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Stuart Thiessen smt_sw at EARTHLINK.NET
Sun Jun 22 18:02:11 UTC 2003

The name of our new organization will be "Pass It On Services" since the emphasis of our organization will be encouraging deaf people in our community to be lifelong learners and "pass it on" to others around them.  We will have some things that are local in scope and others that are broader such as encouraging literacy with SignWriting, etc.

I believe HamNoSys has their notation in Unicode as well. But how far along things are for them, I do not know.  The chief advantage of Unicode in my estimation is primarily "political" and secondly practical.  Politically, by having SignWriting recognized in Unicode, then we have a powerful argument that SignWriting is indeed a writing system with recognized status and usage.  Further, as I understand it, Unicode only specifies the look and shape of the character set. There are databases of information on how the writing system works.  So, if I understand this correctly, if we are willing to go through the process, eventually, a detailed description of how SignWriting is rendered will also be recorded with the Unicode specs.  So a vendor who writes a program using Unicode and who claims to support SW must follow those specifications to be normal in their use of the program. That in turn may also assist us in keeping some form of standardization in the way SW is represented on the computer.

In short, rendering is up to the vendor who writes the program.  So, just having Unicode only solves having the characters and a computer representation of the glyphs. We still need a method for rendering SW. SIL International, an international linguistic organization that works with minority languages, has developed a rendering engine for non-Roman scripts called Graphite.. There are already versions of a wordprocessor and other linguistic tools that know how to use Graphite. Further, there are possibilities that a version of the Mozilla browser and even suite may be modified to interface with Graphite.  This means that once the detail work of getting the Unicode specifications including describing the rendering of SW to the Graphite engine, then these programs will be available for SW use. It is a longer term objective but I feel it is worth pursuing and it keeps us in the mainstream of computing.

Practically speaking, once those specifications are in place, anyone can write a program that is SW-friendly.  The fonts will be in place. At least one rendering engine will be available for use. Further, I think that it will make sign language research with SignWriting more viable. Certainly research could be done with SWML, but I do think that SW in Unicode might make things a little easier. There are ways to encode things in Unicode such that even some implied things in SW could be explicit in the way Unicode processes the SW symbols.  Again, none of this is set in stone yet. I am looking at the funding question now so that I can focus my full-time energy on finding these answers.

Having said all this, I do not see SWML and SW in Unicode as opponents, but allies. I feel that SWML may very well be the way that data can be interchanged between programs or even the SW symbols or whatnot can be expressed in SWML using Unicode (since XML supports Unicode.)  So they can work together and I think it could be powerful teamwork.

On the question of mapping Valerie's numbering and Unicode numbering, every country has their own encoding that they use as well (just like Americans have ASCII). Within the SW community, we may want to use Valerie's numbering as our "local" encoding (actually Valerie already has several "local" encodings).  However, we can easily design a mapping from Valerie's numbering to Unicode numbering so that we can use either. This can also be incorporated in the Unicode databases to explain our "local" encoding.

On the question of why use animation ... there are some deaf communities who are opposed to SignWriting or writing systems in general. These communities however are open to linedrawings or video.  Eventually, I see the SignAvatar as being a simple way to develop linedrawings or video clips based on existing SignWriting documents.  This gives us a simple way to edit the data (SW) but output it in ways that are accepted by that community. Over time, if they should become open to SW, then the underlying SW data is available to them. This can also be a tool for teaching SW or developing full-body illustrations to complement a SW explanation. It can also be a cheaper way to output video clips in sign languages that can be easily edited since it is totally computer generated. For me, I am satisfied with SW. But I am thinking of those who aren't there yet, but still want access to information.

I hope that makes it clearer why my organization is looking at this project.. The funding will be challenging, but an advantage is that it is one less thing for Valerie to worry about. Even still, I will be asking for her feedback and all of your feedback as things come up. My organization still plans to be supportive of SignWriter Java and other initiatives of the SW community even as we work on our contributions to the SW community.



---------- Original Message ---------------

SignWriting List
June 22, 2003

Dear SW List, and Stuart...
Thanks for mentioning your new non-profit organization, which includes working with SignWriting.... Your organization is founded by Deaf people....That is the way it should be....Do you have a name for your organization yet?

Regarding SignWriting and Unicode, I remember once long ago, you mentioned to me that HamNoSys is in Unicode now? Or did I not remember that correctly? I would think that HamNoSys would easily be used in Unicode, if they still write their writing system from left to right, in horizontal fashion...

Unicode does not give a "typing method"...if we want to type SignWriting down the page, for example, even if we have Unicode, we will then have to program using that Unicode within other computer Unicode is not a typing method, but a way to categorize symbols under an internationally accepted coding system...(at least that is my understanding)...

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