represented by the arrows as an example how this might happen. Within blogging circles this is usually done via trackbacks, commenting, links, and also facilitation of a network through a central aggregator. Blogs which do not contain quality content would have weaker links, than those do. However, the varying degrees and interest of content can run alongside a network. Note, connection between blogs does not follow a perfect symmetry and will be dependent on a number of factors.

It is this decentralisation, and how to network these, I would like to work on and encourage within coming months. In the meantime, I hope that you feel inspired to go and set up your own space.