IAP Session: Alt-Text as Poetry Workshop

January 13, 2021
Event Types
MIT Community
Rebecca Comay, Basel Abbas, Ruanne Abou-Rahme, Avi Alpert, and Sreshta Rit Premnath are pictured in their respective video call screens.

Digital view from Shifter Session: Rebecca Comay, Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme held via Zoom in March 2021.

Alt-text is an essential part of web accessibility, making visual content accessible through short textual descriptions for blind and low-vision people who use screen reading software to access digital content. Alt-text is often overlooked altogether or understood through the lens of compliance, as an unwelcome burden to be met with minimum effort. How can we instead approach alt-text thoughtfully and creatively, while still prioritizing alt-text as an accessibility practice? In this workshop, led by Bojana Coklyat and Shannon Finnegan, we will reframe alt-text as a type of poetry and practice writing it together. We will look at examples of poetic and creative approaches to alt-text, then do several writing exercises designed to focus on issues that often come up in alt-text, including attention to language and word economy, alt-text as translation, structuring and prioritizing, subjectivity, identity, and representation. You can find more information on what alt-text is, and how we can practice it as poetry, on Bojana and Shannon’s website: https://alt-text-as-poetry.net/.This online program will use Zoom.Please email eagarner [at] mit.edu to request live closed-captioning.This event is free and open to the MIT Community. RSVP required to receive Zoom link.For more information, contact Emily Garner eagarner [at] mit.edu.This workshop will be followed by a second session, Alt-Text Time, providing a time to come together and put into practice lessons learned in this workshop.For more information about Alt- Text Time visit the event page.About the artists:Bojana Coklyat is a disabled visual artist, activist and art access consultant. Her interest in creative forms of access led her to Alt-Text as Poetry, a collaboration with Shannon Finnegan. Coklyat researched access in cultural institutions as part of her 2019-2020 Fulbright grant in the Czech Republic. She has continued similar work as the Project Leader for the Mapping Virtual Access in Cultural Institutions project at the Museum Art and Culture Access Consortium (MAC).Over the past several months, on behalf of MAC, Coklyat has been documenting approaches to access in NYC area cultural institutions during the pandemic.Shannon Finnegan is an interdisciplinary artist. Some of their recent work includes  Anti-Stairs Club Lounge, an ongoing project that gathers people together who share an aversion to stairs; Alt-Text as Poetry, a collaboration with Bojana Coklyat that explores the expressive potential of alt-text; and Do You Want Us Here or Not, a series of benches designed for exhibition spaces. Their work has been supported by a 2018 Wynn Newhouse Award, a 2019 residency at Eyebeam, and a 2020 grant from Art Matters Foundation.