Born With a Broken Tongue

About the presenters: Martin Casey was born in South Africa in 1972; he lived in Johannesburg until 1990. He moved to Ireland to pursue a career in design. He studied in Waterford and Limerick and completed his primary degree in 1996. He has worked in the design and advertising industry in Dublin and has done design work for Guinness, Heineken, British Telecom. After working for a couple of years in Advertising, he decided to put his mind to multimedia. He designed Born with a Broken Tongue for his masters. His piece has been short-listed for a major European multimedia award. Currently he is working for the Digital Media Centre [DMC] and teaching on a Masters course in Dublin. He works on a freelance basis and spend most of his free time keeping fit and relaxing.

Born With a Broken Tongue

by Martin Casey

Change is as inexorable as time, yet nothing meets with more resistance - Benjamin Disraeli

With a background in graphic design, I have always been captivated by the power of the image, born and living in South Africa for 18 years, I have been very fortunate to see how powerful these images can be. However I always thought that if these images could suddenly come alive and tell you their story, no medium would be able to compete with this.

My great attraction to multimedia is that it can get the user emotionally attached. I want to get a reaction from the user. I want to get the user to confront themselves, to question their actions and reflect on what they have done in the past. If I am successful in getting an emotional response from the user I will have achieved a great deal. For past three years I have been collecting CD-ROMs. The one downfall of this medium that I have noticed is that it seems to lack emotion. With this in mind, I started the MA with the aim of doing a piece, which was loaded with emotion. And through this emotion I would be able to educate the user.

I find it very interesting how people have accepted the limitations of multimedia, from slow downloading speeds on the Internet to slow processor on personal computers. I realised that this acceptance could be exploited to test an individuals acceptance of a piece that explores stuttering. This piece would test how accommodating the user is towards a piece, which exploits the limitations of multimedia to depict stuttering.

I am a stutterer, I live with it everyday do not have the freedom to walk into a shop and ask for a packet of sweets, for fear of not being able to say the words. I do not have the freedom to tell my girlfriend that I love her for fear of blocking on those famous words. Through my experience of being a stutterer, I have had to cope with abuse and insult from people who think that stuttering is a form of stupidity. The content is all personally driven. I wanted to depict stuttering through image rather than showing medical charts and fancy 3D animations of possible effected areas of the brain, etc. I have used my own voice and childhood pictures to keep the piece entirely personal. All of the sound bites are all my own experience and the sound files have not been modified to increase the effect of stuttering.


The overall objective of the project is to create a multimedia piece, which educated people about stuttering. Keeping in mind that most of the investigations and research being done about stuttering concentrates on the medical causes of this impediment. So my aim is to depict through image and sound how it feels to be a stutterer.

Through my experience, educational institutions have buried their heads in the sand and neglected students with speech impediments. This disregard then rubs off on fellow students, and breeds ignorance and can damage the individual. So the initial aim is to educate people to become a little more tolerant toward stutterers. Through this experience the user would leave a little more informed and have a greater understanding of the problems that a stutterer face everyday However I must stress that I am not looking for sympathy from the user, just a little patience.

Educational institutions would be my primary audience though it does appeals to everyone. The piece was intended to act as an installation piece in a busy area where the user is watched and directed by on-lookers. With the aim of trying to capture the anticipation and interference that a stutterer experiences everyday.

If you have ever spoken to a person who stutters you will know that there are repetitions and long pauses. These cannot be helped but have you found yourself beginning to get impatient or even trying to finish to sentence for the stutterer. If you have, you are not the only one. I have tried to capture this impatience by delaying the speed of links. I want the user to wait and get a little impatient; this heightens the experience and gives you the experience of listening to a stutterer. All together the navigation, sound and images are all designed to show how it feels to stutter.

Through the subversion of sound and navigation, to delay images and sounds, sometimes the images will appear before the sounds, sometimes repeat trying to imitate stuttering. Constantly testing the users patience, showing them how it feels to stutter.


In current multimedia titles navigation has become accommodating towards the user, giving them the exact choices and leading them by the hand through the work. Never confronting them, never getting too difficult or challenging keeping it user friendly and accessible.

In my piece the navigation devices are triggered through sound and colour. The sound links correspond to the colour of the individual sections. The idea being that beneath a sound and colour lies another level, another insight. The user determines the navigation. If the sound bite appeals to the user then the user can move to another level. However the user will not actually know where they are going until the screen appears. Through frequent use of the piece the user would get accustomed to the sounds and colour of screens and links. In certain sections the links have been changed to predetermine their path through the piece.

When designing the interfaces I wanted to try and capture the confusions, panic and repetition of speaking with a stutter. There was a need to show that beneath the surface there was far more than the eye can see. This is captured in the interface. The blurred and layered images explore how I see stuttering through image and type. The screens are very busy with image and sound to show the confusion and aggregation suffered by stutterers. The screens have been designed to examine the user interaction with the piece and the screen. Small type and images forcing the user to move closer to the screen make them uncomfortable and agitated.

Altogether the piece strives to educate the user without spoon feeding them, which I hope makes it far more engaging and thought provoking.

The Web Site

The web site ( has examples from the CD-ROM. A few of the examples require plug-ins. You will need the Shockwave and the Quick Time plug-in. These plug-ins can be downloaded at and respectively.

The Quick time movies will take time to download so you've been warned.

The web site should give you an indication of what I am trying to achieve. I see the site as a showcase of the CD. Hopefully viewers will get an idea of the frustration of stuttering. I would love to make the CD available to more people but I do not have the finances to do this. I have to stress that this is not a commercial venture, but if anyone out there has ideas about how to get this CD to a wide audience, I would love to hear from you.

Hope you enjoy the site.


September 25, 1998