sue watling

Quite a lot actually.  Juliet may have said ‘That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.’* but you need to choose its substitute with care. Dogwort is the prettiest of spring flowers but would you recognise it? Exactly! Whereas everyone knows a rose even if your only experience is modern hybrids which are all colour and no scent.  

Fancy fonts are a bit like todays roses; all style and no substance. Fonts are like people; they have their own characters and personalities. The problem starts when  the font you choose says more about you than the message you want to put across. A disaster in the art of communication.  Naming is a tricky art; a conundrum which lies at the heart of marketing – how best to deliver the message succinctly and with style?

How best to name a staff development workshop where it needs to convey the message that attending is worth an hour or two of your time. I’ve developed a session which looks at working with digital data and ensuring the information we put online can be accessed by everyone, regardless of the ways in which they use their computers. It’s about recognising difference and diversity but in relation to operating within digital environments. Take-up on the sessions isn’t great. Paul Stainthorp has suggested this could be symptomatic of the lack of importance placed on accessibility, usability and access issues in general. I think Paul is right – but public institutions have a responsibility to ensure digital content follows inclusive practice guidelines. Which is why a little awareness raising is not a bad thing. But how best to get the message across?

With hindsight maybe the title Promoting Inclusive Practice with Digital Data isn’t the best of choices. I like the phrase Digital Literacy but first responses suggest it’s making the same mistakes. The meaning is clear to me but I’m not standing outside the box. I like Know your Fonts but it’s not much better – I know what I mean but how can I be sure that meaning is explicit? Maybe there isn’t a title with universal appeal. Maybe we’ve all become too set in our digital ways. I don’t yet have the answer. But you have to appreciate the subtle irony that a workshop about getting the digital message across successfully has a title which is failing to get that message across in the first place!

* Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)



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