Let’s Cut Jill Bradbury Some Slack
If you have read any of the more popular deaf blogs lately, or if you have even glanced at deafread.com, then you know three things by now:
1. There’s going to be a conference at Gallaudet on February 3, 2007. This conference is commonly described by some people as “a conference on deaf blogging”–though that isn’t actually its focus. The conference is called “Vlogging/Blogging the Future of Gallaudet” and is being set up, NOT by Gallaudet University (as seem people mistakenly believe), but by a new organization called Coalition for Critical Inquiry that was itself established by an assistant professor at Gallaudet, Jill Bradbury.
2. This conference has created a great deal of excitement among deaf bloggers. People who care about the future of deaf blogging/vlogging care about this conference because it’s the first one that acknowledges the recent explosion in the number and influence of deaf bloggers and vloggers.
3. But this conference also has created a great deal of controversy. People want it to be a more generic “deaf blogging/vlogging” conference than it’s meant to be. Some people have gotten the incorrect message that it IS a more generic “deaf vlogging/blogging” conference. So when people learn information that seems to conflict with what they perceive (mistakenly) to be the goals of the conference, they become disappointed and upset and become critical.
Let’s cut Jill Bradbury some slack here.
I do think there should be a much broader conference on blogging and vlogging in the deaf community generally. This new, emerging trend already has become enormously influential in the deaf community. The role of blogs and vlogs in shaping and stimulating the Gallaudet protests–and in stimulating both supportive and critical dialogue about these protests–is merely the most prominent and recent example. It is not the only one. The National Association of the Deaf and Jamie Berke, for example have successfully used blogs to help encourage people to write letters in support of such causes as improved captioning.
When a conference is established to address deaf blogging/vlogging in general then, yes, I think it should strive to include some of the most popular deaf bloggers and vloggers–including very controversial ones like Ricky Taylor, and quieter but much older bloggers and webbers like Jamie Berke. And I think it should also include diverse “voices” (hands?), including deaf bloggers/vloggers who are diverse in race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, socio-economic class, communication background, and all the rest, even if they are not yet popular or well known.
But the upcoming Feb 3 conference is not meant to be a “deaf blogging” conference. So people shouldn’t be surprised or shocked when it falls short on supplying the type of services or content that a more generic blogging/vlogging conference would or should provide.
Please see Jill Bradbury’s text further below for clarification on the actual purpose of the conference. If we’re going to criticize the conference, or its choice of panelists, or its choice of scope, or the way its publicity has been handled, or its approach to stimulating dialogue, or anything else about it–then at least let’s get the basic facts straight first.
Will Jill Bradbury’s conference succeed in the achieving the goals she has in mind for it? I don’t know. Is this conference the best approach to stimulating civil discourse related to the Gallaudet protests and the future of the Gallaudet community? I don’t know that either.
But my feeling is this: although there has been a great deal of discourse related to the Gallaudet protests over the past six months, there has been very little civility in that discourse. That alone should be reason enough to cut Jill Bradbury some slack when she tries to introduce some civility, respect, and acceptance of diverse perspectives and opinions in a dialogue in which all three have been sorely lacking.
Jill Bradbury’s Clarification of the Purpose of “Vlogging/Blogging the Future of Gallaudet” Conference
I’m happy to see so much interest in this conference. I wanted to clarify a few issues that have been raised about the people invited to attend. First, this conference was not intended to focus primarily on blogging/vlogging. Rather, my original goal was to focus on what Gallaudet needs to do to reorient and thrive after the protests. I asked people to attend whose blogs/vlogs contained insightful, forward-looking, and innovative ideas about this topic. I went with people whose work I was familiar with and also sought input from other vloggers/bloggers. There are hundreds of high quality deaf vloggers/bloggers; it’s not possible to include them all. No slight at all is intended to those who were not invited.
Let me repeat – this conference was originally conceived as not about vlogging/blogging per se, but about Gallaudet’s future. It has, to some extent, evolved to focus on the impact of vlogging/blogging on the deaf community, but the selection of participants still reflects my original conceptualization. It was never my intention to include the most popular/influential vloggers/bloggers. I invited people based on their ideas, not their cyber lifespan, quantity of posts or quantity of hits. This is why some participants would not “technically” be considered bloggers (though to me, this raises the interesting question of definition. What, exactly, qualifies someone to be called a vlogger/blogger?)
Second, this conference is associated with the new Coalition for Critical Inquiry. The goals of this organization are two-fold:
1)to provide public forums for objective debate and critical reflection on issues arising from the Unity for Gallaudet protests.
2) to model intellectual dialogue, respect for diverse viewpoints, and commitment to social justice for the Gallaudet and larger deaf community (check out our developing web page at ccigally.info).
Vloggers/ bloggers whose work does not adhere to these criteria were not invited. This does not mean that I don’t consider their work to be important to the deaf community. I intend to have a particular kind of dialogue (respectful, thoughtful, and proactive) at the conference, and I make no apologies for that decision.
A third selection criteria was to show a diversity of perspectives in the deaf community. This is why some vloggers/bloggers may be less familiar to the general deaf community. Some were chosen to represent gender/ racial/ cultural/ communication modality diversity within the deaf community.
Finally, this conference is NOT organized by Gallaudet, but by myself under the aegis of an organization I started to encourage public analysis of issues connected to the protest. The CCI has no funds except what we can raise individually. When I first started organizing the conference, I kept it small because I didn’t know where I’d get the money to pay for flights, hotels, interpreters, etc. I’ve been fortunate to have strong interest develop from people inside and outside the university as I make progress, but we are still working with a very small budget. To anyone who feels dissatisfied with the scope of the conference, I strongly encourage you to organize your own show. Thanks for taking the time to read this post and allowing me to clear up some rumors and misconceptions.
[Want to submit your own essay for publication at Reunify Gally? It should be related in some way to reunifying or healing the Gallaudet community in the aftermath of the protests. If interested, review my Guidelines for Guest Bloggers and submit your essay to ashettle (at) patriot.net]