Creating New ASL Signs For Social Media Concepts

by Anna M. Gonzalaz, @WebAnna on Twitter

How do you create a sign for new concepts emerging in the English language?

The vocabulary surrounding social media is new, and there aren’t official American Sign Language signs for certain words. Take the word “WordPress,” for example. “Sam the Bright” thinks he figured out a new sign for the blog tool. What do you think?

For this year’s WordCamp Dallas, Automattic sponsored sign language interpreters, making the information accessible to a wider audience.*

After the event, @everzalez & I asked the two interpreters to explain how they came up with the signs for these new concepts. They were very tired after a full day of signing, but which is why they are signing as they talk. However, the video is captioned.

You’ll notice in the video, I was stuck on helping them figure out the concept of social media so they could develop a sign for it. If you were to ask me anytime before the interview, I would describe ’social media’ as a way to connect with others over the Internet and share information via multiple media formats. However, Karen threw me off when she asked, “Is social media only online?”

That’s a good question. Couldn’t you socially interact with media offline?

To answer this question, I turned to my favorite source, Mashable: Just What Is Social Media, Exactly? What I gathered from the blog is we all have an elusive concept of what it actually means.

I went to Wiki next, and say what you will about the source, it has a well developed definition: Social media is online content created by people using highly accessible and scalable publishing technologies. At its most basic sense, social media is a shift in how people discover, read and share news, information and content. It’s a fusion of sociology and technology, transforming monologues (one to many) into dialogues (many to many) and is the democratization of information, transforming people from content readers into publishers. Social media has become extremely popular because it allows people to connect in the online world to form relationships for personal, political and business use. Businesses also refer to social media as user-generated content (UGC) or consumer-generated media (CGM).

If you know how to sign, I would love to see how you developed the vocabulary. Leave a link to a video as a comment and I’ll add it to this blog.


*In the interest of full disclosure, Automattic happened to hire my closest friend, Monique Champagne. I didn’t know she was going to be at the conference until I walked in Saturday morning. I don’t know anyone from Automattic and had no part in her being hired to work the event.