Tag Archives: Listening

Deaf Space

Take a moment to stop what you’re doing, and close your eyes:  What do you hear?  A tea kettle? The hum of your computer?  a television?  A car driving by?  All of these sounds tell you something about your environment:  That water is boiling; that your computer is working well, or struggling, or processing something that makes it slower at the moment; that someone, perhaps in another room, is occupied; that traffic is flowing, or that it might be dangerous for children outside at play.

Now take away all those sounds.  It can be disorienting; it makes you feel insecure.  It also makes you more alert to other environmental cues, and to your other senses – particularly sight.  If a person mumbles, or turns away, or moves their hand across their face while speaking to a deaf person, communication is disrupted.  People can be sensitized to the challenges, but can architecture?  Yes.  It can be made suitable for various perceptions and perspectives.

When I lived in Scotland, I translated regularly (BSL) for the deaf in our church, and would hang out with deaf friends sometimes.  Some of them lived in a flat complex designed for the visually or auditorily-impaired, with bold red counter tops, light switches and phones to help them navigate, as well as light signals for various things such as the door bell or the phone ringing.  The deaf sports club was a wide-open space, with room for a large crowd to chat in groups; as a hearing person, it was a unique experience to be in a crowd of signing people:  There are few secrets in the deaf community, because even across the room one can understand the conversation; and though we were all signing, it was not quiet – sounds made with the mouth to support the sign, or the slap of skin on skin, or a laugh, or the shifting of clothing could be heard.

Look at the layout of your room, or office:  If your interaction with the people around you needs to be visual, what could potentially hinder it?  A solid wall, a glaring light fixture, blind corners, stairs (which must be focused on, to navigate), or a narrow passage that makes it difficult to walk side by side, signing.  Deaf architects have begun incorporating their unique considerations into designs, and they not only offer a unique perspective on architecture but, by doing so, have created some stunning spaces:  Deaf Space.  To see a short video on the topic, please click here.  Do yourself a favour, and watch the video at least once without sound.  Below are a few images of deaf space from Google Images.

As a writer, it is always fascinating for me to explore new perspectives, and to try to see the world around me through the eyes of others; doing so enriches the writing experience, and opens new possibilities in developing characters, environments, or situational elements.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Advertisements

5 Comments

Filed under Articles, Research, Signs, Videos

The Art of Listening

ListeningAs a writer I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to improve any of my skills, be they technical, linguistic, goal-oriented (such as the skills it takes to publish a book), or basic.  Listening falls into the latter category; it’s something all of us do, yet all of us can improve on.  I don’t think I need to mention the fact that we are a generation on information overload; media screams at us to get our attention, whether through the use of power-punching, gut-wrenching headlines, or power-words written in ALL CAPS! with the appropriate punctuation, or flashing ads that give us no peace until we either turn them off or leave the website they’ve invaded.  Adds flash at us constantly whether on TV, in shops, on the internet, or driving down the motorway.  Eventually we become numb and stop listening.  We put in our ear-buds, turn on a song of our choice and try to tune out the rest of the world, at least for a moment.

By improving listening, I am not implying that we toss out our MP3 players and force ourselves to listen to everything in case we miss something important.  We must all use discretion about where our “focus energy” goes.  But by improving our listening, we can begin to hear the quieter, more subtle elements; we can focus our ears and minds to perceive things that might be more worthwhile than the noise that vies for our attention.  Conscious listening creates understanding.

I recently listened to a TED talk by Julian Treasure on five exercises to improve listening; I share them with you here; click on the image above if you’d like to watch the talk yourself:

1)  Silence:  For at least three minutes a day, try to find a place of complete silence (if not possible, at least aim for very quiet).  It helps to recalibrate your ears, so that you can actually hear the quieter things once again.

2) Mixer:  In a noisy environment, whether a café or sitting by a stream, practice focusing your ears on one sound, then another;  It will improve the quality of your listening.  I use this technique with singing students; before they begin rehearsing with a song we will analyse and dissect it instrument by instrument, verse by verse, vocal by vocal.  The more they become aware of this process, the better they will understand how their vocals fit into the bigger picture as both a wind- and stringed instrument.

3)  Savouring:  There’s a “hidden choir” all around you; focusing on such mundane sounds as the dish washer or the coffee machine can reveal rhythms and build an appreciation of the simpler things in life.  Sound technicians for films use this as their greatest tool; because they’ve trained themselves in this area, they know they can combine the squishing of an orange, the grating of a cinder block across a corrugated iron sheet and the distortion of their vacuum cleaner’s sound to come up with a monster ala the Balrog of Lord of the Rings, or scraping keys along a piano wire to land Dr. Who’s TARDIS.

4)  Listening Positions:  This is the idea that you can shift your position (“level” of listening) according to what you’re listening to:  active/passive, reductive/expansive, critical/empathetic.  These adjust certain filters that we all have, such as culture, language, values, beliefs, attitudes, expectations and intentions, which increasingly focus our listening from all “sounds” down to things we specifically listen to.

5) RASA:  An acronym for Receive (i.e. paying attention to the person), Appreciate (giving verbal feedback such as small sounds of agreement or interest), Summarize (feedback of what you’ve understood), and Ask (ask questions afterward).  Practicing RASA will improve not only how we listen, but our retention of information.

Listening is one of our five senses, and one that’s worth exploring in writing; when a reader can become absorbed in the sensations of a scene – hearing, smelling, seeing, feeling and tasting the environment through well-chosen words – they will be invested in the story, and care about what happens next.

Leave a comment

Filed under Articles, Videos, Writing Exercise