As a Deaf Studies student, while you need to be competent in using citation and referencing styles, you should also expect to incorporate Academic ASL presentation styling and execution in your signed work.
Academic ASL refers both a signer’s canvas and linguistic choices.
Presentations should be filmed in front of a contrasting background (darker for Caucasian people; lighter for People of Color) with contrasting clothing and appropriate personal styling. Many of the personal styling guidelines for Academic ASL presentations are the same for interpreters:
- contrasting clothing devoid of exaggerated patterns (floral patterns, contrasting repetitive [i.e., houndstooth or plaids] patterns, tartans, flannels, or ginghams)
- clothing styling that either demonstrates professionalism or matches the formality of the setting
- professional clothing that does not create an undue or unprofessional visual distraction
- minimizing alterations to one’s personal appearance that impact a signer’s nonmanual marker production and viewer’s comprehension:
- minimal to no shiny or dangly jewelry, especially no lip, nose, or eyebrow piercings
- minimal or neutral makeup, including prudence in eyeliner, mascara, and lipstick density and color
- minimal to trimmed fingernail length, shape, and decoration with minimal/neutral/nude coloring
Lighting and Positioning
Front lighting should appropriately highlight manual movements and facial expressions but not blow out the signer’s facial features nor create a chiaroscuro effect; backlighting should be removed or heavily minimized. Backgrounds should be solid and devoid of contrasting patterns.
With easy access to movie production software like iMovie, Final Cut Pro, or even YouTube Studio, adding on-screen titling/citations in post-production is a simple task. When filming yourself for a video presentation, especially an Academic ASL presentation, consider where you place yourself in the frame:
- positioning your body and signing space in the left or right of the frame allows placement for on-screen titling (referencing, citations, or other supportive text)
- centering yourself with enough space on the left and right of the frame also creates a professional aesthetic and allow room for on-screen titling if necessary
Signer Linguistic Choices
While it can be used in other environments, Academic ASL is most often utilized in academic settings and is characterized by slightly larger signing spaces, deliberate word order, more pronounced fingerspelling/numbering, and controlled use of space. This handout on register pronunciation helps elaborate what ASL looks like in both informal and formal settings. See the examples below for more defined illustrations.
Examples of Academic ASL
Academic ASL styling, citations, and production
- The definitive guide to Academic ASL production is found in the formal Academic ASL guidelines by Dr. Raychelle Harris. This helpful video has a table of contents in the video description so you can easily skim the video.
- Kate Rowley’s presentation “The Brain Needs Language” (British Association of Teachers of the Deaf, March 2019) is an excellent demonstration of how references and captions can be used simultaneously in an article.
- Ben Bahan’s 2016 StreetLeverage Live presentation elaborates not only on how Academic ASL is used but also why it’s important for students and interpreters to develop familiarity with it.
- Joseph Featherstone’s StreetLeverage presentation about IEPs and interpreters is commendable for its lighting and clean on-screen titling.
Positioning and fingerspelling
Notice how Joy positions her signing space, size, and locates/pronounces her dominant hand when introducing herself and spelling other words. Review your own introduction/spelling in your preassessment (and other GoREACT) texts; how similar or different are they to Joy’s work here? What aspects of Joy’s work can you incorporate more into your fingerspelling production?
If you’re left-handed, what do you see in Felicia’s fingerspelling production/pronunciation that you can use? In what location do both Felicia and Joy produce their fingerspelling in relation to their bodies?
What should my video look like?
Jessica was a freshman Deaf Studies student when she submitted this assignment for her Deaf Culture class. She follows the appropriate guidelines for signer canvas and linguistic choice, and demonstrates post-production citations and referencing. If a freshman can do it, so can you.
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