The information on this page is meant to help explain and contextualize this Caption Studies conference.

What is Caption Studies?*

Caption Studies is an emerging field. To my knowledge, the field was first identified by Zdenek (2015) in Reading Sounds as “a research program that is deeply invested in questions of meaning at the interface of sound, writing, and accessibility” (p. 2). Caption Studies inhabits an intersection of disability studies, rhetoric, and communications. There are also clear relationships to and impacts with multimedia studies, Interpreting, second language learning, D/deaf Studies, composition, educational technology, usability, and technical communication. Caption Studies looks at and analyzes how captions are created, presented, and used by diverse audiences (D/deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Hearing) for diverse purposes (entertainment, education, training, language learning, etc.) in diverse situations (on TV, online, in the workplace, in the classroom, etc.). Caption Studies is not limited to academic or corporate research; the field is influenced, shaped, and populated by caption users, caption creators, practitioners, caption advocates, scholars, academics, and researchers.

* This is a tentative and fluid definition that will be adjusted and revised as the field matures. Hopefully the conference(s) will elicit additional variations and definitions.


The online conference is planned for days in August 2016: Monday, August 1st, and Tuesday, August 2nd. A face-to-face conference for two days in late July, 2017, at Western Oregon University. For more information, follow this link.

The online conference will take place from noon through 5 pm PST on both days. Registration (free) will be required in order to participate. This will help us better organize and respond in the future as well as give us a sense of the community participation.

Conference’s Purpose

Having spoken with many people as the conference organization has gone forward, it’s clear that the captioning community is positive, engaged, and constructive. Rather than lament the flood of bad captions or the dearth of quality captions, we want to promote what is health, interesting, strong, and engaging in the captioning community. This means having time to share and connect with people from different parts of the captioning community. It also helps set up these goals:

  • establish/initially celebrate Caption Studies as an area of research, advocacy, and practice;
  • provide a space for practitioners, researchers, and advocates to present and share their work where captioning is the primary, instead of being a secondary, focus;
  • connect, network, energize, and build momentum for all of us to promote captioning in our diverse fields;
  • understand, explore, discuss, and advocate for more effective legislation.

This conference is meant to be a proof of concept that there is enough interest in captions, captioning, and caption studies to support an online as well as a face-to-face conference. An additional goal is to make sure that this conference is a model of accessibility in online communications and conferences.


Constituencies & Participants

There has been a very warm and robust welcome for the online conference. As we’ve moved forward, we’ve confirmed a number of interested constituencies. We recognize that we have not included all constituencies here; we just hope to represent as many as possible.

  • Caption users
    • Students/learners
      • Language (first and second)
      • Literacy
    • Situationally D/deaf/Hard of Hearing (i.e. viewing TV in a noisy pub or working out in a gym)
    • D/deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Hearing
  • Caption creators
    • Amateur, academic, professional
    • Universal designers
  • Caption researchers
    • Academic, industry, independent
  • Caption advocates
  • Accessibility and Universal Design practitioners and researchers
  • Anyone curious about captions


Conference Track

Our online conference is small, and so we have tried to limit the number of paths. In 2017, we plan to add an additional track: Education.

  1. Academic/research
  2. Practitioners
  3. Advocacy


Presentation Topics

For our initial conference, we decided to keep the process as simple as possible and invite presentations from key personalities throughout captioning. Of course we have not been able to invite or bring everyone who was or is interested. However, our hope is that word will spread and 2017 will be a robust and fantastic conference!

Our topics have focused on the key three areas listed above.