I developed an interest in Deaf Culture several years ago. I had a friend whose son was born profoundly deaf. I became interested in learning American sign Language (ASL) in order to communicate with him. During my undergrad studies, in addition to my B.A. in Social Science and minor in Psychology, I chose to complete a Certificate of Deaf Studies. Through theses classes I was introduced to more than just another language, but to a whole new culture. It was also through this that I was first introduced to the information communities that have developed in support of this culture.
When I first started to think about the information community I would focus on for this assignment, I was at a loss. I work in an academic library and am interested in academic librarianship. However I was not satisfied with researching any of the various listservs I am a part of, which were the obvious choices. Then I thought back to my undergrad studies and the choice was clear – Deaf culture.
The information communities that have formed around Deaf culture meet the definition and characteristics defined by Durrance and Fisher (2003). Online forums allow those of the Deaf culture to unite in their common interests by building and increasing their access to dynamic, linked, and varying information sources. The various forums from d/Deaf news to d/Deaf chat rooms and everything in between take advantage of the multiplying effect and information sharing made possible by technology. The internet provides a way to disseminate much needed information and resources to a cultural group that has in the past been very limited and under served. Databases, chat rooms, and listservs for the d/Deaf have formed around the need to provide access to a plethora of resources that break down cultural and linguistic barriers. Being able to present news, public services, and personal and professional information in a format that can be easily understood meets a need that has long been an issue for those of the Deaf community. One major limitation to Deaf culture and communities throughout history has been geographical. Without the means to communicate across distances historically Deaf communities have been limited and close knit. However, online forums promote and help create social connections on a much broader scale.
Fisher, K., & Durrance, J. (2003). Information communities. In K. Christensen, & D. Levinson (Eds.), Encyclopedia of community: From the village to the virtual world. (pp. 658-661). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.