Friday, January 29, 2010

Getting Started on Deaf Research: Part 2

So far, this week, I'm in the middle of Collapse: How societies choose to fail or succeed by Jared Diamond, the guy who wrote Guns, germs, and steel, which got everyone's attention a few years ago. Collapse is a pretty interesting book -- it takes examples of different societies throughout history, including modern-day Montana, and examines the various factors that lead to social collapse. He looks at problems like environmental degradation, hostile incursions from unfriendly neighbors, and the collapse of friendly neighbors, among other things, and examines how they affect the society under study.

Bear in mind, it's not gloom-and-doom stuff; the author isn't saying we're headed for the end of the U.S. or anything bestselling like that. His larger point seems to be that although we do have several very serious challenges ahead of us, we also have several very large advantages over past societies that failed. Chief among those advantages is sheer hindsight; no other culture in history has accumulated such a large amount of historical information in a form that can be so easily examined. Diamond seeks to exploit this advantage to our benefit by scrutinizing past societies -- such as those of East Polynesia (including Easter and the Pitcairn Islands) -- and essentially determining which factors caused their collapse and how this happened.

It's fascinating reading, and although the general subject matter is depressing (deforestation, extinction, cannibalism, etc.), his writing is so engaging that you forget about all of that and focus on the conclusions being drawn here. It won't be available for you to check out for a while, though -- I'm jealously keeping it until I'm done with it, although, like a good Library patron, I'll get it back before the due date!

So last week, we covered the Guide to Deaf Biographies (the title really should be italicized -- the Guide -- but, heck, we're all friends here, aren't we?). This week, we'll take a look at the FAQs available through the Deaf Research Help section of our Web site.

The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page seeks to provide quick answers to common questions about deaf-related subjects. We've split the questions up into eight rough categories:
  • Cultural, Social, Medical
    • For questions about Crab Theory, audism, causes of physiological deafness, history of visual applause
  • Films
  • Gallaudet University facts
  • Various deaf-related facts
    • For questions about deaf animals, places named after deaf people, sports-related queries, Kendall Motor Oil Company, the Lincoln Memorial
  • Deaf people
    • Individuals like Laurent Clerc and Helen Keller are covered here (including quotes), as well as deaf Nobel Prize winners, among other things
  • Deaf publications
    • Little Paper Family and vendors/publishers of deaf-related materials
  • General questions about sign language
    • Popular songs, poems, and prayers in ASL, as well as some questions about ASL itself
  • Statistics on deafness
    • Retired librarian Tom Harrington created a very thoughtful treatise on statistical treatment of the deaf population. It's a good read!
Actually, in general, the entire list of FAQs is a good place to spend a little time. They're intended mostly to answer common questions that arise from all over the world, and occasionally here at Gallaudet University as well. They are fairly comprehensive and well-researched; still, the best methods for obtaining a full and complete answer continue to be 1) checking to see if there is any more current information, and 2) asking a librarian for help. The second one isn't quite as necessary as far as the FAQs are concerned, though -- they really are a good place to look for information or just for fun. For instance, did you know that cats with all-white coats and blue eyes are the most likely to be deaf? Not only that, but some cats have one blue eye and one eye that's a different color -- and it'll be deaf in the ear on the same side of the head as the blue eye!

That's it for this week. Next week, I'll be in Oklahoma for the Midwest regional competition for the Academic Bowl. Since this will occupy half my week, there won't be a blog post next week. When we do return the following week, though, we'll discuss the research guides that are available.

Question of the Day
I noticed that the couches on the first floor, facing Kendall Green by the Deaf Stacks, seem to be in an area that's pretty dark. It's hard to read anything there. Can you install some lights or something?
You picked a good week to ask this question! We just installed four fluorescent lights above that area to brighten it up a little bit. It should be much easier to read and do schoolwork over there now. Please don't be shy to let us know your unalloyed opinion -- we're always glad to hear what you think!

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