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Equivalence, was Re: Subsumation

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@w3.org>
Date: Sat, 13 Jan 2001 20:56:21 -0500 (EST)
To: "Sean B. Palmer" <sean@mysterylights.com>
cc: <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>, William Loughborough <love26@gorge.net>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.30.0101132036450.379-100000@tux.w3.org>
On the one hand, it is trivially easy to argue that there is no way of
providing an equivalent to something in a different media. As someone who
loves books, I have often found that movie versions are simply not the same
as the books they present.

On the other hand, it is probably also true that whatever John Lennon had in
mind, Sean and I interpret it differently anyway. And although some people
may find it impossible to read "The Name of the Rose", I can have a
discussion with people about it when they have only seen the film. There are
edge cases where the story has changed between versions. But in general there
is enough shared communication to make it work.

All equivalence is like that. It is an approximation. I could provide various
equivalents for the Mona Lisa, and they would depend on the context. Since
most people have seen it in reduced postcard form, and know of it as a famous
image, the title itself is often sufficient. Or I could use Sean's example
text - girl with a curious smile. Or I could discuss the use of perspective -
one of the things for which it was famous before it became famous just for
being famous - in a long description.

I can tell a joke in a bar, that is in fact a cartoon I saw in a newspaper,
or a scene in a play, or all three. They are not the same, yet they are
equivalent. The films "Jesus of Montreal", and "The Navigator" (and many
other artworks in various media, including lots of the sculpture that made
medieval architectural classics famous) are equivalents to portions of the
bible. They are not the same, but they can tell the same story.

So far, although I ahve talked about art, I have used ideas that are based on
presentations of information that are designed to be informative. There is
some art that is designed to be obscure - the example of the detective story,
where making it accessible would mean giving away the plot. Or would it?

What was John Lennon conveying in "revolution 9"? What is the meaning of
Jackson Pollock's "Blue Poles"? If the Anglo-Saxon poem "Beowulf" is read in
modern english is it still "Beowulf"?

We could create guidelines like "translate verse into verse". Or even
"translate dactylic hexameter into rhyming quatrains". (Dactylic hexameter
was a common format for poetry in ancient greek, for example the Iliad and
the Odyssey. Rhyming quatrains is a common format for modern english-language
poetry - the example that springs to my mind is "The Man from Snowy River").
Or "translate dactylic hexameter into dactylic hexameter" (difficult to do,
going from Greek to English - the rhythm of words is different). But in
general we don't - we say that tose are techniques, and we try to note the
limitations of each technique as well as what it is good for.

In sum, I don't think the discussion is going to lead to a single set of
rules that enable machine-processing of content to generate alternatives, at
elast with the current state of technology. I think that we can describe the
different processes that people can use, fairly effectively. And after all,
that is our audience.



On Sat, 13 Jan 2001, Sean B. Palmer wrote:

  > Illustrating appropriately is easily thought of as including alt
  > text for images and all the caption/summary/description/+

  I often wonder what the appropriate text alternative would be for a GIF of
  the Mona Lisa or some similar masterpiece: alt="[Girl Kind-of Smiling]".
  Sometimes I really don't think there are decent text alternatives for
  images... but it depends on the image. The more complex the image, the
  longer the non-mdeia dependant alternative is.

  > And of course the roots of "depiction" infer evoking a "mental
  > image" of something. That mental image is actually a lower level
  > of abstraction from the sub-verbal level of semantics and is what
  > communicating is about.

  What was Leonardo trying to put across with the Mona Lisa? What was John
  Lennon trying to describe with "Strawberry Fields Forever"? Should deaf
  people have a non-musical equivalent for an embedded MP3 of Strawberry
  Fields? What would it be: a picture of John Lennon in a tree over some
  Strawberry Fields, along with a copy of the lyrics?

  The problem with guidelines is that they constrict and deny creativity.
  They deny the myriad situations that occur in a hypermedia Web. Human
  creativity is a subtle thing, and someimtes with years of analysis you can
  be no closer to undetrstanding the mind of the author... and yet we make
  this a requirement? Please...

  Kindest Regards,
  Sean B. Palmer
  @prefix : <http://infomesh.net/2001/01/n3terms/#> .
  [ :name "Sean B. Palmer" ] has :homepage <http://infomesh.net/sbp/> .

Charles McCathieNevile    mailto:charles@w3.org    phone: +61 (0) 409 134 136
W3C Web Accessibility Initiative                      http://www.w3.org/WAI
Location: I-cubed, 110 Victoria Street, Carlton VIC 3053, Australia
until 6 January 2001 at:
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Received on Saturday, 13 January 2001 20:56:24 UTC

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