Monday, May 9, 2011

The Elements Are Powerful... fire and water. And they can change your life very quickly and with a force that leaves you feeling quite helpless.

Last January 20th our condo building had a fire. It was caused inadvertently by my neighbor and ultimately we sustained considerable smoke damage as well as even more water and structural damage from the fire department. We are located on the top (third floor).

We had spent months in a Residence Inn a couple blocks away and finally moved back home recently. This event has been been a trial and there are many moving parts to packing one's animals and a few necessities and vacating your home, then dealing with insurance companies, restoration companies, and different construction folks.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Hearing with Your Eyes – An Interview with a Deaf Woman

Rosie Cappa was born hearing, but at the early age of three months lost her hearing due to high altitude flying on a trip to Puerto Rico to visit her grandmother. The oldest of multiple siblings, Rosie is the only deaf person in her family, and growing up deaf in the 60s and 70s proposed many trials with both her immediate family as well as with intercultural communication outside her family. Rosie Cappa, age 50, helps teach us about the deaf culture, the challenges deaf people have faced coexisting in a dominantly hearing culture, and what communication between these cultures looks like today.
While I was on a long road trip with a new acquaintance, discussion turned to a subgroup in our culture – as well as all cultures that I know of - deaf people. The acquaintance said her sister-in-law is deaf and was able to introduce us via Facebook where she accepted my humble request for an interview.
In the 60s and 70s, Rosie’s parents were adamant about her assimilating into the dominant hearing/speaking culture and sent her to St. Joseph’s School for the Deaf in New York City. There she underwent vigorous training with a speech therapist to learn how to “speak” with the use of hearing aids. Such approaches were not uncommon in these days.
David Luterman, D.Ed., author of “Early Childhood Deafness: A 50-year Perspective” writes, “Back then, after a child was diagnosed with a hearing loss, there was little or no help for the families in making the adjustment to having a child with special needs. The parental role was often one of a passive observer and recipient of professional expertise” (Luterman, 2010, para. 1). This process actually worked very well for Rosie and her type of speech was largely understood in communication with the dominant culture, however, at age 11 she stopped using hearing aids due to the noise of low flying aircraft near their home and her speech declined rapidly. Another form of communication had been available to her since the age of eight, American Sign Language (ASL). Rosie picked up on this form of communication quickly, a language based on body language with emphasis on hands/arms and facial expressions.
She learned this language from a friend she had who had two deaf siblings. This communication mode was a problem in that she was actually punished for using it in school in the latter 60s and was only free to use ASL as she pleased after 1970. Even with the acceptance of sign language in schools- and in later year’s permission for interpreters to be present during lessons- deaf people continue to face extra challenges academically. In an article called “Starting in the classroom, Jordan’s deaf community faces obstacles”, published in the McClatchy - Tribune Business News (IL, USA), a university student interviewed said, "I have faced some problems during my study at the university. Some teachers used to ask for written assignments, but we are unable to write complete, accurate sentences as deaf people” (Zghoul, 2010, para 4.). The article helps readers understand that even today, in many places of the world (Jordan in this example), deaf people struggle to integrate into mainstream curriculum and that deaf university students can be a rarity outside of classes where signing is the method of communication. “During written exams he sometimes failed to comprehend all the questions, and some teachers refused to allow an interpreter into exam sessions, he [Zghoul] recalled” (Ali, 2010, para 5). Conversely, favorable reports in recent years of signing among the hearing is becoming more common among infants and toddlers before they are even able to talk, used in conjunction during their learning, and according to an article called Hands-on baby talk assures “It's never instead of and it actually helps to accelerate their speech" (Castello, 2010, para. 6).
            Further challenges inherent with Rosie and most deaf people who attempt to communicate with members of the hearing/speaking culture are in the basic logistics. Deaf people had to write messages on pads, she recalled, and have to be there -physically present- without the luxury of, for example, picking up the phone to order something. Technology changed with the proliferation of TTY machines for the deaf community, which stands for teletypewriter, a kind of typewriter with a communication channel for telecommunication, allowing phone call communication.  
 However, Rosie reports that these machines were large and heavy, not suitable for transport until newer technology scaled down the size and made them easily portable. It could be said that the common texting on cell phones today was being used in this subculture first. Today Rosie uses a Sorenson VP (Video Phone) and a computer laptop. Additionally, she utilizes closed captioned TV, keeps up with news online, and is a voracious reader. Her views about media are that she doesn’t feel very affected by what’s happening in the world but she definitely takes particular notice to deaf-related issues like Cochlear Implants (which she is against) for babies. Cochlear Implants, starting in 1969, continues to be a controversial topic. An apt contribution from the Yahoo! Contributor Network says “Some people in the deaf community consider cochlear implants as forfeiting one's right to deaf culture, while others in the deaf community consider cochlear implants to be merely a personal decision” (ZWQ43, 2008, para. 1). Obviously in the latter case, it could be further argued that individual is not making that decision for themselves that the personal decision is with the guardian. A popular misconception about the implants is that they restore hearing, when in actuality they restore auditory perception through electronic generated impulses to the brain using components like a transmitter, microphone, and sound processor. The procedure to insert the implant into the body is not without risks of other physical problems and side-effects. Ultimately, the person choosing or having chosen for them, cochlear implants, may be presented with a challenge of fully relating to either the deaf subculture or the dominant hearing culture, a cultural identity crises of sorts.

Comparing her past to today, Rosie says there is a big difference now; she embraces the newer technology because she says it bridges some of the gaps between the deaf and hearing that caused miscommunication, frustration, and delays before.
            Since 2001, Rosie has had occasion to travel quite a bit, living in various states including Alaska, and Florida where she currently resides. Today she wishes her siblings had their own VPs because of the persistent dependency on people’s facial expressions/body language to help encode moods and their emotions. Gaps that still exist between deaf people and the hearing people who do not know ASL account for credible amounts of misunderstandings, the need for clarification, and the time it takes for repeating. Rosie has four hearing children and each of them is part of both cultures, having been trained in ASL since the age of one. Because of the amount of time it takes to learn ASL, deaf people are known to be very appreciative and patient with people who have taken the interest and are trying to be a part of their culture. Rosie shared with me how many people are against “audism”, a term with many definitions but has to do with stereotyping that some hearing people do regarding deaf people and the effects of that stereotype, like discrimination in the workplace.
Rosie does report frustration at wanting to communicate the need for strobe lights for deaf people when there is a fire emergency. She would ask that places of employment make it mandatory to install them so that deaf people do not have to rely on just visual cues from hearing people and having to extract from them the nature of the emergency.
            It is likely, once again, that technology will continue to lead to additional shared consciousness between cultures, and that ingenuity will meet the need, starting with highest demand. Technology has already made strides for the deaf community as well as shared experiences among cultures globally via online interaction. The internet and wireless technologies are using a shared communication method that deaf people have had to use for years with hearing people who did not know how to use sign language- the written word. Likewise, through the ever-increasing ease of information exchange, subcultures are better known, decreasing ignorance, and empowering understanding.  
Rosie says she is always learning, she loves life, and loves being deaf. Compared to all her “hearing” memories when she used the hearing aids, she relishes what she calls “sound proofing pollution” and enjoying a “blessed, quiet environment”.  Hearing Rosie’s story, and other deaf subculture stories about struggles and accomplishments, and by comparing deaf struggles of the past to modern day, we enable an intercultural knowledge-share that opens new channels of communication and makes cultural convergence closer each and every day.

Luterman, D.. (2010, November). Early Childhood Deafness: A 50-Year Perspective. Volta Voices, 17(6), 18-21,6.  Retrieved January 30, 2011, from ProQuest Nursing & Allied Health Source
Lubna Ali.  (6  May). Starting in the classroom, Jordan's deaf community faces obstacles. McClatchy - Tribune Business News, pp 1.  Retrieved January 31st, 2011, from ProQuest Newsstand.
        Islam Al Zghoul
Renato Castello.  (2010, December 5). Hands-on baby talk. The Sunday Times,44.  Retrieved January 31st, 2011, from ProQuest Newsstand.
ZWQ43, associatedcontent from Yahoo! Cochlear Implants: The Pros and Cons, pp. 1. Retrieved January 31st, 2011, from

Monday, March 28, 2011

Conflict Case Study

You are a department manager in a mid-sized company that provides technology support services.  You have ten employees who are required to maintain a high level of technical expertise and deliver excellent customer service.  One of your employees, who has been with the company for two years, is performing at a substandard level and you have received numerous complaints from customers and coworkers.  In addition, this employee has displayed confrontational behavior which has created a hostile environment.  You must now meet with this employee and deliver an ultimatum regarding the need for immediate improvement or dismissal.

Conflict Resolution Techniques
For this case study I draw upon personal experience as both a Lead and a Supervisor at different companies, as well as knowledge I have gained through academic study. It is challenging to deliver bad news, reject a request, or deliver an ultimatum. In this case study, the circumstances presented are advanced, more escalated, with a prior history of confrontational behavior and disharmony in the given environment. Given that both customers and coworkers have complained about the individual, there is also likely going to be expectations and/or heightened visibility to the corrective action. In other words, did management do something about the situation and did the individual pay heed?

In this advanced scenario, it is important to be clear in delivering the message, to give it gravity, because in actuality there is a job on the line. This is not to say that opening the meeting with an indirect approach/neutral conversation is off limits. In meeting this person, privately, I would make sure to read their body language, tone, mood, etc., as quickly as I could to ensure the best approach for the conversation. Conceivably, a simple “How is it going?” may, in and of itself, be the open door the individual wanted or needed, unleashing an emotional torrent; Anticipating this reaction would require (on my part) calm, listening, sympathetic, and respectful behavior. It is possible in this case, that the individual expected this conversation and has a pre-disposition toward the interaction. This person may believe that they have been wronged, and/or they are not being understood. These points are part of the reason it is important to listen with earnestness, giving them a chance to voice their views.
Ultimately the conversation must be steered by me to the ultimatum, but I would not use that word, rather, I would use the word “choice”. I would back this choice up with the facts, that complaints have been received by both customers and coworkers and steer attention toward their importance to and in the company, their rights to their feelings and opinions.
I would wrap the conversation with a positive note regarding the individuals two years of service and that there is an obvious good history to be noted and appreciated, that a standard or above standard level of technical and professional performance is attainable.

Roebuck, D. (2006). Improving Business Communication Skills, Fourth Edition. New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Eletronic Interconnectedness

In week two of my Communication capstone class (COM480), we are analyzing media technologies and the more I think about this subject and read the examples of my peers, the more I have to really sit back and think about how much communication has evolved in my lifetime.
I hear the voice of Robert's past (yes, I'm speaking in the third person) making off-handed comments about the frantic speed of technology, but it truly boggles my mind to take stock of how much adapting has really happened in a few decades, and those changes seem to have swept over us in exponential fashion. Our electronic interconnectedness is such that I want to use the joke "Oh, that was sooo five minutes ago!" more and more. Pathetic, right? And yet, our attention span and capacity for prolonged, deep thought, does seem threatened.

My media technology examples this week covered the following four examples:

Reality Television:
Although this is not a new concept, the current popular form has evolved and realized incredible amounts of popularity. Regardless of one’s view of how scripted or not scripted the program, the premise is to put everyday people in heightened dramatic or humorous situations, sometimes with a goal or prize at stake.

“Winners” and other contestants can go on to become quite famous, which appeals to the average, non-famous audience. Depending on the show, audience members are easily from four years to elderly senior age, due largely in part to the variety of topics found in the shows, and the variety of people, races, and ages of show participants.

Some shows encourage cell phone participation for voting which has added an interactive element and also an additional revenue stream.
iPhone FaceTime:
Does anyone remember the old Sci Fi movies where people talked to each other real-time, with video? Well, iPhone did not do it first but they sure have made it handy- within the palm of your hand, in fact- something truly mobile. Again, intended for the widest possible audience, anyone who can communicate would be the intended audience. I would like to specifically call out the advantage of this kind of technology to the hard-of-hearing and deaf community.
Online File Sharing and Storage:
Computer users want to be able to share files across distances, sometimes bigger than what can be sent in email, like video or large audio recordings. They also sometimes want a central repository where all their different media devices/computers can access; especially should one of those devices fail them or not be available. Being able to sync to this information in such a way has spawned a number of different like services and I can attest to one personally that I just started using, called Dropbox, where my fellow band members and I can listen to 3 hour long rehearsal recordings very easily- large files that would otherwise need to be burned unto disk and physically distributed and the like.
Streaming Media:
For example, Netflix, serving more than 20 million members (for anyone who enjoys movies or TV shows) in the United States and Canada (Nasdaq: NFLX), an internet subscription, now with instant streaming to, and interfacing with, a wide array of media devices (over 200).

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Oh Humble Beginnings

I knew one day I'd join the ranks of the bloggers and I'm happy for this prompting- may it morph into something of consequence, or at least amusement.

These tests are temporary and I'm sure I will delete them but perhaps someone will get a chuckle from the pics here in week one.

Spidey Cat awaits the villain in 137, ready to strike!

More everyday superheros.

As a musician, this one speaks to me.

And now, for the real deal- a few pictures of my wife and I from a trip to Europe last December.The Christmas markets, the architecture, the history- it's great to finally be a world-traveler.

Thanks for stopping by! Please add a question or comment if you are so inclined.  

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