She may not currently have a blog or vlog of her own, but this didn’t stop Jill Bradbury from organizing the very first Vlogging/Blogging the Future of Gallaudet Conference, which took place last week at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.
Q: What inspired you to host this conference?
JB: The protests last fall were a very emotional and stressful time for us at Gallaudet. It was hard to have balanced discussions about the issues on campus. But, when I was reading blogs and watching vlogs, I was struck by the high level of discussion â€“ especially on DeafDC.com. I thought, why not bring that conversation here to Gallaudet? So, I started contacting different bloggers/vloggers to see if they were interested and things just took off from there. I got a lot of really great ideas and feedback from many of the people who participated in the conference.
Q: How much time and planning went into the conference?
JB: A lot! I think a conference organizer will usually start planning a year in advance, so I threw this together really fast. I first started putting out feelers about the conference towards the end of October, but really started organizing in November. I had to cram a lot of work into the month before and after Gallaudetâ€™s winter break, because the campus basically shuts down during that period.
Q: What kind of criteria did you use to select which bloggers to invite?
JB: I asked people to attend whose blogs/vlogs had insightful and proactive ideas about the issues our community is struggling with. Another important criterion was whether their blogs/vlogs show respect for commentors and encourage civil dialogue. It was also very important to me that the panels reflect diversity in the deaf community. Some people criticized my decision to invite people who are more commentors than bloggers/vloggers. But, one of the great things about vlogging/blogging is the interaction it encourages between author and audience. People visit blogsites and vlogsites as much for the comments as for the blog/vlog. So, why shouldnâ€™t we recognize the contributions of the blog/vlog audience?
Q: How many people attended the conference?
JB: I think there were about 40-50 people at the conference, but around 500 people visited the C2I web page during the webcast. Weâ€™ll know the exact number later this week.
Q: Did the conference meet your expectations?
JB: My primary goal was to create a forum where Gallaudet faculty, staff, and students could discuss some of the issues that came out of the protests. However, not many people from Gallaudet actually attended. So, I was disappointed in that. I need to assess what I could do differently next time to draw more of a â€œhome crowd.â€ But, the conference definitely surpassed my expectation in terms of the webcast and how it was received by the deaf community in general. Iâ€™m really gratified that so many people watched it and enjoyed it. People in Sweden, France, and the UK posted messages saying they watched the webcast.
Q: What was one of the most challenging aspects of putting together the conference?
JB: Keeping on top of all of the details. With just me organizing the conference, it was a lot to manage. We did have one gaffe with the webcast, which was that the FCC captioning didnâ€™t get posted on the C2I site. We got the link late Friday night, and I didnâ€™t realize on Saturday that it hadnâ€™t been posted.
Q: Do you have your own blog or vlog? Have you thought about setting one up if you donâ€™t? What do (or would) you blog/vlog about?
JB: I never even read blogs before the protests. Now that the conference is over, Iâ€™m feeling inspired to start one! Iâ€™m thinking about setting up a blog about deaf education issues – maybe called â€œMy Bi-Bi Adventures.â€ I would love to have a forum where teachers of the deaf from all over could exchange ideas and keep each other informed of new research.
Q: Do you think vlogging and blogging are a fad?
JB: Definitely not. As many people emphasized at the conference, vlogging/blogging offer so many potential benefits to deaf people.
Q: Tell us more about the Coalition for Critical Inquiry.
JB: I founded the Coalition during the protests. A lot of faculty and staff didnâ€™t want to come out for or against the protests, but felt strongly that we needed to have public discussions about issues like faculty governance, board structure, diversity, admission standards, communication on campus, and so on. We wanted to make sure these concerns didnâ€™t disappear when the protests ended. We also felt a need to model respectful and civil dialogue about controversial topics. Right now, about 10-15 faculty, staff, and students are planning events for this spring. You can get more information at ccigally.info.
Q: Tell us a little more about your background. Where did you go to school, what you currently do?
JB: Iâ€™m originally from San Diego. I became hard of hearing when I was four due to meningitis. When I was 17, I became deaf. I went to the University of California, Irvine for undergrad, and Brown University for my MA/PhD. I took a year of ASL classes when I was 15, but I didnâ€™t consistently study it until I was in grad school. I wasnâ€™t immersed into a signing environment until I started working for NTID in 2001. Now, Iâ€™m an assistant professor in the English Department at Gallaudet.
Q: Is another blogger/vlogger conference in the works?
JB: People are talking about having one next year. I hope they start planning now. Fundraising will be a big issue if it is not connected to a university or school that can donate facilities, or technical and interpreter services.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
JB: I want to mention all the people at Gallaudet who supported the conference â€“ the head of Academic Technology, the dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Sciences, and Technology, the chair of the English Department, the Provostâ€™s Office, and the Presidentâ€™s Office all gave large contributions. The chairs of the Communications Studies and Deaf Studies departments, and the dean of the Graduate School also supported us financially.
Thanks for your time, Jill!
If you missed the conference or the live webcast, archived videos are available at the Coalition for Critical Inquiry’s website.