Why did it not occur to me that the signing deaf would be using YouTube as a public forum? This is transformational. Many of them aren’t comfortably fluent in written language. For many more, sign is and always will be their first language. YouTube gives them an easy, expressive, unmediated channel for many-to-many communication.
I wandered into this via YouTube’s “related videos” feature, from Eddie Izzard doing standup, to David Armand’s partly-signed Karaoke for the Deaf. The deaf video universe opened out from there. I can’t tell what anyone’s saying, but if I watch closely, I can mostly tell what kind of thing is going on, even if I miss out on the specific content. It’s all the usual stuff. Some segments are clearly labeled, like Letter to Deaf UK raising my concerns about the moderation of the group. Others are more inscrutable. I suspect that Todd Bonheyo Deaf Superdeafy is rapping. It’s stylish, whatever it is.
Here’s what I can make out. Storytelling: An idiot boy and a motorbike; I bought myself a riding lawnmower; Busted! Everyday blogging: Morning news from my mom; The death of Miss Deaf Texas; Deaf Rambo’s College Life; Deaf Rambo in re Lindsey Lohan’s breasts. Tech neep: RSS in ASL. Community announcements: Sujit explains a program called RYLA Deaf Way in ISL. Closer to home: Par-TAY!, San Onofre, August 26th. I’m bringing barbecue. You bring your board. Political blogging: Levinson-Schwarz Duel (Oy Vey!); Richard Roehm outs his speaking abilities. Political organizing: in support of the protests at Gallaudet, 1, 2, 3. (I get the impression that it would be a bad idea to put these people in the same room with Richard Roehm.)
I was struck by one personal essayist, kunosher, who posts as Deaf Angel. His Deaf Angel’s Life has the most words in it, so I know the least about it. If I’m not mistaken, Dude … I’m deaf is about the frustration of being a deaf-mute trying to cope with stupid hearing people who refuse to believe that a person of normal intelligence might be unable to hear or speak. His nearly wordless download … wait … done … happy is about living with a slow internet connection, and his joy when things come through. I’m sure the metaphor is intentional.