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jan van eyck academy

Annually, the Jan van Eyck organises a receptive recruitment campaign. Candidates are requested to submit proposals for research and/or production and to indicate the length of the desired research period (minimum 1 month, maximum 24 months). Candidates can apply for a one or two year period starting at the academic year on 1 January each year.

The selection is carried out departmentally (Fine Art, Design, Theory). In other words, candidate researchers are asked to relate to a particular discipline – this does not necessarily mean the submitted proposal has to fit within the generally valid definition of the chosen discipline: it is all to do with the independently formulated relationship to the discipline in question. Through this receptive recruitment the Jan van Eyck can accommodate unique individual research proposals which cannot be realised elsewhere.

Salome Schmuki

Researcher Design

01.01.07 – 31.12.07

My research is into the topic of dyslexia. The project intends to find possibilities to improve the abilities of dyslexic people to communicate, especially in written language. Dyslexia is characterised by a phonological processing deficit, possibly due to a deficit in more general auditory processing. That means its not primarily a visual perception problem.
I investigate reading disabilities in different writing systems and languages, like, for example, non-alphabetic scripts that work with ideographic characters, whole syllables instead of phonemes ( i.e. the Chinese writing system). I mean to compare the underlying mechanisms involved in alphabetic and logographic writing systems. English and Chinese are two languages that differ in almost every aspect: phonology, orthography, semantics and syntax. Thus, Chinese speakers who suffer from dyslexia have different brain abnormalities than English-speaking dyslectics. Reading difficulty in Chinese does not only result from a poor quality mapping of orthography to phonology, but also from a substandard connection between orthography and semantics.
Learning to speak Chinese is a difficult mental task, requiring the memorization of about 5000 to 6000 characters, each corresponding to a different word. As a result, Chinese speakers have trouble converting symbols into meanings, not letters into sounds.
Some dyslexic readers of languages with the alphabetical writing system try to memorize – instead of reading single letters and syllables – whole words like pictures: they read words logographically instead of synthetically. This compensation strategy is difficult to apply to abstract words that are hard to imagine.
A possible graphical improvement could be a tool to invent and use signs with elements of the alphabet for the difficult words. It should be used in a very individual way, as a kind of crib, the objective being that after some practise it would not be needed anymore and the ‘normal’ alphabet could be used. So far, I have been working with a school class in Switzerland to test and use some ideas of how to find elements for different types of words.
There are different kinds of strategy used by the dyslexic readers of different European languages. For example, the orthography of Italian is much closer to spoken language. This makes it possible to read while applying the rules, so dyslexic people are able to read relatively correctly, though extremely slowly: they analyze each sound according to the rules, they don’t read automatically.
Using the criteria I became familiar with, I started to design a typeface which should be easier to read for dyslexic readers and easier to learn for dyslexic (and non-dyslexic) children. So far, I have developed different versions and will start to test these with a group of dyslexic children as well as a group of dyslexic adults.


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