Tag Archives: photography

Revising Lyme Research Questions

One of my wise advisers from my days as an undergraduate at University of Maryland recently gave me some important advice. As usual, I was complaining about my various projects, particularly about my inability to select useful and appropriate research methods. My adviser said something to this effect: “Why don’t you figure out your research questions before you select your research methods? You can’t figure out how to answer the questions until you’ve chosen them.” SO SIMPLE, YET SO BRILLIANT. (I guess this is why we have advisers). In turn: I’m writing this post because the time has come for me to really nail down my research questions (at least for my dissertation proposal. I know that they will change along the way, but I can’t get the proposal approved without a version of these questions, so here goes…).

I have been working on these questions for some time. Almost a year, in fact. When I teach my students about the research process, they are always frustrated by my assertion that research IS a process–one that is recursive, reflexive, and constantly evolving. (I mean, it’s called “re-search” for a reason!) However, none of that means that the research process isn’t frustrating. It’s hard to keep coming up with versions of the same questions (and some new ones), but hopefully my questions get better and better as I continue to revise them. Here are a few versions:

April 2015:

  • What does it mean to receive a Lyme disease diagnosis?
  • What does that diagnosis allow/not allow? Legitimize/not legitimize?
  • Who is able to receive a diagnosis, and who is not?
  • What do you have to know about lyme in order to self-advocate or receive appropriate treatments?
    • If diagnosis matters so much, what are we to do if we feel that our healthcare providers have misdiagnosed us?
  • In general, what does it mean to have a chronic condition or to live as a chronically ill person? What kinds of evidence are required for women’s chronic illness symptoms to be believed or taken seriously?
  • How do women’s stories complicate our understanding of how they navigate the world while living with disease?
  • When disease names and language change, what happens?
  • How is illness language being turned and nuanced?
  • When ill women are given access to communicate (i.e. online?), what happens?
  • What kinds of rhetorical strategies do chronically ill women adopt to navigate their illness experiences? What kinds of illness language do ill people, scientific, and public communities create, and how does it influence the ways patients are cared for and treated?

July 2015:

  • KEY QUESTION: What is the (if any?) rhetoricity of being “chronic,” and how can chronically ill people (specifically women) leverage their diagnoses, treatments, and long-term care to their advantage (i.e. to get the least harmful, most effective treatments and experiences)?
  • How does a diagnosis change the ways in which an ill person lives, perceives, acts out, and discusses publicly their symptoms/condition?
  • For whom is a diagnosis important, and what does it do? (Patients vs. doctors vs. insurance companies vs. big pharma, etc.).
  • How do patients weigh the risks of particular treatments? (Meaning, when the list of side effects is longer than the list of benefits on FDA-approved medication, why might patients choose to take/not take them?)
  • How are treatments framed differently for individuals with chronic conditions? What does it mean for patients to be treated for psychiatric conditions that occur as a result of chronic illness (forever marking them as individuals with mental disorders)?
  • How do chronically ill people sustain themselves even when there is no hope for recovery? How are traditional conceptions of “cure” and “recovery” reframed for the chronic patient?

October 2015:

  • What does Lyme Disease look like? (And how does this affect who is diagnosed with it–and appropriately treated–and when?)
  • Who circulates images of Lyme Disease? What does the circulation network look like?
  • How do Lyme Disease diagnosis health-seekers/patients envision their connection to Lyme? How do they document their experiences of Lyme, if at all? (Or other ambiguous chronic illness/condition).
  • How do clinicians who diagnose Lyme Disease and researchers who do experiments to learn more about Lyme Disease *see* it–in the lab, in the treatment center, in the exam room? How do these images circulate?
  • What is the history of images of Lyme Disease and their connection to diagnosis?
  • And of course…How do Lyme Disease visuals function rhetorically, particularly in diagnosis situations? How might images/visuals be effective argumentative tools for presenting new ideas/shifting the focusing/reevaluating the stakes of Lyme Disease diagnosis?

November 2015:

  • What is the origin of the standard Lyme Disease images, and how have they molded and circulated between professional and patient communities?
  • In the midst of complex arguments about how long the Lyme infection remains active and if intravenous antibiotics cause more side-effects than healing, four standard images accompany discussions from all ideological perspectives: one or more ticks, EM rashes, Lyme spirochetes, and maps that chart Lyme diagnoses across the United States. Why d0 these images continue to be taken up and recirculated?  How have they have played a covert but significant role in making paradoxical claims about Lyme persuasive?
  • How might visual ethnography reveal new complexities in the diagnosis, treatment, and recovery from Lyme Disease? What happens when we ask integral but invisible stakeholders (i.e. Lyme patients) to become producers of visual discourse about Lyme?
  • How might visual ethnography create new images that provide an alternative, patient-centered perspective on the condition?
  • How might  language, objects, and social actions (including scientific “facts”) function as persuasive tools (which are inherently impartial)?
  • How might a rhetorical analysis of the visual rhetoric of Lyme Disease offer new ways to understand a condition that science of medicine have not yet figured out?
  • How have (and how do) images of Lyme Disease shape(d) popular, medical, and scientific discourses and the practices of Lyme diagnosis, treatment, and recovery?

As you can see, this project has already gone through many shifts…and I haven’t officially started it yet. I guess I should also think about my intended interventions:

  1. Lyme Disease–like many other (particularly controversial conditions and diseases)–is rhetorically constructed. This impacts health seekers’ diagnosis, treatment, and recovery, as well as the ways that knowledge about the disease is constructed, circulated, and contested.
  2. Analyzing visuals (i.e. through visual rhetorical analysis) can help us understand Lyme (and other conditions and diseases) as rhetorical phenomenons. As Jeanne Fahnestock argued in her groundbreaking book, Rhetorical Figures in Science, linguistic figures of speech translate to visual figures in scientific writing.
  3. Guiding Lyme health seekers through the creation of their own images through participant-solicited visual ethnography and digital storytelling (?????) allows them to intervene and perhaps make a difference in Lyme Disease knowledge production. (TBD if I do some kind of study. We shall see?)

I guess I need to go back through and narrow down/select which questions will work for me…but since it’s almost 4:00pm, I guess I should shower or exercise… To be continued!

 

 

 

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Scholarly Interventions

I’m so lucky to have such brilliant advisers! I submitted a draft of the literature review section of my prospectus to get some preliminary ideas, and she provided this feedback:

My overall question is whether you want to make the method (visual ethnography) your primary scholarly intervention, or whether it is just one of your interventions. I guess I am thinking ahead to a potential book project, in which case the main topic would likely be Lyme and the method (visual rhetoric and visual ethnography) the tool you use to help us understand Lyme disease better as a rhetorical phenomenon, specifically with relation to the issue of diagnosis and definition of the condition itself. How are diagnoses shaped rhetorically, especially in our current context, where health is increasingly digitized, public, popular–not just narrowly medical or scientific. In other words, diagnoses and definitions of conditions like Lyme are shaped by these various networks, not just by what scientists write in a medical journal. More specifically, images and other kinds of visual rhetoric play a key role, and these circulate through that network in different ways. Thus the question becomes how a visual analysis (using traditional rhetoric but also elements of visual ethnography) can help to elucidate that network.

***

The second question (and one to think about as you go forward) is whether you’d want to confine the ethnography part to auto-ethnography (and maybe also analysis of other “auto-ethnographic” images people post to blogs or forums), or if you want to do a full-scale study with IRB, recruitment, etc. I think both would be possible but the latter would be a bigger undertaking and might also require more time. Something to ask the committee!

I had a very difficult time putting together the partial prospectus draft because I thought that I could only make one major intervention and I wasn’t sure what I wanted that to be. Thankfully, it sounds like I can make multiple interventions! (Though perhaps this is one of those cases where it is better to do one thing well than half-ass three or four things?) I am trying to think about the prospectus and dissertation as a prospectus and dissertation,–i.e. NOT a book–because I think that the stress of of writing a “book” vs. a “dissertation” will become overwhelming. We’ll see how it goes?

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Visual Ethnography and Health

I came upon “Visual Ethnography: Tools for Mapping the AIDS Epidemic,” a 1990 article by Eric Margolis (who is quite famous for his visual ethnography work). This article is helping me “join the conversation” about visual ethnography as a method for studying health issues. Interestingly, Margolis was ahead of his time. In the wake of the recent digital humanities tide (manta: “put a map on it!”), Margolis situates mapping illness as an important way to figure out where health issues exist and the best means to treat them. He also describes image making rhetorically. He argues, “Skepticism that statistics do not tell the whole truth actually makes it possible for us to interpret quantitative data. In a similar vein, being aware that visual images distort and misrepresent reality can help us to define an appropriate role for the use of nonverbal images in qualitative studies” (371). Later, he adds that visuals can “mislead differently” than language (and I assume he’s talking about print texts?) (374). Margolis helpfully traces the history of the incorporation of photographs into sociology and ethnography; he also distinguishes this from photojournalism. (Note: one of this first and most famous uses of photograph in anthropology dates back to Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson’s study of Bali). Regarding issues of health, Margolis argues that photographs “convey a human scales that is missing in volumes of words and statistics” and that they “have the potential to not just illustrate but illuminate; social processes, events, relationships, and meanings can be discovered in photographs and graphic images” (374). As a case study, he analyzes the work of a San Francisco-based health outreach group, which aims to stop the spread of AIDS by tracking it ethnographically and then working in those areas to prevent transmission (375). What’s not so great about this work is that Margolis seems to unreflexively incorporate image of individuals who are part of multiple marginalized groups without any regard for the individuals themselves. For instance, there is a picture of “prostitutes” receiving condoms from a health worker and a “transvestite” sitting on a car. Margolis does not talk about how these images were solicited, if people gave permission to be photographed, what the people in the photographs thought of the photographs, etc.

Thankfully, there are plenty of other texts to fill in the gaps. A 2015 review article about participant photography as a research method in nursing studies by Balmer, Griffiths, and Dunn lays out how researches might plan, create and interpret photographic data, ethical and legal considers, and impact on research. Other recent texts, such as Melvin Delgado’s Urban Youth and Photovice: Visual Ethnography in Action (2015) as well as

Some texts, including Urban Youth and Photovoice and Switza et al., “Visualizing harm reduction: Methodological and ethical considerations” (2015), focus on photovoice. I’m not sure how different photovoice vs. photo elicitation vs. photo production stories vs. visual ethnography are the same or if they are actually separate methods. I’m grateful that Switza et al. has a lengthy literature review about photo methods in health research and points me to Collier (1957) and Harper (2002) to learn about photo elicitation and Wang (1999) and Wang and Burris (1997)  and Wang et al. (2004) to learn about photovoice. A few studies (such as Morrison and Thomas 2015 and Bukhave and Huniche 2015) focus on work and occupation, which usefully intersects with my health humanities research. Others highlight literacy (Wargo 2015).  Apparently these methods fall under “arts-based research,” which is interesting to me because I originally approached my investigation from a narrative-based research perspective.

I’m excited to see what comes of this…but for now I have to go eat dinner because I am getting cranky.

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Looking at Lyme

Once my eyes focused on these long snake-like organisms, I recognized what I had seen a million times before: spirochetes.

–Willy Burgdorfer, 2001

Before I submit the SSRC DPDF on Thursday, I need to do enough background research to figure out how/why Lyme Disease visuals are important to study. Ultimately, I need to figure out what the history of these images are and how and why they have been so widely circulated in order to frame my application. However, this is turning out to be more difficult than I’ve anticipated. I’ve been playing around on the internet (i.e. researching) for last hour and a half, and here’s where my web travels have taken me:

  • Google Ngram. It appears that the phrase, “Lyme Disease,” was first used in 1962, but I couldn’t figure out how to make Ngram provide a list of publications from oldest to most recent. (Or they just couldn’t list the publications from the 1960s?) The earliest things that came up were from the 1980s.
  • Google Images. A bunch of categories come up for in a Lyme Disease search: rash, dogs, symptoms, bacteria, tick, and awareness. Looking at pictures of ticks on people’s skin (particularly fingertips) was making me nauseous. How my mother earned a master’s degree in entomology is beyond me. I’m not normally grossed out by bugs (re: entomologist mother), but for some reason, the images of ticks were turning my stomach. Interestingly, this reaction is challenging my earlier claim that typical Lyme Disease pictures are rhetorically ineffective. If an image is making me nauseous, it means that it’s doing something. I’m just not sure what yet.
  • Twitter. I love using Twitter to see what people are posting about Lyme (and everything else in the universe), and I was pleased to find a few new popular articles about Lyme via the #lymedisease hashtag. I also investigated the #lymediseasechallenge hashtag and campaign, which elicited many photos (though not as many as you’d think) of people biting into limes and making puckering faces. A lot of the Lyme Disease advocacy/support groups had posted infographics (without visual data, though, so they were really just informational graphics) with a few facts about Lyme and other things that connect to Lyme. It was interesting to see how Lyme is connected to other spirochete-based diseases like syphilis and that advocacy groups compared the numbers of people diagnosed with Lyme Disease to that of HIV/AIDS, colon cancer, breast cancer, and more. My favorite, of course, were the graphics about how one might prevent Lyme Disease: wearing long sleeved shirts when out in grassy areas, checking for ticks, etc. These remind me of the ineffective campaigns about preventing rape via making at-risk groups responsible for preventing rape. Vomit. It is peculiar that Lyme advocates have taken up a similar campaign–could this be considered a kind of topos?
  • Google Scholar. Again, I was trying to pull up the earliest articles (in date order) using the phrase “Lyme Disease” and “Lyme borreliosis,” as well as a few other variations with and without quotation marks, but the publications only seemed to date back to the 1980s. I eventually realized that it would be helpful to figure out who discovered Lyme Disease and to see what this person/team published on it…and if they included any visuals! This led me to the obituary of medical entomologist Willy Burgdorfer in The Lancet (http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(15)60011-3/fulltext?rss%3Dyes). With his team from the Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Montana, he looked at ticks from Long Island that were suspected to have Rocky Mountain Fever. Apparently, his main contribution is that he figured out that Lyme Disease was cause by spirochetes (bacteria in a spiral shape), which helped scientists and doctors figure out how to test for it, treat it, and, for a time, vaccinate people against it. Note: This visual discovery has circulated through popular culture, and some people like me even have Lyme spirochete toys – http://www.amazon.com/GIANTmicrobes-Disease-Borrelia-Burgdorferi-Microbe/dp/B000NO9HK2. (Thank you, Emi!)

All of this led me to the journal, Science, where Burgdorfer’s team first published about their Lyme Disease discovery. “Lyme Disease” is first mentioned in the journal, which was then called Science News, in Vol. 113, No. 23 (Jun. 10, 1978), p. 375. The 318 word report discusses the discovery of the first-ever “insect-carried arthritis,” which the researchers call “Lyme Arthritis” after its discovery in Lyme, CT. Interestingly, the reports claims that this condition is most common in children, which is still true according to the CDC, and that most affected individuals life in wooded areas in the north east U.S. The report also claims that scientists suspect that it is a tick-borne illness because the accompanying rash is similar to rashes related to tick-borne disease in Europe. No visual accompany the report.

The groundbreaking Burgdorfer article (written by Willy Burgdorfer, Alan G. Barbour, Stanley F. Hayes, Jorge L. Benach, Edgar Grunwaldt and Jeffrey P. Davis) was published in Vol. 216, No. 4552 (Jun. 18, 1982), pp. 1317-1319 in Science New Series. I’ve included screenshots of the images for your viewing pleasure:

Burgdorfer_Visual1

VIsual 1: Spirochetes in Tick Vectors

Burgdorfer_Visual2

Visual 2: Spirochetes in an electron micrograph. Not sure what that is, so I guess I should look it up.

We’ll see where all of this goes?

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Research Questions/Questioning My Research

It’s funny how the process of creating research questions can prompt you to question your research (and your sanity) entirely! I met with Dan to talk about my Lyme selfies project the other day, and I came away with many insights. Here are a few of them:

  • Most academic monographs don’t have any pictures (or just a few in black and white) because they are incredibly expensive to print. We could say that this is one limit of the genre. My approach could be more of a genre-based approach that argues for the limits of alphabetic text; this would be something I’m very familiar with and would be a relatively easy argument to make.
  • My interest in this might fit into a number of existing academic conversations: visual rhetoric, visual literacy, digital humanities, etc.
  • It might be helpful to look for patterns to see how visual documentation of ill people/their bodies is happening in the vast social networks of the internet. (He highlighted Tumblr, Twitter, and Flickr). This means that I might start my analysis elsewhere–outside of my selfies–so better assess which conversation(s) I want to be part of.
  • Whatever happens, it might be helpful to take time to identify good archives, or strong pools of visuals that I could pull on now or later as part of my dissertation work.

This has led me to some other possibly more fruitful questions, many of which Jason, Jen, and Tiffany pitched at writing group this week:

  • How does a person license photos of their own body for public use? (Or do you?) Is there a kind of “best practices”? What choices do people make?
  • What is it possible for an archive of photos to do? What do I hope/expect that people will do with them, if anything? How do I think they will be circulated?
    • There’s an interesting rhetorical question here about public(s).
  • Can visuals create a space for unheard voices/identities to be recognized?
    • How are visuals a different way of knowing than alphabetic text?
    • Do visuals tell an alternative story?
  • How are visuals being use argumentatively? How could visuals be used argumentatively?
  • What are the networks in which these visual artifacts circulate?
  • How might digital methods/expectations interference/challenge disability studies methods/expectations? What are some effective digital approaches to making sense of things that aren’t alphabetic text?
    • For instance: metadata. Dan suggested that I try not to give text descriptions of my photos because then I’ll be analyzing–and in effect permanently marking–my images and the way the will be used. However, in order to make my photos more accessible to individuals who use screen readers, for instance, I need to embed text into my photos so that screen readers have something to process.
  • How will I catalogue and make sense of these images–my own and other freely available ones?

To prepare myself for a visual project (if that’s possible), I’ve been reading and rereading some scholarship about visual rhetoric, particularly ethnographic methods. This article my McNely et al. has been one of my main sources of inspiration. I thought that their justification for using photographs was compelling, so I’ve included it here:

We have made a concerted effort to use photography rather than videography for two primary reasons: first, as a practical constraint on our field research, we collectively had more experience working with the production and analysis of still images than video; second, and more importantly, we viewed photographs as affording both a medium through which we might better understand and analyze participant knowledge (in granular moments and as a collective whole), and as a mode of representing the complexity of our participants’ work. Our visual methods, therefore, helped us better understand the many genres of writing and rhetorical action that comprised participants’ eventual, public work.

–Brian J. McNely, Paul Gestwicki, Bridget Gelms, and Ann Burke, “Spaces and Surfaces of Invention: A Visual Ethnography of Game Development.” Enculturation (2013).

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Documenting My Sick Body: Guidelines for a Manifesto/Project

Since I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease in November 2009, I’ve been documenting my illness in a variety of ways. My mom–one of my primary illness support team members–created a timeline that included both illness highlights (when I first began experiencing symptoms, when symptoms changed, etc.), different medication start/stop dates, medical consultations, etc. This document was helpful when I/we would give my dreaded health history to whatever doctor I was seeing next…until I/we realized that being up front about seeing so many doctors freaked other doctors out (#rhetoricalproblems). On the other hand, my family and close friends will also report that I like to send them selfies of my swollen/painful joints…for no particular reason. Maybe to qualify my complaints in some way? When I had a burn accident in February, I took hundreds of photos of the burns so I could document my recovery process in hopes of filing a lawsuit. (Note: few attorneys are dumb enough to want to fight a case against a state government institution).  Yet I also found myself, for whatever reason, taking some more playful shots alongside the medical-gaze ones. For example…

Although I had been in a horrible accident at 11:55am, around 5:00pm my pain drugs had kicked in enough for me to realize that my hair looked great and needed to be documented.

This is me in my bathroom at my house. I am wearing the hospital gown that I wore home from the emergency room…we won’t go into why that was necessary. Although I had been in a horrible accident at 11:55am, around 5:00pm my pain drugs had kicked in enough for me to realize that my hair looked great and needed to be documented. I took this selfie using a mirror reflection. I’m not sure why, though I’m sure that the Fentanyl would help explain it?

Jen pointed out to me at writing group this week that this kind of documentation is different from other kinds of documentation that patients are typically asked to produce. For instance, diabetes patients are likely supposed to track their A1Cs, chronic pain patients are often asked to keep a pain diary, etc. I haven’t heard of anyone documenting their body in this way for medical reasons, though of course that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t happened. What’s notable, I think, is that I’m trying to keep track of what’s happening to my body in its essential banality. I’m keeping track of various unextraordinary moments in time by documenting my fluctuating knees/knee pain–a common issue for people with Lyme Disease, Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome, and Chronic Lyme Disease (if it’s really at thing).

Here is my first attempt at establishing some principles (Todd Taylor-style) for this visual autoethnography project:

  1. My decision to document my body in a way that works for me gives me more agency as a chronically ill person and thus helps me move from “patient” to “health seeker.”
  2. These photographs honor the dull, uninteresting everyday pains and practices of chronically ill people. Specifically mine. I don’t speak for any or all of these people and need to be careful not to do that. Yet I do speak as a chronically ill person, which is important to what I think might be at stake for this project and chronically ill people in the United States.
  3. I want these photos to be able be read by screen readers and other accessibility technologies. Since this is a disability studies-oriented project, I want everyone from the academic (and social?) communit(ies) to be able to participate by watching*/reading* if they want.
  4. These photos–the technologies I’m using to take them and store them, the locations in which I take them, etc.–are part of my available means of persuasion. (Thanks, Aristotle!) I come from a very privileged position and want to be attentive to the idea that not everyone–actually, very few people–have the economic means to access such technologies, the digital literacy to figure out things like Flikr, etc. I aim to be attentive to the affordances and limitations of my chosen technologies and to be reflexive as I make recommendations for other humans/researchers/etc.
  5. I’m hoping to shift toward Andrea Lunsford’s definition of rhetoric: “the art, practice, and study of human communication.” I see this project as enabling a kind of “human communication” that I’m unable to achieve using only written words on paper. However, I’m not yet sure what this project “communicates” to other humans, if anything. We shall see?

Perhaps this sounds insane. (It probably is). But I’m looking for something that will…do more, if that’s even possible? I recently read three excellent (and recently published!) monographs that can be classified as feminist rhetorical studies of health, science, and medicine–exactly the kind of work that I want to do–but I found myself getting antsy when I read them. The rhetorical analyses of scientific and public/non-specialist communication about health issues was FANTASTIC, but I wanted to see the breastfeeding recommendation report documents marked up so that I could SEE the differences between them over the years. I wanted to SEE more posters about WWI sexual health campaigns.  I needed images, graphics, video…something? Maybe it’s the millennial in me that gets easily bored, but I actually don’t think so. Hmm….

*”Watching” and “reading” in both normative/traditional ways as well as in other modes accessible to individuals with a variety of disabilities and illnesses.

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Doing Visual Research from a Disability Studies Perspective

As usual, I’m caught up in the language. I’m searching for some resources to help me figure out how to use visuals in ways that are accessible to people who use text-readers and other technologies. If I’m going to use visual research methods for a disability studies-oriented project, I need to carefully account for the affordances and limits of using such methods. (Or at least I need to hold myself accountable for thinking through visual accommodations). Since I’m starting/documenting this research on this blog, I thought I’d start looking into visual accessibility by figuring out how to make the blog itself more accessible.

Like the millennial I am, I started with Google. My first search terms included “image descriptions for vision impaired,” “how to make my blog more accessible,” and “how to make my blog more disability friendly.” My inner rhetorician was on high alert; I don’t like calling people “impaired,” but I thought that the phrase might be a commonly used in advocacy communities and would thus generate more results. From these searches, I found a few useful pages/articles (listed in the order I discovered them):

A). The American Foundation for the Blind has a page specifically dedicated to making your blog accessible to blind readers.  They offer seven “tips” that I’ve copied here:

  1. Choose an Accessible Service
  2. Describe Your Images
  3. Avoid the Dreaded “Click Here” or “More…”!
  4. Put Your Blogroll on the Right-Hand Side
  5. Check the Comment Form—Is It Labeled Properly?
  6. Use Flexible Font Sizes
  7. Don’t Force Links to Open in New Windows

B) “The Transcontinental Disability Choir: How to Make Your Blog Accessible in Five Not-Very-Complicated Steps,” a 2009 Bitch Media article by Anna Pearce offers five similar steps that I’ve paraphrased:

  1. Use transcripts
  2. Describe pictures
  3. Make link text relevant (i.e. not click here or more information)
  4. Don’t over-ride browser defaults, especially for text size
  5. Check out how your blog looks in multiple browsers
  6. Pearce mentions that, as a bonus, you can test your website to see how accessible it is – very helpful!

C)  A WordPress community post by Siobhan McKeown titled “25 Ways to Make Your WordPress Site More Accessible” covered all of these items and a few more, which I’ll list below:

  1. Use headings correctly – use only one H1 per page and use heading sizes in order
  2. Use or add skip links to your theme – a link that allows users to move beyond the page navigation
  3. Use underlined links
  4. Use or add ARIA roles
  5. Use lists for easy reading
  6. Don’t rely on color alone and be mindful of color contrast
  7. Ensure tables are marked up correctly

I am going to attend to future blog posts with these ideas in mind, paying particular attention to the points about images. I’m not sure that my visual autoethnographic study of my swollen body parts will transform the field of rhetoric, composition, and literacy studies (or anything else for that matter), but that won’t be an option until more people can experience their glory. (HA).

Speaking of selfies, I came to a realization while I was taking one of my knees this morning: selfies are incredibly performative. Those of you who are Judith Butler fans are probably well-aware of this an anticipated that performativity and selfies would go hand in hand…but it only occurred to me that I was concerned about my performance–and the appearance of my knees–when I realized I was arranging them to portray their optimal bloated-ness. For me, Lyme Disease has been both an invisible illness and an obvious physical disability. Like many chronic pain sufferers, my pain seems more real if it is somehow marked on my body and is constantly shifting from better to worse, from joint to joint, etc. I sometimes want to mark my pain in other obvious ways when it is not clearly evident on my body because it confuses people around me, including my doctors. How could I be in pain if I look so normal? Why should I be seeing a specialist for pain that is only intermittent? In any case, despite my concerns from earlier today, I hope these Lyme selfies can be useful even if they don’t always show visual evidence of my pain. I think they highlight a key rhetorical problem: pain isn’t always clear, experienced in a linear fashion, or unambiguously attributed to one cause…but it can be helpful to claim that to get more aggressive/effective treatment.

 

Lyme Selfie, Day 2: Closeup of my knees resting on top of a pillow.

Lyme Selfie, Day 2: Closeup of my knees resting on top of a pillow.

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