banner image of teacher signing 'communicate' in ASL and student signing 'sound' in ASL

Do you hear what I hear? A Hearing Teacher and a Deaf Student Negotiate Sound

Closed Capturing (CC)

Jennifer [autocaptioned and inaudible]: Many of us don ink about sound
we hear it. we peak it. we Steven,
Axis and John in our sleep.

this is not right.
(sigh) look
you see? it's all wrong.
will you help me?

Kirsten [signing]: Yes, I will help you.

Jennifer [audible now]: When we teach with sound, we tend to design courses to represent sound as we experience it.

Kirsten: Sound is voices/noise, music/vibrations, texture/color.

Jennifer [speaking audibly] and Kirsten [signing]: Our rhetoric shapes our understanding of sound and who can access soundwriting. We must avoid approaches that privilege hearing/speaking bodies and [that] other deaf bodies. If we don't, we limit our understanding of what soundwriting is, how soundwriting occurs, and why soundwriting matters.

We've learned that we take a lot for granted when it comes to what sound can mean and do. Our bodies perceive and understand sound quite differently. In this piece, we share our experience studying soundwriting in an undergraduate multimodal composition class as our invitation and interrogation.

Jennifer: An invitation to teachers and students to negotiate a wider range of sonic affordances, considering how we can access, engage, and compose with sound.

Kirsten: And an interrogation of the ways that a hearing-worl-only view of soundwriting might limit our access to seeing sound in a new way.

Jennifer and Kirsten: We offer our experience as a hearing teacher and a deaf student negotiating sound in this anecdote that examines how we learned from one another. In sharing this, we hope that our ideas and approaches to soundwriting will also resonate with bodies that speak with hands and hear with vibrations.

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Timeout… Meta

In many ways, this video is meant to represent the range of inaccessibility we have with sound, our understanding limited by our own bodies' perceptions.

Consider that even while making this video, Kirsten and I wanted to appear united in our resolve, articulating in sync, but differently, about what we've learned while negotiating sound. In doing so, we explored, fumbled, laughed, and signed our way through a highly choreographed video session. In addition, this chapter features a range of media that may challenge readers' perceptions/expectations for sound, juxtaposing signed video narratives (without voice-overs) with audio-only narratives and prose paragraphs.

This juxtaposition of videos, audio narratives, and traditional prose paragraphs is designed to challenge not only readers' expectations of sounds, but also their expectations as academic readers: We intentionally position Kirsten's signed video narratives with and against prose in ways that might disrupt a more "traditional" scholarly argument. Our hope is that such juxtaposition enriches our argument and exploration—as well as readers' experiences—showing the complexities of negotiating sound in writing courses. Truthfully, this artifact probably best represents our experience negotiating sound in multimodal composition, delightful and uncharted.

What we hope is that in the text that follows you will consider our autoethnographic discovery as an invitation to unlearn what you know about sound, to abandon ideas about soundwriting that originate in hearing–speaking bodies, and to rediscover sound in a novel way.

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Jennifer Buckner sitting at her desk and signing with her hands

Jennifer J. Buckner is an associate professor of English at Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, where she teaches courses in writing studies and new media for undergraduate and graduate students.

Kirsten Daley smiling

Kirsten Daley is an alumna of Gardner-Webb University, graduating with a double major in psychology and English. Canadian born, she enjoys writing fiction and spending time with her family of twelve.

Our History

We first met in a first-year composition course (Fall 2013) and had the privilege of working together three semesters later (Spring 2015) in Multimodal Composition, an upper-level course for English majors.

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