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Social audio’s arguments don’t ring true for Deaf people

Updated: Oct 4, 2022


An argument for more social audio in today’s digital world is that text - with all the limits placed on it by social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter - only goes so far and communicates so much. Audio, they claim, is more expressive, but they clearly haven’t come across British Sign Language (BSL).


Twitter is still pushing ahead with its move towards audio in the form of a podcast tab, and the further expansion of its Spaces chatroom feature - the captions for which are still far from perfect.


Though it would be unfair to single out Twitter and their move towards this inaccessible way of communicating on social media. Facebook has its take in the form of ‘Rooms’, for example, and the Clubhouse app is still gathering dust. Across the board, platforms are looking to combine audio with more interactive, text-based or video elements.


To revert back to Twitter - merely because the breadth of their social audio product is so wide - Spaces encourage listeners to tweet into their main timeline. Hosts, meanwhile, can record live conversations and pin tweets to advance the discussion.


Ultimately, the move towards social audio has been handled with the wrong focus: an exclusionary tunnel vision on one media format, rather than how text-based communication can be expanded outwards to offer a more multimedia experience.


The error is costly, because there is an extent to which text is accessible to us all. From text, both audio and video can be easily generated. In the case of Signapse, the recipe is there for the AI to adapt, and make an audio experience accessible to British Sign Language (BSL) users. Audio in the world of social media should not be utilised in isolation, but it still very much is.


A truly expressive experience, to refer to the above, happens when each medium is placed on an equal footing. Until that moment comes, the case for social audio will continue to be undermined.





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