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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versión On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versión impresa ISSN 0041-4751


GREYLING, Franci; VERHOEF, Suna  y  TEMPELHOFF, Gustaf. The ByderhandPioneer Project: A case study of the participatory dynamics in creating and accessibilising locative literature for persons with visual impairment. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2020, vol.60, n.4-2, pp.1336-1362. ISSN 2224-7912.

Through the discussion of the Byderhand Pioneer Project as a case study, the article provides an overview of the practical implementation of participatory and interdisciplinary creative projects in the digital humanities. The end-product of the Byderhand Pioneer Project comprises three locative-literature installations accessible to persons with visual impairment, located in Worcester in the Western Cape. The project is a participatory practice based research project between researchers from the Creative Writing subject group at the North-West University and, among others, participants who are visually impaired. The project, which was undertaken on invitation by the school, may be regarded as an example of applied electronic literature studies (Ensslin 2019). It is unique in that the multimodal literary installations are accessible to persons with visual impairment, and also because persons with visual impairment played an integral role in the establishment of the project. This retrospective article, written from the perspectives of three researchers from different disciplines, presents an outline of the Byderhand Pioneer Project, focusing on the participatory dynamics required for creating and accessibilising digital locative literature. The article covers the contextualisation of the participatory approach; the establishment ofproject framework; the participatory dynamics that enabled the creation of a multisensory garden, as well as the creation of the digital literature and of the digital tools accessibilising such content; and, lastly, a reflection and conclusion regarding the project approach. The project was consciously grounded in a participatory worldview and research paradigm, which guided the execution of the project practice and the related research. Important points of departure included the concept of projects as basic units in digital humanities (Burdick et al. 2012), the participatory inquiry paradigm (Heron & Reason 1997), the practice based research approach, and participatory design. The principle of "nothing about us without us", which denotes that persons with disabilities must be integrally involved when projects or initiatives affect them directly (Rowland 2004), was accepted as the basis for the project. In the narrative on technology for the disabled, the project and approach would follow the idea of using everyday technology to ensure or improve accessibility, and to counter stigmatisation, as a human right (Mathiesen 2017; Perry 2015). Through exploratory discussions, meetings and site visits, relationships were built, and partners, collaborators and participants were identified; project possibilities were considered and expanded; and a project goal, objective and sub-projects were conceptualised and formulated. The aim of the overarching project for the researchers from the North-West University was to extend the accessibility of the existing Byderhand locative literature platform to enhance its accessibility to users and writers with visual impairment. For the school, the overarching collaborative aim was the creation of a multisensory garden on the school grounds. This involved the expertise, skills and input of various role players, which contributed to the organic development of the garden as a central purpose. Various partnerships were formed with an eye to the practical implementation of the garden project; specialist knowledge input from occupational and speech therapists, from orientation and mobility specialists, as well as music teachers, were obtained, and learners from the school were involved throughout. The cooperation in the production of the three multimodal literature installations can be understood as contributory participation (Rettberg 2011). The installations concern the Garden Verses, the Pioneer Stories and the Karoo Gardens Verses. The Garden Verses - a collection of multimodal poems and children's verses - are linked with the auditory offering in the multisensory garden. The collection was further expanded with the Pioneer Stories - stories and narrations about experiences at the school and in its surroundings, written by learners and former learners of the school. The Karoo Gardens Verses installation comprises a collection of poems for the proposed braille route in die Karoo Desert National Botanical Gardens. The Garden Verses and Karoo Gardens collections each contains 10 poems made available in different languages and presented through different media, and the Pioneer Stories collection consists of 27 contributions by participating authors with visual impairment. In line with the participatory nature of the project, a user-centred (Abras et al. 2004) and co-design approach was applied in designing a multimodal and multilevel interface through which the literature is disseminated. Persons with visual impairment were integral to the development of the accessible design solutions. These design solutions involve the combination of braille, QR codes and an accessible user interface that makes provision for sighted, low vision and blind users. The various texts and media were published on the database and installed in the school's multisensory garden and on the larger school grounds and were made available in a nearby coffee shop. The locative literature installations contribute to an enriched school environment, and the reception of the project has been predominantly positive. The evaluation phase involved various forms of observation, post-project reflection and the utilisation of various knowledge modalities. The success of the project can be attributed to the collaborative relationships between and contributions of a large variety of partners and individuals. The following aspects were identified as pivotal for the project's success: the context and purpose of the project; the use of existing networks and the establishment of new networks; interdisciplinary collaboration; versatility in approaches; the way in which local partners and participants provided links and acted as cultural guides; voluntary participation; inclusivity and accessibility as project guidelines; sustained dialogue and reflection; and the personality traits of the core team. Participation in the project raised the researchers' awareness of the needs of people with vision impairment, and of the need for greater inclusivity and accessibility of cultural products, especially as the latter need may find fulfilment through digital interface design and presentation of literature.

Palabras clave : locative literature; digital literature; site specific literature; participatory approach; participating dynamics; practice based research; collaboration; visual impairment; multisensory garden; interface design; accessibility; co-design; applied electronic literature studies.

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