Submissions/Digital collaboration with machine-readable sign language text in the SignWriting script

From Wikimania 2014 • London, United Kingdom

This submission has been withdrawn from Wikimania 2014.

Submission no. 5015
Title of the submission
Digital collaboration with machine-readable sign language text in the SignWriting script
Type of submission (discussion, hot seat, panel, presentation, tutorial, workshop)
presentation and discussion
Author of the submission
Stephen E Slevinski Jr
E-mail address
Slevinski (talk) 16:37, 16 February 2014 (UTC)[reply]
Country of origin
Affiliation, if any (organisation, company etc.)
Center for Sutton Movement Writng, inc; an educational 501c3
Personal homepage or blog and
Abstract (at least 300 words to describe your proposal)

There are primarily 2 types of natural languages for humans: spoken and signed. A spoken language relies on a sequentially ordered list of sounds. A sign language relies on 3 dimensional space with simultaneous action.

If we imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge, this ideal relies on targeting each person's primary language. This dream is incomplete when sign languages are not included.

The SignWriting Script is an international standard for writing sign languages by hand or with computers. From education to research, from entertainment to religion, SignWriting has proven useful because people are using it to write signed languages.

Initially created in 1974, the SignWriting Script has matured and spread around the world. Today, SignWriting is used in dozens of countries and able to write any sign language. The symbol set has been stable since 2010 and the machine-readable encoding has been stable since the beginning of 2012.

The developers of SignWriting support open content. While the name SignWriting is trademarked, the script itself is free to use for anyone in the world. The fonts are available under the Open Font License. The documentation is available under creative commons. The machine-readable encoding is covered in an Internet Draft submitted to the Internet Engineering Task Force: draft-slevinski-signwriting-text.

The SignWriting Script is available to use on Wikimedia Incubator. The American Sign Language Wikipedia has 50 articles. Other sign languages are primed to start. The technical infrastructure is maturing nicely and widespread adoption continues to increase.

It is the dream of sign language writers to share in all of the benefits of the spoken language users who so easily share and collaborate in an international world.

This presentation will cover the history, today's reality, and tomorrow's dream for written sign language using the SignWriting Script.

Technology, Interface & Infrastructure
Length of session (if other than 30 minutes, specify how long)
30 minutes
Will you attend Wikimania if your submission is not accepted?
I will not be able to attend Wikimania this year. Maybe next time.
Slides or further information (optional)
I will be presenting this topic at the SignWriting Symposium this year. Here is the presentation page for Digital collaboration with machine-readable sign language text in the SignWriting script.
Special requests

Interested attendees

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  1. Micru (talk) 14:23, 15 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]
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A written language to code gestures? That doesn't sound very logical. Videos of people talking in sign language sounds more like a proper solution. --NaBUru38 00:06, 26 March 2014 (UTC)[reply]

Just as (most) spoken languages use a linear arrangement of letters to code a linear arrangement of sounds, the various signed languages use a spatial arrangement of letters to code a spatial arrangement of visuals. Same concept. Same benefits. Same parts of the brain.
Video is a poor substitute for real sign language literacy. For illustration, try composing a 1,000 word essay with only a voice recorder. Then try and have someone edit or grade that voice recording.
Video is a poor medium for wiki content. If you're using real people, how do you update an incorrect sign in the middle of a sentence? How do you search for signs that use a certain hand shape? If you're using video animation, there are many other technical problems that people are addressing, but that is a different project.
If you are interested in the complex discussion about written sign language, you can read the ASL Wikipedia Request or a recent discussion on AllDeaf titled Who pays the piper, picks the sign or an ever expanding blog post titled Desire for ASL Writing. -Slevinski (talk) 12:29, 26 March 2014 (UTC)[reply]
An interesting paper on the topic of written sign language is titled Writing Sign Languages: FOR-FOR? FORM?. Slevinski (talk) 18:39, 16 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]