Heather Tucker, University of Notre Dame

The American English language is changing, from spelling to grammar to semantics, there is a new code for understanding one another. While this change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it has resulted in the loss of unique linguistic habits. Old or infrequently used vocabulary and phrases are becoming forgotten. Often, the only way to collect and study soon-to-be-forgotten vocabulary and phrases is by digging in textbooks, performing extensive field research, or by locating obscure or cumbersome source materials. However, what if design could help inform researchers and scholars of the language habits of regional cultures? What if there was a tool designed to collect regional linguistic data that engaged the community and visualized the data collected? A tool that revealed the layers of meaning in communication, gave justice to the richness of speech, and conveyed the dignity of culture in an organized and useful way.

From my project Community Voicebox: Capturing & Visualizing Regional Language Habits, I am proposing a methodology for collecting regional linguistic data. The approach uses visual priming and human interaction design techniques to engage community participation in the creation of a regional linguistic catalog.

To prototype this method I am creating an installation at Pack Memorial Library in Asheville, North Carolina. As a primer, I will use Mountain Talk, a poster series I created to visualize the connotation and denotations of the vocabulary, colloquialisms, slang, and folklore phrases heard in the area; like, “Sigogglin” or “A whistling woman and a crowing hen always come to some bad end.” An interactive component will allow community members to add their words and phrases to the catalog.

For the Lightning Round Presentation, I will share my in-progress work, initial findings for further study.


Heather Tucker is a Visual Communication Designer pursuing her Masters of Fine Arts at the University of Notre Dame. Her research has focused on the interchange of ideas between design, history, and anthropology—exploring how language shapes culture, identity, and human interaction. Previously, Heather worked as a creative lead for Auxiliary, Inc., located in Grand Rapids, Michigan.