robertogreco + sarahendren   60

Contra* podcast — Mapping Access
"a podcast about disability, design justice, and the lifeworld. Subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play, or play from our website."

[See also:
https://www.mapping-access.com/podcast/2018/12/29/episode-1-contra-design-with-sara-hendren

"In this first episode of the podcast, we talk to design researcher Sara Hendren, who teaches at Olin College of Engineering, about disability, critical design, and poetic creation.

Show notes and transcription

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Themes:

Critical Design

Theory of critical design revised by disability

Writing as/part of critical design

Disability politics in relation to design

Translational work and science communication; critical design as a “friendly Trojan horse”

Things as an index of ideas

STEAM, knowledge, and power

Links:

Sara Hendren (https://sarahendren.com)

Abler blog (https://ablersite.org/)

Adaptation and Ability Lab (http://aplusa.org/)

Wendy Jacob and Temple Grandin, Squeeze Chair (https://patient-innovation.com/post/1047?language=en)

Sketch Model project at Olin College (http://www.olin.edu/collaborate/sketch-model/)

Ivan Illich, Tools for Conviviality (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/253076.Tools_for_Conviviality)

Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway (https://www.dukeupress.edu/Meeting-the-Universe-Halfway/)

Aimi Hamraie, Building Access: Universal Design and the Politics of Disability (https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/building-access)

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Introduction Description:

The podcast introductory segment is composed to evoke friction. It begins with sounds of a wheelchair rhythmically banging down metal steps, the putter of an elevator arriving at a person’s level, and an elevator voice saying “Floor two, Floor three.” Voices begin to define Contra*. Layered voices say “Contra is friction…Contra is…Contra is nuanced…Contra is transgressive…Contra is good trouble…Contra is collaborative…Contra is a podcast!…Contra is a space for thinking about design critically…Contra is subversive…Contra is texture…”

An electric guitar plays a single note to blend out the sound.

The rhythmic beat of an electronic drum begins and fades into the podcast introduction.

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Episode Introduction:

Welcome to Contra*: the podcast about disability, design justice, and the lifeworld. This show is about the politics of accessible and critical design—broadly conceived—and how accessibility can be more than just functional or assistive. It can be conceptual, artful, and world-changing.

I’m your host, Aimi Hamraie .  I am a professor at Vanderbilt University, a designer and design researcher, and the director of the Critical Design Lab, a multi-institution collaborative focused on disability, technology, and critical theory.  Members of the lab collaborate on a number of projects focused on hacking ableism, speaking back to inaccessible public infrastructures, and redesigning the methods of participatory design—all using a disability culture framework. This podcast provides a window into the kinds of discussions we have within the lab, as well as the conversations we are hoping to put into motion. So in coming episodes, you’ll also hear from myself and the other designers and researchers in the lab, and we encourage you to get in touch with us via our website, www.mapping-access.com or on Twitter at @criticaldesignl

In this first episode of the podcast, we talk to design researcher Sara Hendren, who teaches at Olin College of Engineering, about disability, critical design, and poetic creation.

Sara and I talk about her work in the fields of critical design and assistive technology, including how she came to this work, how she is thinking about strategy and practice, and also her current work on bridging the humanities with STEM education."]
accessibility  disability  aimihamraie  ableism  podcasts  disabilitystudies  criticaldesign  olincollege  assistivetechnology  technology  poeticcreation  creativity  sarahendren  ivanillich  toolsforconviviality  wendyjacob  templegrandin  stem  knowledge  power  karenbarad  adaptation  materialculture  socialimagination  art  design  thinking  inclusivity  capitalism  howwewrite  howwethink  making  communication  academia  scholarship  ethics  politics  difference  jargon  language 
january 2019 by robertogreco
not a contrarian | sara hendren
"From this series of questions to Zadie Smith [https://losarciniegas.blogspot.com/2018/01/zadie-smith-i-have-very-messy-and.html ] comes Teju Cole’s question:

Cole: You must be under some pressure to be agreeable, to agree with the right opinions. But I notice that you think through things, rather than just agreeing to them. How do you defend that space of independent thought?

Smith: I don’t think of myself as a contrarian. I’m useless at confrontation. But I also can’t stand dogma, lazy ideas, catchphrases, group-think, illogic, pathos disguised as logos, shoutiness, ad hominem attacks, bombast, liberal piety, conservative pomposity, ideologues, essentialists, technocrats, preachers, fanatics, cheerleaders or bullies. Like everybody, I am often guilty of some version of all of the above, but I do think the job of writing is to at least try and minimise that sort of thing as much as you can."
zadiesmith  tejucole  sarahendren  2018  confrontation  opinions  pressure  contrarians  contrarianism  thinking  dogma  laziness  catchphrases  groupthink  logic  pathos  logos  adhominenattacks  pomposity  ideology  essntialism  technocrats  preachers  preaching  fanaticism  cheerleading  bullying  writing  howwewrote  howwwethink 
november 2018 by robertogreco
openings and closures | sara hendren
"One of the themes of my book is about how all states of the body and its gear make for what I’m calling openings and closures in a life—openings and closures that are co-created with hardware and software. Look and listen closely to what people with disabilities are saying about their own lives: It will never suffice to describe someone as “bound” to a wheelchair or “suffering from” autism, and it will never be really truthful to say that a technology “gave someone her life back.” Any real story, closely attended, will show itself to be far, far more interesting. Every body is a patchwork, which means that all states of being come with possibilities and impossibilities, gradations of change, capacities that diminish while others open up, all in a close orchestration that plays out with and without design or technology. Some conditions, as in the case of true disease, we may well wish away. But others make us who we are, and the line is blurrier than the common narratives would have us believe. It’s a state of dynamism for everyone, full stop. Once you see that to be true among people with disabilities, you may feel invited yourself to recognize that same dimensionality, to recognize you share it.

Sharing openings and closures doesn’t mean “we’re all disabled” in a glib way. It means that there’s more that is true about being disabled than the available narratives make known. More that is true and more to be known that is not only experience, but also cultural knowledge. It’s what the scholar Susan Wendell means when she says in this passage from The Rejected Body: Feminist Philosophical Reflections on Disability:
Not only do physically disabled people have experiences which are not available to the able-bodied, they are in a better position to transcend cultural mythologies about the body, because they cannot do things the able-bodied feel they must do in order to be happy, “normal,” and sane…If disabled people were truly heard, an explosion of knowledge of the human body and psyche would take place.
"
susanwendell  sarahendren  disabilities  disability  technology  bodies  2018  time  change  dynamism  openings  closures  life  assistivetechnology  ability  possibility  impossibility  body 
april 2018 by robertogreco
stop literalizing the design process | sara hendren
"This is your semi-regular reminder that collaborative, ethical design is not synonymous with customer service, taking orders from “users,” retail-style. It’s synthesizing and recombining ideas from insights gained by deeply considered habits of attention. The implications of this claim are twofold, and people are forever forgetting either one or the other, ad infinitum.

The first implication is that—yeah, you can’t ask people a bunch of questions in survey mode, and then turn the magical crank of the design process to automatically make something good, something the world is asking for. But the second implication is that a designer’s job is not to obediently make the precise widget described by so-called end users, to check a moral box and be sure that they did the right thing. Insights and synthesis are subtler than that. A designer has to both be grounded in multiple forms of deep attention, not in simple yes-no answers, and she has to get liftoff from the mundane first ideas at hand—to take considered risks, to switch scales, to propose ideas that are bigger than the sum of parts.

And perhaps it’s surprising, but it’s actually that second implication that’s harder for people to grasp. Yes—yes of course—the world is full of solutioneering. We have to keep talking about all the ways tech and design go wrong when there’s an assumption that any given clever intervention will make the world better. But it’s also far too easy to wield a blunt moral cudgel to ethics-check people in a simplistic way. It seems to me that in 2018, folks who know something about design tend to find a voice for their skepticism about this clueless over-confidence, but those same people have too little patience for the non-linear and enigmatic way that design gets its work done. “Did-you-ask-the-user-what-she-wants” now is code for: did you get a direct order for your decisions? It’s just never that simple, never that rote, never that guaranteed. A plea for discernment and subtlety, friends."
sarahendren  2018  design  collaboration  ethics  ethicaldesign  customerservice  synthesis  recombination  surveys  attention  solutioneering  solutionism  technosolutionism  morals  morality  skepticism  discernment  subtlety 
april 2018 by robertogreco
say instead | sara hendren
"Reader, when you have spent some time in the presence of someone using a wheelchair, or flapping their hands, or wielding a cane, or bearing up under a cloud of depression, say not to yourself oh now I shall be grateful for my life. Push past this quickest reflexive impulse, which is to compare your relative capacities as though on a scale of diminishment, to measure your lot. What looks like your gleaning wisdom is a falsity, for each of these conditions is its own and distinctive habitation. Flattening your encounter into a lesson does no good for you, nor for anyone else.

No, say instead: I will live here too. I live here in this same universe where the body is a patchwork: a body built with others, the seams showing, an open assemblage. A body at once precarious, thriving, alternately frustrated or balletic, extended by instruments visible or invisible. But a patchwork nonetheless. A patchwork is the body’s truest state."
sarahendren  bodies  human  humans  2018  disability  ableism  depression  body 
february 2018 by robertogreco
a rat is killed, a man broken, a horse splashes | sara hendren
"Take small steps. In an experimental approach to social change, presume that we cannot know the consequences of our interventions in advance. Given this postulate of ignorance, prefer wherever possible to take a small step, stand back, observe, and then plan the next small move. As the biologist J. B. S. Haldane metaphorically described the advantages of smallness: “You can drop a mouse down a thousand-yard mineshaft; and on arriving at the bottom, it gets a slight shock and walks away. A rat is killed, a man broken, a horse splashes.”

Favor reversibility. Prefer interventions that can easily be undone if they turn out to be mistakes. Irreversible interventions have irreversible consequences. Interventions into ecosystems require particular care in this respect, given our ignorance about how they interact. Aldo Leopold captured the spirit of caution required: “The first rule of intelligent tinkering is to keep all the parts.”

Plan on surprises. Choose plans that allow the largest accommodation to the unforeseen. In agricultural schemes this may mean choosing and preparing land so that it can grow any of several crops. In planning housing, it would mean “designing in” flexibility for accommodating changes in family structures or living styles. In a factory it may mean selecting a location, layout, or piece of machinery that allows for new processes, materials, or product lines down the road.

Plan on human inventiveness. Always plan under the assumption that those who become involved in the project later will have or will develop the experience and insight to improve on the design."
2018  sarahendren  seeinglikeastate  jamescscott  urbanplanning  socialservices  government  everyday  maps  mapping  legibility  highmodernism  socialengineering  reversibility  small  slow  humanism  humans  ecosystems  markets  community  cooperation  scale  scalability  taylorism 
january 2018 by robertogreco
available in response | sara hendren
"I want to dig into the idea of availability in teaching—in the affective sense, not just the conceptual one. Availability is about being deeply attuned to what’s happening for a group of three, or ten, or twenty-one students, and understanding the differences between those groups so you can calibrate accordingly. It’s broadcasting enough confidence and calm up front that people will trust your intentions, but also the clarity of mind to alter your plans mid-stream and try something else—in response. Plenty of people found it difficult to trust whether Irwin could really pull off something substantive with all of his waiting around, and it takes a tremendous amount of trust for both teachers and students to act together in this way. But availability isn’t disorganization. It’s a quality of attention to the specificities of encounters, this minute, and then this one, and the next.

Steve Seidel, who gave me my first full-time job at Project Zero and first put me onto Irwin, modeled this kind of availability over and over for me. He’d taught in high school classrooms for seventeen years before going into research, and I was lucky to witness, in my early twenties, the ways he welcomed graduate students into his office and his courses, treating their concerns and questions with absolute dignity, like he had all the time in the world for them (and he didn’t!). I saw that there’s a sincere performance aspect to availability: the artificial slowing of time, the listening carefully, and the under-determined nature of exchanges with students, even if you can predict what might be on their minds. I’ve spent the last many years trying to emulate him as much as I can.

The availability thing really came alive, though, when I spent a couple of days at a time down at the School for Poetic Computation in New York. I was there twice as a visiting artist, and both times I gave a talk and then students signed up for half-hour or hour conversations. We walked, or we sat in a garden, or we looked at their work, and we talked. And most of time—these were strangers to me—I tried to get right to the essence with questions and more questions. What’s on your mind? And tell me more. And so on. You have to shore up all your reserves, to marshal all your wits about you when you do this. You have to smile and squelch the urge to fill silences, take a deep breath and pretend like you’ve known each other for some time, in the hopes that this person can get a little space to work longer on what’s in their heads and on paper, or in code, or whatever it is.

I got a little glimpse of this, too, when just a couple of weeks ago I spent time with students in the ID2 program of the Angewandte (university for applied arts) in Vienna. Students were at a halfway point in their course, which had nothing to do with disability. I came and introduced some ideas, and then they prototyped rapidly: a series of ideas-in-things, held in the provisional. There are so many reasons this kind of workshop should ultimately fail. The teacher drops in from outside; there’s no extrinsic motive for them to come along for your invitation. When it succeeds, it’s because of availability in response. With a thousand cues you have to signal: I am here now, holding space for you to do some good work."
availability  listening  sarahendren  robertirwin  teaching  learning  education  art  cv  canon  2017  audiencesofone  seveseidel  projectzero  sfpc  schoolforpoeticcomputation  id2  angewandte  conversation  unschooling  deschooling 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Uses This / Sara Hendren
"In Jack Miles's parlance, I'm much more a hunter than a farmer, so the most important work I do is a slow-thinking and non-linear process. For hardware, like a lot of design folks, I live and die by notebooks and pens to capture immediately when I'm making connections. I'm literally never without this combination because I find my inner two-way tape is always running, especially in the grip of a big unwieldy project: formulating and synthesizing and outputting ideas at unexpected times and places."



"Lastly: my husband and I figured out that having all five family members use the exact same Lunch Bots containers makes our mornings much easier. And I realized about a year ago that all three of my kids can now wear the same ankle socks that I do. Small streamlining victories! A few years back I would have listed my encyclopedic knowledge of little-kid hardware: cloth diapers, baby carriers, and strollers-for-cities. If you're in that stage, well -- high five, comrade. It gets easier."



"Bonus question that I'm gonna add here: What systems also support your getting things done?

Glad you asked! The Writers' Room of Boston is giving me a fanatically quiet, affordable place to co-work this year. But more profound than that: my kids attend a Title I public school, where there are structures in place that anticipate and plan for full-time working parents. We have high-quality after-school programs and summer camps run through the city, extra specialists in the building, small classroom numbers, and full-day inclusion services for our child who has significant support needs. Our public library system elected to eliminate late fees for children's books(!), so that keeps us swimming in great reading material at home. There's no quantifiable metric I could place on these systems for making our life work."
sarahendren  thesetup  usesthis  2017  systems  tools  publicschools 
october 2017 by robertogreco
don't look | sara hendren
"While reading to my three children at night, my youngest, age 7, will often be lolling in bed while I narrate. Or maybe he’ll be fiddling with Legos or other blocks as he listens. But lately, when the action of the story gets intense, or a scene grows emotional, or somehow the suspense elongates, my son’s whole body will wind down till he’s perfectly still. He will train his eyes on my face, watching the words come out as he listens. He’s the youngest, so it’s likely that his brain is having to assimilate at least one new vocabulary word per paragraph by inference, all while he’s being carried along by what happens, and then what happens next.

This perfect quietude usually only lasts a dozen seconds or so at a time, after which he’ll go back to kneading his pillow or looking at the stickers on his bed frame while the story continues. But each time this happens, I’m aware of it. I can see him in my peripheral vision. And for many reasons, at least right now, I don’t meet his eyes. I keep reading.

Sometimes I’m so tempted! I have an instinct to share his attention. To break the spell of the narrative to say: See here, here we are, watching the same characters move their way through time. That would be the completion of one kind of circuit: you and I, caught up in this same tale together.

But I hold back. I don’t want to intrude on his experience of just the story itself, being delivered to him aurally and mostly without my mediation as to what things mean, what context we’re missing. He is having his own encounter, and that’s another kind of circuitry altogether. It’s one to which I’m sometimes best as a witness. Because this is also how a story does its work: sending a charge to its boy and back again, blooming both partial and replete in his singular comprehension.

Part of parenting is surely this—acting as nothing more and nothing less than a hedge around experiences we may watch but perhaps refrain from sharing. All I can think now is: Keep reading. Don’t look."
sarahendren  2017  restraint  parenting  observation  assessment  readalouds  intrusion  cv  canon  comprehension  constructivism  stories  literature  witness  sharing  narrative  quietude  stillness  concentration  attention 
september 2017 by robertogreco
the past is another country (again) | sara hendren
From Bill McKibben’s introduction to the 2010 reissue of E. F. Schumacher’s Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered:
“[One of Jimmy Carter’s] first acts in office was to get rid of twenty limousines, and then don a cardigan for a fireside chat where he discussed the ‘permanent energy shortage’ the nation faced. Toward the end of his presidency, he gave one of his most famous speeches, diagnosing a ‘crisis of confidence’ in the country and attacking materialism as the cause: ‘In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption,’ he warned. ‘Human identity is no longer defined by what one does but by what one owns.’ And, at least at first, people agreed—his sagging poll numbers jumped. Indeed, there was a mainstream audience for this kind of thinking: That year the sociologist Amitai Etzioni reported to Carter that 30 percent of Americans were ‘pro-growth,’ 31 percent were ‘anti-growth,’ and 39 percent were ‘highly uncertain.’ Read those numbers again—a plurality of Americans were ‘anti-growth.’”

McKibben is marveling at “anti,” but I’m frankly just as nonplussed and a little wistful about such a high register of admittance to “highly uncertain.”
billmckibben  sarahendren  2017  2010  jimmycarter  materialism  capitalism  energy  uncertainty  consumption  us  amitaietzioni  sustainability  growth  environment  anti-growth  energycrisis  politics  history  excess 
august 2017 by robertogreco
Sara Hendren en Instagram: “Technologies for writing a book: triple-wall cardboard desk topper for standing-and-writing; AI-powered, human-tweaked transcription…”
"Technologies for writing a book: triple-wall cardboard desk topper for standing-and-writing; AI-powered, human-tweaked transcription services for interviews; fountain pens and notebooks; cloud-based backup software. The future is mixed and weirder, always weirder."
sarahendren  technology  writing  tools  howwework  2017  assistivetechnology 
july 2017 by robertogreco
avoiding the high-brow freak show | sara hendren
"Oliver Sacks is probably the only author many people have read about disability at length. Sacks wrote many books with such a keen eye for description and also a literate, humanitarian lens—he was able to link together ideas in natural history, the sciences, and the humanities with sincerity and warmth, and always with people at the center. But which people? The subjects of the book, or the reader who is “reading” herself, her own experiences, as she takes in these stories? In any good book, many characters are involved: author, characters, reader. But there’s some particular tricky territory in disability narratives.

It’s challenging to write about this subject for a mainstream audience, perhaps because there are so many well-rehearsed pitfall tropes in characterizing bodily and developmental differences. Descriptions of physicality, speech, or idiosyncratic movement can slide so easily into spectacle. And revealing the ways that disabled people* cope, make sense, and create joy and humor in their lives can collapse into inspiration, easily won.

I’m thinking about Sacks as I write my own words, interpreting my own many encounters with disabled people in a way that both engages readers for whom the subject is ostensibly new, and that also does justice to the integrity and singularity of those people involved. I’m trying to write about disability and its reach into the wider human experience, that is, without making individual people into metaphors. Now: those ideas might be laudable—interdependent life, a critique of individualism, all bodies and lived experiences as endless variation, necessarily incomplete in their own ways—but they are ideas nonetheless. How to make this tradeoff? How to help the uninitiated reader by saying See, see here, your life is caught up in these stakes too, but without flattening the individual subjects on whom those ideas are based?

I keep circling around this review in the LRB of Sacks’s An Anthropologist on Mars and The Island of the Colorblind—analysis of which includes his book Awakenings and could also be applied to The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat. Jenny Diski admires Sacks’s projects and his craft, but she also has this to say:
“A story needs a conclusion whereas a case-history may not have one. In fact, stories have all kinds of needs that a case-history will not supply, and Sacks is insistent that he is writing the stories of his patients, not their cases. This is not intended to fudge fact and fiction, but to enlarge patients into people.

On the other hand, he is describing people with more or less devastating illnesses— that is his raison d’être—and his explicit purpose is to generalize from these, usually unhappy, accidents of life and nature, to a greater understanding of the human condition. In Awakenings he states: ‘If we seek a “curt epitome” of the human condition—of long-standing sickness, suffering and sadness; of a sudden, complete, almost preternatural “awakening”; and, alas! of entanglements which may follow this “cure”—there is no better one than the story of these patients.’

He is offering life, death and the whole damn thing in the metaphor of his patients. And it is true that these patients and others show us what it is like, as he says, ‘to be human and stay human in the face of adversity’. But metaphors are not in fact descriptions of people in their totality. They are intentional, and consciously or unconsciously edited tropes, not complete, contained narratives.

I don’t know any kind of narrative, fictional or otherwise, that can present people in their totality, so perhaps it doesn’t matter, but Sacks is offering us people because of their sickness and the manner of their handling it. This is hardly an overturning of the medicalizing tendency of doctors. And when we read these stories, as we do, to tell us more about ourselves, we read them as exaggerations of what we are, as metaphors for what we are capable of. Their subjects may not be patients as freaks, but they are patients as emblems. They are, as it were, for our use and our wonderment. Around their illness, the thoughts of Leibniz, Kant, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Proust are hoisted like scaffolding, as if to stiffen their reality into meaning.”

Stiffening their reality into meaning! It’s a cutting and exact criticism, especially when it seems that Sacks was utterly sincere in his search for human and humane connection—with these patients as clinical subjects and in his engagement with readers.

Diski hints at the pushback Sacks got from scholars in disability studies, too; scholar Tom Shakespeare took a swipe at him as “the man who mistook his patients for a career,” calling his body of work a “high-brow freak show.” And when I re-read Sacks’s New Yorker essay, excerpted from the Anthropologist book, on autistic self-advocate Temple Grandin, I see a little bit what Shakespeare meant. There is something of the microscope being employed in that encounter, and somehow we walk away fascinated but maybe less than conjoined to Grandin’s experience. It’s rich with connection and with pathos (in a good way!), but there’s distance in it too. So—it’s not perfect.

And yet: people read and loved that book, saw themselves in it. And Grandin went on to write several books in her own voice, to have a wide audience for her work and wisdom. The visibility of autistic self-advocacy has been greatly amplified since Sacks’s writing about it. (And yet—also—Diski says that Sacks has a way of making meaning out of disability that’s essentially a wonder at the human body via its ailments, as in “My God, we are extraordinary, look how interestingly wrong we can go.”) Is there a way to affirm the extraordinary without ending at: there but for the grace of god…? Without ending with gratitude that we don’t share someone’s plight? I want readers to come away uncertain: about where there’s joy and where there’s pain, about how they might make different choices, ordinary and extraordinary choices, if handed a different set of capacities in themselves or in their loved ones.

But can a writer really calibrate that level of nuance? Lately I’m thinking that I can only write what I can write, knowing that it will be incomplete and partial in its rendering.

I want a world full of disabled voices, people telling their stories in their own ways, with their own voices intact. But I also want a world of people to read about the collective stakes inherent in disability—and not just the rights issues that are being ignored, urgent as they are. I want people to see that spending time thinking about disability is an invitation to see the world differently, and to locate one’s own experiences differently. Not to erase the particularity of any one person’s very material experiences, but to help remedy the invisibility of disabled experience outside the inner circle of people who talk to one another, who know that these issues are important. And some audiences will need some interpretation, some cognitive-linguistic bridges to understand the import of disability—its wonder, its overlooked importance, and yes, even its lessons, if we may call them such. Lessons without moralizing, lessons without abstractions.

*Yes, “disabled people,” not “differently abled” or even always “people with disabilities.” There’s no one right answer or moniker, but soon I’ll write a short piece on why “disabled people” is a preferred term among many activists."

[See also this response from Alan Jacobs: http://blog.ayjay.org/writing-by-the-always-wrong/ ]
sarahendren  oliversacks  disability  2017  diversity  morality  moralizing  difference  humanism  individualism  interdependence  variation  jennydiski  conclusions  case-histories  sickness  sadness  suffering  life  death  storytelling  narrative  tomshakespeare  templegrandin  pathos  correction  autism  self-advocacy  meaning  meaningmaking  uncertainty  joy  pain  grace  writing  howewrite  voice  invisibility  visibility  erasure  experience  alanjacobs  disabilities 
july 2017 by robertogreco
radically careful, or carefully radical | sara hendren
"I’m working on a book in earnest now, and for that I’m getting caught up on my woefully patchy knowledge of design history. The last bunch of years have been devoted to design-build processes and to literacy in disability studies and socially-engaged art practices, and far less so to the history and theory of design proper. It’s time! I was musing on Twitter about how so much of my own design is redesign, and my friend and mentor Anne Galloway pointed me to an obvious place to start thinking about redesign: Bruno Latour’s essay “A Few Steps Toward a Philosophy of Design.” I’m thinking still about this apt description of design’s essential modesty:

“President Mao was right after all: the revolution has to always be revolutionized. What he did not anticipate is that the new ‘revolutionary’ energy would be taken from the set of attitudes that are hard to come by in revolutionary movements: modesty, care, precautions, skills, crafts, meanings, attention to details, careful conservations, redesign, artificiality, and ever shifting transitory fashions. We have to be radically careful, or carefully radical… What an odd time we are living through.”

Radically careful or carefully radical! But it will never do to simply hide in this modesty (saying that our work is merely ‘design,’ a ‘drawing together,’ as Latour says, instead of, say, ‘building’). Why? Because that apparent modesty can also collapse into romantic ambivalence, anemic timidity, a shelter from critique.

Much more to think about there, including his exhortation at the end to practitioners—a call to think about the very tools themselves and how they might be configured to represent the fullness of context and contradiction in this practice that is always re-making. Re-design as all design.

Among many other things, I’ll be reading through CMU’s Transition Design bibliography as well. Expect some notes here from those rich sources."
sarahendren  2017  care  caring  radicals  radicalism  revolution  brunolatourdesign  annegalloway  modesty  design  timidity  criticism  carefulness 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Scratching the Surface — 24. Sara Hendren
"Sara Hendren is a designer, artist, writer, and professor whose work centers around adaptive and assistive technologies, prosthetics, inclusive design, accessible architecture, and related ideas. She teaches inclusive design practices at Olin College in Massachusetts and writes and edits Abler, her site to collect and comment on art, adaptive technologies and prosthetics, and the future of human bodies in the built environment. In this episode, Sara and I talk about her own background and using design to manifest ideas in the world, the role of writing in her own design practice, and how teaches these ideas with her students."

[audio: https://soundcloud.com/scratchingthesurfacefm/24-sara-hendren ]
sarahendren  jarrettfuller  design  2017  interviews  johndewey  wendyjacob  nataliejeremijenko  remkoolhaas  timmaly  clairepentecost  alexandralange  alissawalker  michaelrock  alfredojaar  oliversacks  bldgblog  geoffmanaugh  nicolatwilley  amateurs  amateurism  dabbling  art  artists  generalists  creativegeneralists  disability  engineering  criticaltheory  integatededucation  integratedcurriculum  identity  self  teaching  learning  howweteach  howwelearn  assistivetechnology  technology  olincollege  humanities  liberalarts  disabilities  scratchingthesurface 
april 2017 by robertogreco
first book! | Abler.
"Friends, I’m so happy to say that my first book is under contract with Riverhead/Penguin! I’m just thrilled—I can’t even tell you.

The book is about the unexpected places where disability is at the heart of design, from everyday household objects to architecture, street and city planning, pointing to larger systems design questions at the end. It grows in scale from wearables and products to environments and ecologies, building momentum to ask some compelling and hard questions: Where else might the experience of disability be a site of creativity and invention? And what design opportunities are missed because those experiences are overlooked? I’ll be citing the work of so many scholars I admire, looping together histories—little-known origin stories of everyday things—with more contemporary advances in design for human difference. I’m thinking of it as a kind of travel writing—deeply reported throughout, taking the reader with me to understand the stories of people and cultures behind all our designed objects and environments. I’m deep into it already, and it’s the most excited I’ve ever been about a project.

I’m lucky that Olin College is a place where I could say to my dean: I want to write a book, but I want it to be a trade book for the general reader, and he said immediately—fantastic, do it. I wanted to write a trade book for the same reasons that I’ve written in the mode of journalist before: it matters to me that the radical, complex, and exciting ideas in disability studies reach people outside academia, and that the non-fiction reader see the designed world anew, re-enchanted with the universality of disability in its very fibers and structures. I want the reader to locate all bodies in that built world, regardless of capacity—to see all of us on a human continuum of abilities and needs, holding shared stakes in the designed future. Olin is a college without departments or traditional tenure, so I’m free to pursue this project as my research with the full support of my institution.

This whole web site will look different so soon; I’m working on finishing the three-part site that started with aplusa’s birth. More soon!"
sarahendren  2017  disability  disabilitystudies  continuums  academia  olincollege  diversity  books  writing  audience  everyday  objects  design  creativity  invention  disabilities 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Eyeo 2016 – Sarah Hendren on Vimeo
"Design for Know-Nothings, Dilettantes, and Melancholy Interlopers – Translators, impresarios, believers, and the heartbroken—this is a talk about design outside of authorship and ownership, IP or copyright, and even outside of research and collaboration. When and where do ideas come to life? What counts as design? Sara talks about some of her own "not a real designer" work, but mostly she talks about the creative work of others: in marine biology, architecture, politics, education. Lots of nerdy history, folks."
sarahendren  eyeo2016  2016  eyeo  dilettantes  interlopers  translation  ownership  copyright  collaboration  education  marinebiology  architecture  design  research  learning  howwelearn  authorship  socialengagement  criticaldesign  thehow  thewhy  traction  meaning  place  placefulness  interconnectedness  cause  purpose  jacquescousteau  invention  dabbling  amateurs  amateurism  exploration  thinking  filmmaking  toolmaking  conviviality  convivialtools  ivanillich  impresarios  titles  names  naming  language  edges  liminalspaces  outsiders  insiders  dabblers  janeaddams  technology  interdependence  community  hullhouse  generalists  radicalgeneralists  audrelorde  vaclavhavel  expertise  pointofview  disability  adaptability  caseygollan  caitrinlynch  ingenuity  hacks  alinceshepherd  inclinedplanes  dance  pedagogy  liminality  toolsforconviviality  disabilities  interconnected  interconnectivity 
august 2016 by robertogreco
Making as an Act of Caring — Medium
"My friend Deb Chachra wrote a great piece ‘Why I am not a Maker’ in the Atlantic last year, about the problems with taking on the identity of a “maker”, especially in tech culture, as it assumes intrinsic superiority to other forms of repair, fixing and especially, care-giving. Around the same time, friend and collaborator Tim Maughan wrote about his journeys through Chinese factories, a deeply moving piece on the conditions and lives of the people who actually make most of the things we use. I believe that such critique that challenges the dominant understanding of the ‘maker culture’ and its implications on labour, geopolitics and consumerism is important and urgent.

On a personal front, Deb and Tim’s essays got me thinking a lot about what ‘making’ means to me, and I realised that my understanding of this term is coloured by Jon, whom I live and work with. It got me thinking about the amount of time and energy Jon spends ‘making’ things. It is the sort of making that requires him to find, forage, build or improvise tools and materials in order to make things work.

From quickly knocking up a set of ‘acrylic chisels’ from waste plastic pieces as a bespoke toolset for gilding, to building an enormous drone with his partner-in-crime Jon Flint, resurrecting his grandfather’s cherished lamp, fixing the neighbour’s bike, reconfiguring his mother’s phone, retrofitting his son’s electronic toys, creating a DIY bioreactor, applying ancient Japanese techniques of Kintsugi as a means of adding the history of repair to his bike, and most recently foraging the city for waste in order to build salvaged prototypes that might help mitigate the shock of climate change. But he is not trained as a carpenter, metalsmith, engineer, or product designer. Nor does he go to makerspaces, he probably feels bit overwhelmed by them. He is an artist and then a designer.

Most importantly, Jon is a maker because, over the years he has developed an uninhibited curiosity for found materials and their potential applications to either fix things or build new things in the future. This deep knowledge of materials embodied within the stuff we use in our daily lives, as well as the numerous tools and techniques of making, is critical to understand the impact the things we use have on our environments. It also generates a pattern of lateral and anticipatory thinking, as he constantly scours the environment looking for materials and tools, anticipating their potential (re)use in an entirely different context. It’s an attitude of mending, helping, and, most importantly, caring, that defies mainstream consumerism.

This sort of an attitude is neither new nor unheard of. There are hundreds of thousands of people who would not call themselves makers but would quite easily fit this bill of a ‘maker’. The recently visible projects by such makers include the brilliant Fixperts and Engineering at Home amongst others. These projects and activities are often packaged as ‘fixing’, ‘jugaad, or ‘up-cycling’, and remain on the periphery of the dominant maker-culture discourse. These approaches are often associated with resource stripped individuals and communities (especially Jugaad in India), or some sort of hippie do-gooders. No, they are not just fixing, not just doing some little bodging in the corner, they are mainstream makers. In fact, I would argue that they are more than makers, they are actually care-givers, who steadfastly push back against the dominant philosophy of planned obsolesce.

Maker-carers who may not use 3D printers to make shoes or dresses, but instead embody making as a way of life. They are quietly shaping the ethos and values of a 21st century maker — adaptive, crafty, anticipatory makers who care deeply about the people and environment around them. And this is the sort of making-as-caring that we need much more of. As we head towards increasingly precarious political, social and environmental crisis, we will all need to nurture the capacity to think through materials and the systems that these materials manifest within, so we can find the means to restore, revive, resurrect, rewire, and reimagine the physical world of consumption we are drowning in. Obviously this would mean we will buy less things, but it also means that we will know what we buy and mostly importantly have the skills to adapt and re-appropriate materials and tools for uncertain conditions.

If we are going to idolise makers and create large-scale foundries, incubators and educational programs to inculcate and embrace the love for making, then lets nourish this idea of making as care-giving too, and ensure that the ‘maker-culture’ we build is diverse and inclusive. And in doing so, encourage a relentless inquisitiveness, integrity, and pliancy that it can bring for us, those around us and the environments we live in."
anabjain  jonardern  making  care  caring  caregiving  repair  maintenance  2016  adaptivity  resourcefulness  sfsh  ingenuity  jugaad  consumerism  debchachra  timmanaugh  technology  climatechange  consumption  labor  geopolitics  reuse  recycling  superflux  jonflint  art  design  makers  openstudioproject  lcproject  repairing  mending  fixing  fixperts  engineeringathome  upcycling  makerculture  caitrinlynch  sarahendren  kintsugi 
july 2016 by robertogreco
my first commencement speech | Abler.
"Congratulations, class of 2016. It’s an honor to be with you. I want to start with a story from candidates’ weekend this past February. As you all know, Candidates’ Weekends are when the applicants for admission who’ve made the first cut come to campus for a full weekend of events—events we design to help us understand them as people. You all did this some four years ago now.

So one thing I did on Candidate’s Weekend was the solo interview session. The setup is three of us: myself, as the faculty member, plus one current student, and one recent alumnus sit together to ask a series of questions of these young people. And—they’re 17, right, so they’re nervous. It’s a profound and moving thing to see up close their quivering hands, their flushed cheeks. We try to set them at ease and to learn something in a short amount of time: about what makes them tick, what they’re passionate about.

And at the end of each interview, as instructed, we allow for questions from the candidates themselves: and they do have questions—about Olin life, or what we like about engineering, things you would expect.

And on that day, these questions from the candidates were indeed more or less the usual fare. With one exception. We asked this one affable young high school student if he had any questions, and without missing a beat, he said, right away, he said: “What’s up with the doors here?” Just like that, totally unself-conscious. What’s up with the doors here? And my interview partners—the student and the alumnus—just *erupted* in recognition and laughter. Because apparently the doors at Olin are notorious among students for their poor design: it has been, for all these years, weirdly unclear whether and where you push or pull. It’s not intuitive where your weight should fall to hold them open. It’s awkward entering and exiting all over campus.

Lots of Olin students have remarked on and complained about this phenomenon, and here was this young person: so immediately alert to the subtlety of this condition in his first weekend here, and brazen enough to call it out.

That guy got in. I checked.

This young hopeful candidate for engineering school had found himself among his people. And I’m happy to say that in the intervening weeks and months since then, somehow some door cues—saying “push here” or “pull” have mysteriously appeared on various handles around campus. Not sure who’s responsible for that, but someone got the message.

Now. That story might seem like just a funny anecdote, but it actually reveals something big, I think, about engineering and engineers. Asking What’s up with the doors is more than an idle observation. I think it indicates a way of being in the world.

A lot of times engineering is framed as a penchant for problem-solving, in various permutations and with various caveats. Problem-solving: that is, skills and knowledge to materially improve the operations of the world. You’ve heard this.

But What’s up with the doors, I think, signals something more profound. It’s the full knowledge that the inherited conditions of the natural and built environment need not be as they are. It’s the understanding that atoms and bits—the material and the digital—these conditions aren’t permanent. They don’t have to remain mysterious. Atoms and bits, bits and atoms: unlocked, un-black-boxed, malleable, contingent.

To understand the systems of the built world is to know, in your bones, something powerful: that things might be otherwise. The doors, the engines, the mechanisms, the software and systems: you all know that these are the results of design decisions that can be reversed, unwound, utterly reconceived. Because you understand how they work. What’s up with the doors underscores that power, and it’s a power that you all now have. We send you out to the world with it. So: it’s a good day.

However. However.

I won’t cheapen this day by offering you a simple victory narrative. If only, IF ONLY the doors of the world were entirely made of wood and steel. If only it were so simple—to make the world better, just using atoms and bits.

Think about the doors of the immaterial kind: the portals, the thresholds, the entry points to human flourishing that are only open to some, and sealed shut for others. These are doors whose pushing open and pulling closed are social, political, interpersonal mechanisms—mechanisms that no amount of physics alone can sway.

In other words: to find yourself equipped as an engineer in the physical, technical sense—to be able to intervene and even dismantle the doors of the tangible, built world—is still to find yourself an ordinary citizen with a much harder set of questions to engage. How do we share this planet? How do we talk to each other, people unlike ourselves? How do we grapple with the legacies of history? How do we build not only the future we can construct, but the just and sustainable future we want to live in, one that includes all of us? To pry open and build these kinds of entrances, you will use your engineering, yes, but you’ll need so much more than that. You’ll need wisdom, and you’ll have to look for it and recognize it far outside of technology.

Be brave with these questions. Keep asking them. See that all kinds of openings and closings are everywhere.

And as you go out from here, know that the doors of this campus remain open to you."
sarahendren  olincollege  commencementaddresses  accessibility  engineering  2016  access  criticalthinking  problemsolving  doors  power  howthingswork  portals  thresholds  intervention  wisdom  technology  politics  commencementspeeches 
may 2016 by robertogreco
Claire Volpe
"My name is Claire Kearney-Volpe. I'm an art therapist, researcher, designer and web developer.

I began my Master's of Interactive Telecommunications in the fall of 2013 and I am currently working on my thesis. I am interested in the research and development of helpful and engaging technologies. I am also a firm believer that technology serves people better when they participate in it's design.

Before coming to New York for school, I was a health policy research coordinator in a bustling hospital think-tank. I began making data visualizations, started tinkering with web development and immediately saw the vast potential for these technologies to communicate rich information and promote civic engagement."

[via: https://processingfoundation.org/fellowships

"Claire Kearney-Volpe is an Art Therapist, Researcher, and Designer interested in accessibility, assistive technology, and participatory design. Claire graduated from NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, and is an Adjunct Professor in the area of assistive tech at NYU and Manager of the the NYU Ability Lab. In addition to mentorship from the Processing Foundation, Claire’s Advisor will be Sara Hendren."]
clairevolpe  clairekearney-volpe  sarahendren  accessibility  via:caseygollan  assistivetechnology  participatory  design  participatorydesign  arttherapy 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Sara Hendren Believes Disability Is a Cultural Construct
"Do we misunderstand technology that assists the disabled?

When we talk about design technology in the context of disability, we call it assistive technology. But all technology is assistive. Curb cuts were thought to be an extreme user case for wheelchairs. But it turns out that they also make passage through a city easy for a lot of people, like children who are learning to walk, and people who are pushing strollers. Look at the use of elevators. People who are with young children, people who are injured, people who are with older adults who have trouble walking all use them. The Oxo brand of kitchen tools was designed by a man whose wife had arthritis in her hands. He made a fortune by figuring out that a lot of people need some of the same tools that she did. Disabilities occupy the continuum of normal human variation, and technology can do something similar. It’s not that there is technology for normal people, and there is assistive technology for not-normal people.

How can the stigma surrounding technology for the disabled be addressed?

There is no stigma attached to your eyes having less than 20-20 vision. People who wear eyeglasses do not feel any shame in walking out of the door. But studies show there is plenty of stigma attached to hearing aids. I want people to see technologies doing lots of things for lots of people. There are plenty of design speculations, like a hearing aid could not only control the volume of what you are hearing but also how much you are hearing of one thing in particular. How much you are hearing what is in front of you, while tuning out the rest. That can be quite useful in a noisy restaurant. I think there are lots of other opportunities like this to de-stigmatize.

What do you make of the wide publicity given to high-end gear for disabled people, like exoskeletons?

I love these exoskeletons. I am astonished at them as a feat of engineering and think we should celebrate them and support them. I also think that they monopolize the headlines about disability, about prosthetics, and about the promise of technology. We have 100 other kinds of stories about the ways people are living their lives. Lives that are worth living with artifacts and gears but also with systems, jobs, and supports that comes from lots of places. Some of them are low-tech, some of them are systems-scale, and some of them are architectural. A lot of them are hidden from you. The director of the Adaptive Design Association in New York City just won a MacArthur “Genius” award. They have been building adaptive furniture out of triple-walled cardboard for pennies, for decades, and they do it for free. Jaipur Foot in India is producing recycled rubber limbs. There is daily living advice on websites targeted for people living with muscular dystrophy. Ways to button a shirt on your own, ways to hold a fork in a steady manner. There are white canes. White canes are a smart technology. They have resisted many new market entrants. People who are blind find them incredibly elegant and useful tools. But they do not make newsworthy headlines.

Is cheap, scalable technology a necessity?

History shows that the availability of technology doesn’t actually make a more equitable world. In this country, after 25 years of working for rights for people with disabilities, we are still seeing high unemployment rates for the disabled. Look at what happens even in the best inclusive schooling situations. Disabled students who age out of the public school system, their prospects just tank. And this is the richest country in the world, with all kinds of assistive and adaptive technology products available. So you will never convince me that just the sheer production of products that can be scaled cheaply is going to change the way people think about people who have disabilities. You need people to change their minds. So, I am an unabashed culture producer. I think, does democracy come when the next five great products come to the market? History shows that is not the case. History shows that people change their minds based on a lot of things. Look at the way gay rights have been transformed in this country. Sitcoms starting in the ’90s had openly gay characters that went out on national networks, like Ellen. It would have been unheard of more than 25 years ago. So, I think there is a lot of tech-saviorism in the world around disability. People act like engineering is going to rescue these bodies. Then what? Are they going to get better jobs, or suddenly get the respect or the dignity that they are asking for? I strongly feel that engineering does some good things—and cultural forms and stories, objects and artifacts, symbols and metaphors also do things to change the world."
2016  interviews  sarahendren  disability  technology  assistivetechnology  stigma  bias  technosolutionsism  normal  adaptive  adaptivetechnology  disabilities 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Engineering at Home
"We are a designer (Sara Hendren) and an anthropologist (Caitrin Lynch), and we teach engineering students. When we met Cindy, we were moved by a number of aspects about her story, and so were the students in our classrooms. She survived a complex, life-threatening medical event; she joined a very small percentage of people to survive such an event without neurological impairment. All of this is extraordinary in itself. But she also received the best available “rehabilitation engineering” technology that money can buy—a sophisticated myoelectric hand—and it turned out to be of little importance to her recovery. Those hands are astonishing feats of engineering, and there’s no shortage of media attention celebrating them. But after a lengthy insurance process and specialized training for that replacement limb, Cindy found she had little use for it. By the time she received the hand, she was well on her way to adapting her body and environment with a variety of everyday materials and tools—using what was around her for daily tasks. It may come as a surprise, but the “universal” functionality of that hand had been supplanted by the quick and nimble devices she and her prosthetist could assemble. So, how has Cindy built a life that works? She’s not an engineer by training, and she wouldn’t have even called herself naturally inclined toward Do-It-Yourself handiwork. But she is the expert on her body and needs, and her wish to adapt to her new life has fueled the creation of everyday adaptations built of things like cable ties, cosmetic sponges, peel-and-stick hooks, and more—some that are available in the assistive technology market, and some with her prosthetist or her husband Ken, but many on her own. Cindy’s set of objects form an archive about the new interdependence that she lives with in her body: a combination of assistance from her husband and two daughters, family, church community, and friends; expert medical oversight; and this assembly of daily living tools and devices."



"We created this website because we are moved by Cindy's story. We also created it because we are convinced that her story illustrates new ways of understanding who can engineer, what counts as engineering, and why this matters. This website is about her adaptations. It is also about Cindy herself. And it’s about a new way of imagining engineering. The full archive is here, and we invite you to explore these designs individually or by action.

Cindy is not alone in adapting her environment with informal engineering—we know she joins millions of garage tinkerers, household inventors, and, of course, participants in Maker culture. However, Cindy’s story is distinctive. She needed the expertise of clinicians, yes—and the most advanced medical care and technology available (including a $90,000 myoelectric hand). But she also needed to find dozens of ways to make a new life for herself, and for that she needed deceptively simple engineering: a tool to write in her own signature hand, the ability to feed herself, to play cards with friends. Cindy’s adaptations say something powerful about health and wellbeing, and the tools that make those things possible. Medical technology and skilled clinicians sustained her life, but getting to a “new normal” turned out not to be a high-tech matter. These inventions—repurposed household objects, simple materials, clever hacks—give her something that pain medications and medical gear cannot: a life tailored, customized, tuned to her wishes and aspirations. This is a story about surviving a radical life change in the company of experts but also with one’s own ingenuity. Today Cindy has gotten relicensed to drive, has traveled to Europe, and goes out on her own to visit friends or to shop. Life goes on. She is 69 years old as of this writing (December 2015) and she looks forward to many more years with her five grandchildren (three born since the heart attack).

Inspiration and precedents for this project include sites like Zebreda Makes It Work, Maker Nurse, and Farm Hack, and others, all of which alter the context, meaning, and import of Maker culture trends. Read on for an extended discussion: what counts as engineering, and how do we know?"
sarahendren  caitrinlynch  caseygollan  michaelmaloney  engineering  assistivetechnology  technology  tools  making  2016 
february 2016 by robertogreco
The Accessible Icon Project
"Why do you think of this project as activism?

It’s easy to look at our icon and assume that it’s a graphic design project. We get a lot of questions about the features of the icon itself and why ours is “better” than any other. But the graphic is actually a very small fraction of the work. As we’ve said from the beginning, the icon has been informally redesigned many times. We weren’t the first to change it. Our project began precisely by noticing the differences among icons already in existence.

Our project is an activist work because we started as a street art campaign, knowing that the mildly transgressive action of altering public property would engage potential media coverage about the legal status of graffiti. We used that media interest in graffiti’s legality to then shape our interviews to our own agenda: the politics of disability, access, and inclusion. Like the artist/activist collective WochenKlausur, we’ve noticed that the most deserving “social goods” stories don’t get nearly the same press coverage as cultural projects (especially where audiences can debate the “cultural” merits of a work!). Disability is subject to the same political invisibility and echo chambers as that of other minority groups, and too much direct activist work around disability is targeted toward people who already think disability rights are important. We wanted ideas about disability to reach a wider public, to be a matter of debate that’s harder to ignore. And in the most successful cases, we got journalists to talk to self-advocates with disabilities who rarely get a microphone for their wishes.

The design of the first graphic itself was also activist in nature—not a new “solution,” at least at the beginning. We debated long and hard about what the icon should look like for the first street sign campaign, and we eventually arrived at the clear-back version, which shows both the old and new icons at once. We knew that it wouldn’t be enough to make a change to a “better” icon. Instead, we wanted to have a graphic that was an enigma, or a question. Sustaining that question—in the form of collaborations, events, writing, exhibitions, and more—has been the activist heartbeat of the project.

Well—? Is it street art? Or is it design?

It’s both. We started as a street art campaign, and that phase of the work is what got us on the radar of likeminded advocates. But eventually people started asking us for a formal new icon, one that would replace old icons wholesale and be a public signal about an organization/school/company’s wish to be inclusive in its practices. That’s why Tim Ferguson-Sauder brought our icon in line with other formal infrastructural symbols you’ll see in public spaces everywhere. Our design is in the public domain, so now it’s used far and wide, in places we’ve never seen or heard about.

When we talk about this work, we’re transparent about the fact that a single project can span a continuum between a new artifact and a new set of conditions. Between ordinary graphic design and design activism. Letting the work live along that continuum allows it to be both an ongoing, long-term activist work and a free artifact that’s useful for simple graphics.

Not everyone is a wheelchair athlete. What about people who don’t push their chairs with their own arms?

Right. We’ve talked about this at length in all of our interviews, and it almost never gets included in the final cut. The arm pushing a chair is symbolic—as all icons are symbols, not literal representations. Our symbol speaks to the general primacy of personhood, and to the notion that the person first decides how and why s/he will navigate the world, in the broadest literal and metaphorical terms. To us, this evokes the disability rights mantra that demands “nothing about us without us.”

I identify as disabled, but I don’t use a chair. Why should that symbol speak for all kinds of accessibility?

It’s certainly an interesting question to consider how other symbols might stand in for or supplement the International Symbol of Access. We’ve spoken to designers about taking up that challenge as a thought project.

But consider the importance of a highly standardized and internationally recognizable symbol. It guarantees that its use will signal the availability of similar accommodations wherever it appears, and its reliable color combination and scale make it easy to spot on a crowded city street, or in an airport. Icons are standardized, 2D, and high contrast for a reason: to make them readily visible to anyone, anywhere. There’s power in that.

It’s just an image. Isn’t this just political correctness? Or: shouldn’t you be using your efforts on something more worthwhile, like real change?

We get this question a lot. And we’re certainly sensitive to one of the pitfalls of design work: an excessive emphasis on the way things look, without attention to other material conditions. From the project’s beginning, we’ve been interested in political and cultural change in the way disability is understood by multiple publics. And we’re aware that many people have been agitating for disability rights through direct activism for many decades.

We see this work as a counterpart to that history of direct action. And we think that symbolic activism—creative practices that are also political—do a work that can be hard to quantify but that also makes a difference. History shows that the shape and form of what we see and hear does work on our cognitive understanding of the world, and hence the meaning we make of it. For good and for ill, governments and institutions and protestors and dictators and individual citizens have long been using the language of symbols to persuade, to question, to force. We want to be on the bottom-up, rights-expanding, power-re-balancing tradition of that history.

So what’s the goal here? Universal sign change?

We’re happy when people write to us that their town or city wants to formally adopt the icon, and from news that politicians officially endorse its use. But success for us isn’t really located in the ubiquity of the icon itself. We want to see the icon stand for funding, rights provisions and guarantees, policies, and overall better conditions for people with disabilities. And we want this web site to track and document the progress of those harder goals.

Don’t you worry that this will be shallow activism, like “sign-washing”?

Sure. This is a big worry for us. Our icon is in the public domain, and that status is important to us. So we can’t really control when it gets used as a shallow glad-handing exercise that has no real political traction. But we’re trying, with this site and the way we speak elsewhere about the work, to emphasize the substantive efforts of people who don’t make the news as easily as a shiny new symbol.

Do you identify as disabled? Are you an ally? Does it matter?

We’ve always had people on our team who identify as disabled, and others of us who are immediate family members or direct co-workers of people who identify as disabled. It matters, of course, that we do this work and any work in disability as a “nothing about us without us” effort. Having said that: allyship also matters, and this project should be seen as one among many efforts to make new connections among new audiences who’ve seen disability as ignorable or irrelevant. We know from experience that we need much, much larger cultural conversations about disability to happen, including among people whose lives disability has not yet politicized.

Wow, you’re opinionated. Anything else you want to say?

A wise adviser told us, some years into this project, that any effort to create new and different forms of access will necessarily close off access of other kinds. We know that a wheelchair icon doesn’t stand for all kinds of ability. We know that our icon is being used in ways we don’t fully endorse. We know that this project’s birth in the US conditions our understanding in a way that’s culturally limited. And we know that we can’t control the journalistic treatment of this story. But the overwhelmingly positive response we’ve gotten from those of you who’ve reached out to us in the last five years is evidence that you see something in this work that you recognize. We hope that’s true for another five and beyond."
accessibility  sarahendren  icons  pictographs  symbols  caseygollan  activism  design  designactivism 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Gallaudet University's Brilliant, Surprising Architecture for the Deaf - Washingtonian
"With an endowment that, at less than $200 million, is a fraction of Georgetown’s or GW’s, Gallaudet has been pushing at the borders of design since 2008, with a group of new buildings that address the ways deaf people perceive their environment and interact.

The architectural changes also represent a broader philosophical shift, in which architects are concerned less with conforming to rules about handicapped access than with designing more creatively for all kinds of people—rethinking mundane parts of our everyday environment such as the width of a sidewalk or the arrangement of desks in a classroom.

Meanwhile, the area around the 151-year-old university is becoming hot, forcing the school to ask questions that might have been hard to fathom when nearby Trinidad was known for its drug-war-era crime: How can Gallaudet extend its presence beyond the gates in a way that’s in sync with its design and culture?

In September, the university launched an international competition to create a new entrance to its campus that would integrate the school into the city. The four finalists, announced in October, have one thing in common: They have zero built work in Washington. And not one is a usual firm on the local higher-ed radar.

Whoever wins the competition will enter a conversation that’s changing accessible design.
“We tend to think it’s about ramps and elevators,” says Sara Hendren, a professor at Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts who has followed the evolution of DeafSpace. “But it isn’t ticking off a laundry list of compliance-based rules to avoid being sued, but actually thinking: What could architecture do?”

Gallaudet’s new construction, Hendren says, “does something with architecture that we tend to think architecture isn’t for.”

• • •

Gallaudet has an enviable design pedigree.

Its 99-acre campus was laid out by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, landscape architects responsible for New York’s Central Park. (Olmsted also designed the US Capitol grounds.)

Gallaudet doesn’t have an architecture school, but in 2005—spurred by a $5-million donation for a new linguistics-and-language-skills building—30 or so professors and students began meeting to discuss how deaf people experience physical space. “We knew what we didn’t want, but we weren’t sure what we wanted,” remembers MJ Bienvenu, a Gallaudet alum who teaches American Sign Language (ASL) and deaf studies at the school.

Dirksen Bauman, chair of Gallaudet’s Department of American Sign Language and Deaf Studies, introduced his brother Hansel to the group. (Both men are hearing.) Hansel Bauman, then a freelance architect, had spent the previous few years working on industrial- and scientific-research buildings at a firm in San Francisco. He had never designed anything for the deaf but had often focused on the personal experience of researchers in his science-lab designs rather than big expressions of architectural form—an inside-out approach that would serve him well at Gallaudet.

In fall of 2006, the Baumans and another professor, Ben Bahan, started co-teaching a class in the university’s Department of ASL and Deaf Studies about the idea of DeafSpace. Students analyzed dorms on campus, looking at how they did or didn’t support deaf interaction and identifying basic principles. Although English is widely spoken on campus, American Sign Language is the dominant mode of communication. Both visual and kinetic, it requires a wide field of visibility and clear lines of sight. (Deaf homeowners often cut holes in walls to communicate between rooms.)

The students studied classrooms as well and determined that certain common seating arrangements—such as long, straight benches or rows of chairs—don’t really work. Soft, diffuse lighting is crucial, as glare or dimness strains the eyes, further dissuading a student at the end of a long day (or recovering from a long night) from following a signed discussion. Acoustics matter, too: Students who use hearing aids or cochlear implants are bothered by echoes."
gallaudet  architecture  design  sarahendren  2016  deaf  disability  deafspace  space  disabilities 
january 2016 by robertogreco
How To Transform a Traditional Class Into an Engaged One #fight4edu #engagedScholar | HASTAC
"You cannot counter structural inequality with good will.  You must design a new structure with equality at its core.

The banner for our new Group, "The Engaged Scholar," symbolizes our method: learning together, not top down, not with a pre-designed outcome, engaging all of the participants in the responsibilities, design, and direction of the learning in order that we can all have something better--ideally, a more just society--at the end of the process. Engaged, activist, student-centered learning reverses the production model of the Industrial Age university where the professor is essentially in the role of middle-management and the student is the passive consumer. Instead, all participants are actively understanding environment, impediments, desires, outcomes, and designing the best way to achieve those goals together, within the limits that exist, with the resources that exist--and always with an intention to be liberatory beyond prescribed limits and imagined possibilities currently available to the participants.

All of these ideals are embodied by this banner. It's a podium. Its design was led by artist-engineering professor-visionary Sara Hendren (abler.com) who teaches at Olin College, a liberal arts college for engineers, and it was designed and fabricated by students Morgan Bassford, Adriana Garties, Kate Maschan, and Mary Morse. And none of it would have happened without the co-design and inspiration, the desires and demands and wishes and ideas of curator and scholar Amanda Cachia.

The "Alterpodium"--and the people who built it in a visionary new kind of institution of higher education--is a perfect symbol of The Engaged Scholar.

****

Here's the backstory: I met Sara Hendren for the first time on December 1, 2015, at a conference on "Digging Deep: Ecosystems, Institutions, and Processes for Critical Making" on the materiality of culture, the cultural of materials, designed to take us (theoretically and practically) beyond "digital humanities" to really re-imagine a new pedagogy and a new world where we all were, together, creating better theories and practices. Professor Patrick Svensson of Umea University, brought us together at the Graduate Center, CUNY, for this excellent event.

I had the honor of helping to plan and brainstorm Olin College in around 2000 as a new kind of engineering school that is not just about building things but asking, always, the deep questions of why and for whom and for what purpose? One of Olin's mottos: "It's not just what students know. It's what they do with that knowledge." By its charter, Olin College takes as many female as male engineers. It emphasizes collaboration and project-based learning at its finest.

Prof Hendren's role is to teach engineers to rethink disability along with differently-abled people, many of whom have extraordinary abilities that far exceed those possessed by the so-called "able bodied." Her beautiful and smart keynote address at EYEO 2015 makes an excellent introduction to the basic principles of engaged scholarship in any field. The image in our banner symbolizes engagement: behind this object is a theory of learning, a theory of making, a theory of interdisciplinary collaboration, and a theory of expertise and, just as important, a theory of the kind of informed, critical thinking non-experts need to develop to ensure that expertise is deployed wisely. Expertise is not sufficient. The image is one of the objects that Prof Hendren and her students have designed together with its user: it is a lightweight, portable, foldable podium--of the kind that professors stand behind all the time.

This one is unique. It was designed by Olin College students with and for curator and scholar Amanda Cachia who is constantly on the road giving talks and who is constantly confronted with podiums, microphones, and other stage set ups designed for people far taller than her 4' 3" body. The new "Alterpodium" is made of the same high tech carbon fiber used in racing motorcycles and spacecraft. Ms. Cachia unfolds her Alterpodium, slides it behind the dysfunctional (for her) existing podium, and ascends to the right place on the stage.

Alterpodium is an apt metaphor for what teaching and learning should be: it should not be one-size-fits-all. And certainly it should not be one-size-fits-nobody. It should be a way of rethinking the conditions and obstacles that prevent us from doing what we need to do and offering us the means and possibilities to accomplish something more, better, higher.

That is what student-centered, progressive, constructivist, connected learning is. It only happens when learning is not one-direction but multi-directional, a collaboration of teacher and students, with exploration and learning and assessment of what one needs to know paired with the tools, methods, and partners that can help one to know it.

Prof Sara Hendren does this every day with her engineering students at Olin College who are rethinking everything about disability and ability--prostheses, handicap devices, handicap ramps (and skateboard ramps and the Venn diagram of the two), and even handicap signage--an activist project to remind us that disability does not mean we are not mobile, active, and interactive.

She and her students are asking why we start by thinking of "ability" as a norm and standardized and typically make devices that are mechanical substitutes and imitations of those standards? Why is the goal of the prosthetic some million dollar contraption that mimics the look and the movements of a biological part that may be missing or non-functioning rather than asking what a person really wants or needs to function better in whatever way "better" means for that person?

These are the questions that every educator, at every level, should be asking in every classroom. As Judith Butler and disability activist Sunaura Taylor ask in "Examined Life," a very beautiful video about our different abilities: don't we all need assistance of some kind or other? Aren't we all learners? Isn't that the fundamental question about life and society? Do we or do we not live in a world where we assist each other?

If we decide we do want to live in a world where we assist each other, we must get over the idea that "expertise" is a thing or a condition or an outcome and the prof has it and the student's job is to gain it through a series of trials resulting in a diploma. We need to realize, instead, that learning is lifelong. And that in every space--including in the classroom--there are different things about which different people are experts.

Prof Hendren notes that, at some point, as she is prodding her engineering students to ask harder and harder questions and produce more and more useful and sophisticated and innovative devices, they far exceed her knowledge and expertise. At that point, they have to trust her questions and she has to trust their answers--and their ability as responsible co-learners to, among themselves, apply the highest standards of excellence to their collective project. That only happens if, as students, they have taken on new responsibilities and have fully absorbed the mission of living in a world where we assist one another.

Sara Hendren calls this becoming a Public Amateur. It's something every professor should aspire to.

And it is not easy. Giving up expertise and the status of the expert is one of the most difficult things for anyone to do--especially for the successful person. And yet, once you do, you realize whole worlds open.

If you want to find out some easy ways how--we'll be working on more complicated ones next semester--join us on next week, onsite or online. The information is below. We look forward to seeing you! "
cathydavidson  sarahendren  pedagogy  engagement  2015  hastac  equality  inclusion  inclusivity  accessibility  access  alterpodium  sunaurataylor  judithbutler  astrataylor  ability  ablerism  olincollege  constructivism  learning  howweteach  amandacachia  activism  liberation 
december 2015 by robertogreco
The Hidden Burden of Exoskeletons for the Disabled - The Atlantic
"“We’re at a cultural moment where young people who are going into technology are looking around for research where they can feel purpose,” says Sara Hendren, an artist, designer, and researcher based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who specializes in assistive-design projects. When they encounter assistive technologies like prosthetics and exoskeletons, she explains, they think they’ve found something that seems like pure good.

“But the problem is that patients are so marginalized from defining their own wishes, that you risk replicating that same top-down assumptions about what people want.” Hendren uses cochlear implants as an example: Inventors assume that a person must want to hear, because they can’t imagine another possibility—but in reality, the Deaf community is quite vibrant, and not everyone feels the need for an implant.

Hendren points out that that putting too much focus on these kinds of devices can also create the idea that there is a “successful” disabled person: that someone who can use an exoskeleton to walk, or a prosthetic limb to run, has succeeded more than someone who cannot. “I worry that an excessive focus on this technology risks romanticizing bootstrapping and overcomer stories,” she says. “I don’t want to diminish what they do, but I don’t want to live in a world where there’s a continued repulsion around dependence. I want to live in a world where it’s okay to ask for help.”

Exoskeletons aren’t the only project that illustrates this issue. Hendren remembers a person who suggested that those in wheelchairs could perhaps carry their own ramps around in case they want to go somewhere that isn’t wheelchair-accessible. Aside from the fact that different settings require different ramps, these sorts of solutions put the onus on the individual to make something usable, rather than on the community. Why should each wheelchair have to come with a toolbox in order to be able to get anywhere?"
sarahendren  disability  2015  design  accessibility  prosthetics  exoskeletons  deaf  deafness  difference  wheelchairs  ramps  technology  bootstrapping  overcomers  dependence  assistance  assistivetechnology  disabilities 
august 2015 by robertogreco
Notes on Design Activism | The Accessible Icon Project
"What is design activism?

Design activism uses the language of design to create political debate. Instead of solving problems in the manner of industrial design, or organizing forms as in graphic design, activist design creates a series of questions or proposals using artifacts or media for unresolved ends: to provoke, or question, or experiment in search of new political conditions. The point of these artifacts is contestation, not a tidy fix.

We’re inspired by design activism like ACTUP, Kissing Doesn’t Kill, or any number of historical street art political campaigns.

Why do you think of this project as activism?

It’s easy to look at our icon and assume that it’s a graphic design project. We get a lot of questions about the features of the icon itself and why ours is “better” than any other. But the graphic is actually a very small fraction of the work. As we’ve said from the beginning, the icon has been informally redesigned many times. We weren’t the first to change it. Our project began precisely by noticing the differences among icons already in existence.

Our project is an activist work because we started as a street art campaign, knowing that the mildly transgressive action of altering public property would engage potential media coverage about the legal status of graffiti. We used that media interest in graffiti’s legality to then shape our interviews to our own agenda: the politics of disability, access, and inclusion. Like the artist/activist collective WochenKlausur, we’ve noticed that the most deserving “social goods” stories don’t get nearly the same press coverage as cultural projects (especially where audiences can debate the “cultural” merits of a work!). Disability is subject to the same political invisibility and echo chambers as that of other minority groups, and too much direct activist work around disability is targeted toward people who already think disability rights are important. We wanted ideas about disability to reach a wider public, to be a matter of debate that’s harder to ignore. And in the most successful cases, we got journalists to talk to self-advocates with disabilities who rarely get a microphone for their wishes.

The design of the first graphic itself was also activist in nature—not a new “solution,” at least at the beginning. We debated long and hard about what the icon should look like for the first street sign campaign, and we eventually arrived at the clear-back version, which shows both the old and new icons at once. We knew that it wouldn’t be enough to make a change to a “better” icon. Instead, we wanted to have a graphic that was an enigma, or a question. Sustaining that question—in the form of collaborations, events, writing, exhibitions, and more—has been the activist heartbeat of the project.

Well—? Is it street art? Or is it design?

It’s both. We started as a street art campaign, and that phase of the work is what got us on the radar of likeminded advocates. But eventually people started asking us for a formal new icon, one that would replace old icons wholesale and be a public signal about an organization/school/company’s wish to be inclusive in its practices. That’s why Tim Ferguson-Sauder brought our icon in line with other formal infrastructural symbols you’ll see in public spaces everywhere. Our design is in the public domain, so now it’s used far and wide, in places we’ve never seen or heard about.

When we talk about this work, we’re transparent about the fact that a single project can span a continuum between a new artifact and a new set of conditions. Between ordinary graphic design and design activism. Letting the work live along that continuum allows it to be both an ongoing, long-term activist work and a free artifact that’s useful for simple graphics.

Not everyone is a wheelchair athlete. What about people who don’t push their chairs with their own arms?

Right. We’ve talked about this at length in all of our interviews, and it almost never gets included in the final cut. The arm pushing a chair is symbolic—as all icons are symbols, not literal representations. Our symbol speaks to the general primacy of personhood, and to the notion that the person first decides how and why s/he will navigate the world, in the broadest literal and metaphorical terms. To us, this evokes the disability rights mantra that demands “nothing about us without us.”

I identify as disabled, but I don’t use a chair. Why should that symbol speak for all kinds of accessibility?

It’s certainly an interesting question to consider how other symbols might stand in for or supplement the International Symbol of Access. We’ve spoken to designers about taking up that challenge as a thought project.

But consider the importance of a highly standardized and internationally recognizable symbol. It guarantees that its use will signal the availability of similar accommodations wherever it appears, and its reliable color combination and scale make it easy to spot on a crowded city street, or in an airport. Icons are standardized, 2D, and high contrast for a reason: to make them readily visible to anyone, anywhere. There’s power in that.

It’s just an image. Isn’t this just political correctness? Or: shouldn’t you be using your efforts on something more worthwhile, like real change?

We get this question a lot. And we’re certainly sensitive to one of the pitfalls of design work: an excessive emphasis on the way things look, without attention to other material conditions. From the project’s beginning, we’ve been interested in political and cultural change in the way disability is understood by multiple publics. And we’re aware that many people have been agitating for disability rights through direct activism for many decades.

We see this work as a counterpart to that history of direct action. And we think that symbolic activism—creative practices that are also political—do a work that can be hard to quantify but that also makes a difference. History shows that the shape and form of what we see and hear does work on our cognitive understanding of the world, and hence the meaning we make of it. For good and for ill, governments and institutions and protestors and dictators and individual citizens have long been using the language of symbols to persuade, to question, to force. We want to be on the bottom-up, rights-expanding, power-re-balancing tradition of that history.

So what’s the goal here? Universal sign change?

We’re happy when people write to us that their town or city wants to formally adopt the icon, and from news that politicians officially endorse its use. But success for us isn’t really located in the ubiquity of the icon itself. We want to see the icon stand for funding, rights provisions and guarantees, policies, and overall better conditions for people with disabilities. And we want this web site to track and document the progress of those harder goals.

Don’t you worry that this will be shallow activism, like “sign-washing”?

Sure. This is a big worry for us. Our icon is in the public domain, and that status is important to us. So we can’t really control when it gets used as a shallow glad-handing exercise that has no real political traction. But we’re trying, with this site and the way we speak elsewhere about the work, to emphasize the substantive efforts of people who don’t make the news as easily as a shiny new symbol.

Do you identify as disabled? Are you an ally? Does it matter?

We’ve always had people on our team that identify as disabled, and others of us who are immediate family members or direct co-workers of people who identify as disabled. It matters, of course, that we do this work and any work in disability as a “nothing about us without us” effort. Having said that: allyship also matters, and this project should be seen as one among many efforts to make new connections among new audiences who’ve seen disability as ignorable or irrelevant. We know from experience that we need much, much larger cultural conversations about disability to happen, including among people whose lives it’s not yet politicized.

Wow, you’re opinionated. Anything else you want to say?

A wise adviser told us, some years into this project, that any effort to create new and different forms of access will necessarily close off access of other kinds. We know that a wheelchair icon doesn’t stand for all kinds of ability; we know that wheelchair access isn’t perfect. We know that our icon is being used in ways we don’t fully endorse. We know that this project’s birth in the US conditions our understanding in a way that’s culturally limited. And we know that we can’t control the journalistic treatment of this story. But the overwhelmingly positive response we’ve gotten from those of you who’ve reached out to us in the last five years is evidence that you see something in this work that you recognize. We hope that’s true for another five and beyond.

—Sara Hendren, 2015"
design  designactivism  activism  2015  sarahendren  disability  ablerism  actup  accessibility  disabilities 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Assistive Technologies and Design: An Interview with Sara Hendren | superflux
"SF: You think a lot about the "the future of human bodies in the built environment". What are the most important insights you have gained in your research so far, about how the human body and prosthetics adapt to the built environment, or the other way around? How can we design a more symbiotic relationship, that is inclusive, but also unique to individuals?

SH: Those are questions I think about all the time! I’d say broadly that design researchers need much, much more user interview data than we have now—too often there’s a very small sampling of data that’s used to represent human-centered design research with user-experts. Because aging and sightedness and autism and so many other conditions are wildly various, we need much bigger and more robust data sets for understanding wayfinding and product use. See Boston’s Institute for Human-Centered Design’s new user expert lab as an example. They want to be as large a resource as possible, and one that clients can access and pay for when doing market research.

I also think there’s so much more thinking to be done at the systems level, rather than at the product level—but it should be systems research where designers and artists are key contributors at every stage. I think, for example, in cultures like the US and the UK, there’s a pretty narrow focus on individual independence as the only goal worth seeking out—and that independence is thought to be delivered solely via personal technological devices.

But what about community support programs that would be points of contact throughout a city, for help when a person with developmental disabilities needs help after a bus line has been rerouted, or when an elderly person needs assistance getting groceries in the door/shoveling snow? These kinds of systems would help people get and stay employed and stay in their homes for longer than might otherwise be the case.



"SF: What according to you are the drivers / weak signals / to which inclusive design for cities should be paying attention? From a technological, as well as social and cultural perspective?

SH: I think designers should first try to be more granular in their approach to “canonical” disabilities: blindness, deafness, and so on. I’d think, for example, about the gradations of sightedness that tend to get overlooked in tech for vision impairments: Most people who are technically blind, after all, *do* have some kind of visual field. They see high contrasts or bright lights only, perhaps. But they don’t operate in total darkness and they do use their vision to see.  There’s much more to be done with design accordingly, especially with *editing* cities for enriched use. Like: consider the high-contrast black and yellow markers along stairs and crosswalks and subway platforms and so on. What would users say about making those more tactile environments—even more than they are now? What else would they like to see in structural and architectural forms that could be better imagined or augmented, again with partial and low vision in mind? This would also address aging and the overall slow degeneration in vision as well."
sarahendren  2014  assistivetechnology  technology  design  community  blindness  deafness  impairment  disability  vision  aging  sight  sightedness  autism  difference  disabilities 
may 2015 by robertogreco
investigating normal. | Abler.
"SYLLABUS

ENGR 3299 Investigating Normal: Adaptive and Assistive Technologies

Assistive technologies usually refer to prosthetics and medical aids: tools, devices, and other gear that either restore or augment the functioning of body parts. Historically, these have been designed for people with diagnosable disabilities. In this course, we look at medical as well as cultural tools that investigate the “normal” body and mind, and we design our own devices—high-tech, low-tech, digital or analog—with these ideas in mind. Through readings, site visits, guest speakers, and projects, we investigate both traditional and unusual prosthetics and assistive technologies, broadly defined. We talk to end-users, to engineers and industrial designers, to artists, and to others whose technologies assist with visible and invisible needs, externalize hidden dynamics, and create capacities far beyond or outside ordinary functionality.

Key to our discussions will be the implicit and explicit narratives that get created by and with prosthetic technologies. We’ll look at popular prosthetic tools and examine how their users “perform” them, keeping economic and socio-political factors in mind. We’ll also investigate the ways these narratives get lumped together or distinguished from the available and popular cultural narratives about the cyborg self, about human-machine interfaces in general. With this analysis in mind, I’ll ask you to consider new possibilities for manufacturable prosthetic and medical technologies in the interest of better treatment, especially if that’s where your personal interest lies. But I’ll also ask you to engage in what’s been called interrogative design, or critical design, or resonant design: that is, problem finding as well as problem solving; suspending questions by pressing together, in one artifact or set of artifacts, seemingly disparate or opposing ideas; thinking about what Anthony Dunne calls “para-functionality”: design that lives among recognizable realms of utility, but expands, as he says, beyond conventional definitions of functionalism to include the poetic, or activist, or socio-political.

The class themes are heterogeneous in the first half of the course—on purpose. With visitors and projects and readings, we’ll jump quickly between and among high-tech, low-tech, practical and impractical tools and wearables. The idea is to have you exposed to as many dispositions for making your projects as possible. This “field” is very wide indeed, and its generativity is still under-recognized. Be ready for some zigs and zags along the way, but the goal is to help you elicit your own questions as potential engineers in this broad research space.

It’s worth mentioning right up front that you should divest yourself of the common and well-intended—but utterly misguided—earnestness that drives many designers’ assumptions about “assistive technology.” It may be tempting to find some technical novelty or functional gadget and then, only afterward, look for an application “for the disabled.” I’ve seen too many projects in this vein lately.

Be aware, first, that a central tenet of this class is that all technology is assistive technology: No matter what kind of body you inhabit, you are getting assistance from your devices and extensions and proxies every single day. And second, gird yourself with a proper humility: Ask lots of questions, do the research on precedent tools, and respect the stunning sensory organism that is the living, breathing, adaptive human body. White canes, ankle braces, and assistance animals, after all, are extraordinarily sophisticated prostheses. Digital tools offer unique capabilities, yes—but they’re not inherently “smart” because of their digital nature. The point here is to see ability and disability as an exciting, expansive lens with which to think about many bodies and many kinds of needs.

Finally: This video with Judith Butler and Sunaura Taylor is a kind of manifesto, a solid frame from which the ethos of the course proceeds. Please watch early and often:"
sarahendren  syllabus  2015  normal  adaptive  technology  assistivetechnology  adaptivetechnology  anthonydunne  judithbutler  sunauratayor  earnestness  disability  difference  bodies  human  prosthetics  para-functionality  design  disabilities  body  syllabi 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Your Nostalgia Isn’t Helping Me Learn — The Synapse — Medium
[See also: https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:fe14a9668c31 ]

"These stories keep popping up, recycling the same studies and confirming someone’s intuition that the “good old-fashioned way” is better.

But contrary to these claims, I would not have made it through my years of university courses without the technology I use every day. And I don’t mean specific “assistive technology” designed with “disabilities” in mind. I’m talking here about the notes I make on my phone when I’m chatting with someone, which serve as an extension of my brain — the course project documents, folders of articles, collected syllabi, images, screenshots, and more that are always available on my laptop or anywhere through my synchronized folders.

I rely on the over 170 notebooks in Evernote where I practically wrote my entire MA thesis and where I track all current projects, personal and academic. I worked a full time job for much of my undergraduate education and part of my MA and was able to do this because of the ability to search through all 70,000+ email messages from the last 15 years, the ability to search inside a journal article, search a PDF of a book and copy/paste the text. This technology is assistive for me as a student very simply because all technology is assistive technology.



“Research Shows”

Surely we can agree then that all technology is assistive. But what about in the classroom? What’s missing from these popular articles when they claim technology is a distraction in the classroom? How do they conclude assistive technology is getting in the way of learning when so many students like myself rely on it? And what are the consequences of banning technology in the classroom?

I’ll start by taking that article from Vox and looking at some of the claims. After that, I’ll look at what’s happening in classrooms where technology is banned.

I. The Vox article defines learning as remembering information. That’s funny, because learning is not memorizing, and I think all educators would agree on that.

At the same time that many educators will tell us testing misses the mark in evaluating students and that learning isn’t about facts and figures but about critical thinking skills, articles like this are shared widely with the opposite message: learning is your “ability to remember information.” But it isn’t, it’s your ability to synthesize information, think critically, and evaluate claims.

II. This article claims the problem with taking notes on laptops is that students “usually just mindlessly type everything a professor says.” But this isn’t actually a claim about taking notes on laptops vs. paper notebooks, this is an issue of note taking skills. I wouldn’t conflate the Vox article with the study it cites here, but on this point what Vox reports matches the abstract of the study quite well. I don’t agree, instead I’d suggest that if you have good note taking skills you can take good notes in any format.

If you are taught to discern what matters in a lecture or discussion or while reading, you can learn to take useful notes about anything in any format. This problem they bring up of students acting as stenographers is an issues of learning to learn, learning to think critically and yes these are skills that students need. The fact that they don’t have them certainly isn’t the fault of laptops, in fact we should be grateful that we can see they don’t have them by how they are (mis)using the laptops. As educators do we really like the idea that students can only decide what matters because “they can’t write fast enough to get everything down”?

III. The article says students who use laptops “have something unrelated to class” on the screen about 40% of the time. So…. they’re actually talking about a failure to “learn” among students who aren’t using the technology to engage in the class at all? These students are chatting with friends, shopping, doing whatever. So, what does this have to do with the technology or taking notes on a laptop? What does this have to do with using a laptop to learn? Nothing. But still, we get this summary “Research shows students who use laptops perform more poorly in classes.”

IV. Of course, the whole argument is all summed up as common sense, validated by science! What could go wrong with that and with popular reporting about it? If science AND common sense are clear on this — well, it must be true for all students, or maybe not? It certainly isn’t true for me or for other students I’ve seen and spoken with.

I’m picking on this Vox article because it is precisely this kind of article that is shared on Facebook and Twitter and through email lists, without being carefully read, without being critically analyzed. And it winds up standing in for well thought out technology policy and pedagogy in classrooms. I think it’s pretty ironic that the same people who get so excited about the article’s title (“Why you should take notes by hand — not on a laptop”) because it validates their pre-existing distrust of “technology” (i.e. everything invented after they were born), these same people then fail to think critically about the argument in the article. Hmmm…. Maybe they’re actually the ones who have trouble thinking critically when using a laptop?"



"Classrooms on the Anti-Tech Bandwagon

I’m now seeing Professors jumping on this bandwagon and proudly banning technology in the classroom. And even those who don’t are giving students lectures in class about how we should ban e-books at the university library, and telling students who use laptops in class they should really be writing in a notebook, that is, if they really want to learn… Faculty are even adding notes to their syllabi …"



"The pressure to use “real books” and write in a notebook (preferably a moleskine, right?) has emerged as part of a growing anti-technology fetish among academics, and popular culture broadly. I get the appeal and I love books! I would love it if I could do that, I want all paper books, a room full of them, with ferns and armchairs and whisky and whatever — but it just isn’t how I learn. And it’s expensive, and you have to move them around. And you can’t search in them in the same way. The more precarious academic lives become the more a book collection is a luxury many can’t afford in terms of cost and other factors.

For students like me, technology use in the classroom comes down to a question of how we learn. I need to be able to search a book, copy and paste passages. I’m a scholar because I have technology that allows me to organize, sort, and synthesize information that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to work with. I didn’t learn to be a scholar with paper and pen, or with a typewriter. And I wouldn’t have been able to make it through my degree programs, and excel at my studies, write a thesis, publish papers — without being able to use this technology. I, and many students out there like me, rely on laptops, tablets, phones, and online software in the classroom because it is all assistive technology."
michaeloman-reagan  notes  notetaking  assistivetechnology  ableism  laptops  education  technology  notebooks  memorization  learning  howwelearn  engagement  thinking  howwethink  howweteach  media  2015  typing  handwriting  copying  summarizing  transcribing  sarahendren  commonsense 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Beyond alt-text — Medium
"There’s a wave of new senior corporate positions in accessible technology. But who can they hire?"



"The challenge is not technological, it’s psychological. I am a big believer in the infinite possibilities inherent in innovative thinking applied to advanced mechanical and computing sciences. But first and foremost, those who shape our digital world have to wrap their brains around the fact that not everyone is shaped like them, moves like them, perceives the world like them. Deep and lasting impressions about human diversity need to be made to alter the mindsets of all the creative links in the chain from invention to fabrication to implementation to marketing to sales to end users. One little “oh, I never thought of that” can derail the entire process of making the next big thing great for everyone."



"The challenge is not technological, it’s psychological. I am a big believer in the infinite possibilities inherent in innovative thinking applied to advanced mechanical and computing sciences. But first and foremost, those who shape our digital world have to wrap their brains around the fact that not everyone is shaped like them, moves like them, perceives the world like them. Deep and lasting impressions about human diversity need to be made to alter the mindsets of all the creative links in the chain from invention to fabrication to implementation to marketing to sales to end users. One little “oh, I never thought of that” can derail the entire process of making the next big thing great for everyone."



"Yahoo is searching for two front-end mobile and web engineers — with strong backgrounds in online accessibility. That’s the rub. We need experienced staff who can guide the company’s developers and speak their language and who are steeped in assistive and accessible technology. While we could bring on a great engineer and give them on-the-job training on the various web and mobile accessibility standards, techniques and tools, that just won’t work for us. These new hires need to know more than the existing accessibility team and teach us what’s new and what’s next. This is the kind of knowledge universities should be adding to their design and engineering curricula. And it’s not just Yahoo — every Silicon Valley company is on the hunt for just these kinds of candidates."



"And, if the dreams of many of us in the field can be realized, colleges and universities will eventually be offering specializations or minors or even majors in Inclusive Design or Accessible Technology within their computer science and design departments. We’re working on it."
sarahendren  2015  larrygoldberg  yahoo  microsoft  at&t  ibm  technology  accessibility  apple  flickr  video  online  internet  curriculum 
january 2015 by robertogreco
All Technology is Assistive — Backchannel — Medium
"You might imagine that “disability studies” is just one more category of identity research that’s been created primarily for political advocacy, interesting only to those directly affected by issues of accessibility, accommodation, or special rights. But “disabled-ness” is another matter altogether. There are at least two big reasons why disability concerns are everyone’s concerns.

First, it’s a false divide to make a we/them: either able-minded, able-bodied, or disabled. After all, how cultures define, think about, and treat those who currently have marked disabilities is how all its future citizens may well be perceived if and when those who are able-bodied become less abled than they are now: by age, degeneration, or some sudden — or gradual — change in physical or mental capacities. All people, over the course of their lives, traffic between times of relative independence and dependence. So the questions cultures ask, the technologies they invent, and how those technologies broadcast a message about their users — weakness and strength, agency and passivity — are critical ones. And they’re not just questions for scientists and policy-makers; they’re aesthetic questions too.

Second, in many cultures — and certainly in the US — a pervasive, near-obsession with averages and statistical norms about bodies and capacities has become a naturalized form of describing both individuals and populations. But this way of measuring people and populations is historically very recent, and worth reconsidering."



"Well — it’s worth saying again: All technology is assistive technology. Honestly — what technology are you using that’s not assistive? Your smartphone? Your eyeglasses? Headphones? And those three examples alone are assisting you in multiple registers: They’re enabling or augmenting a sensory experience, say, or providing navigational information. But they’re also allowing you to decide whether to be available for approach in public, or not; to check out or in on a conversation or meeting in a bunch of subtle ways; to identify, by your choice of brand or look, with one culture group and not another.

Making a persistent, overt distinction about “assistive tech” embodies the second-tier do-gooderism and banality that still dominate design work targeted toward “special needs.” “Assistive technology” implies a separate species of tools designed exclusively for those people with a rather narrow set of diagnostic “impairments” — impairments, in other words, that have been culturally designated as needing special attention, as being particularly, grossly abnormal. But are you sure your phone isn’t a crutch, as it were, for a whole lot of unexamined needs?"



"In the name of good friction, then, I want to suggest some possible dispositions for designers and artists taking a look at ability and disability.

1. Invisibility is overrated.



2. Rethink the default bodily experience.



3. Consider fine gradations of qualitative change.



4. Uncouple medical technologies from their diagnostic contexts.



5. Design for one.



6. And this is perhaps the most important: Let the tools you make ask questions, not just solve problems."

[Previous versions/references here:
https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:7cf533b38f8e
https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:cf3e53f397e3 (now gone) ]

[See also this exchange: https://twitter.com/quinnnorton/status/523744699983478784 ]
sarahendren  2014  technology  assistivetechnology  disability  ablerism  activism  design  audiencesofone  tolls  askingquestions  canon  experience  bodies  humans  norms  standards  standardization  individualization  personalization  bellcurve  normalcy  normalness  lennarddavis  ideal  dependence  independence  questionasking  disabilities  body 
october 2014 by robertogreco
guiding principles for an adaptive technology working group | Abler.
"I’ve been thinking about the studio/lab/workshop environment I want to foster at Olin. So herewith a manifesto, or a set of guiding principles, for young engineers and designers working critically, reflexively, in technology design and disability.

1. We use the terms “adaptive” and “assistive” technologies interchangeably when speaking casually or with newcomers to this field, but we use the terms of adaptation as often as possible. Why? Assistance usually implies linearity. A problem needs fixing, seeks a solution. But adaptation is flexible, rhizomatic, multi-directional. It implies a technological design that works in tandem, reciprocally, with the magnificence that is the human body in all its forms. Adaptation implies change over time. Adaptive systems might require the environment to shift, rather than the body. In short, we believe that all technology is assistive technology—and so we speak in terms of adaptation.

2. We presume competence. This exhortation is a central one in disability rights circles, and we proceed with it in mind as we work with our design partners. We don’t claim our end-users are “suffering from” their conditions—unless they tell us they are. We speak directly to users themselves, not to caregivers or companions—unless we’re directed to do so. We speak the way we’d speak to anyone, even if our partners don’t use verbal language in return—until they request we do otherwise. We take a capabilities approach.

3. We are significantly public-facing in our disposition. Doing open and public research—including in the early stages—is central to our conviction that design for disability carries with it enormous political and cultural stakes. We research transparently, and we cultivate multiple and unusual publics for the work.

4. We spend some of our time making things, and some of our time making things happen.¹ A lot of our effort is embodied in the design and prototyping process. But another significant portion of that effort is directed toward good narrative writing, documentation, event-wrangling, and networked practices. Design can be about a better mousetrap; it can also be—and indeed more often should be—a social practice.

5. We actively seek a condition of orchestrated adjacencies: in topics, scales, and methods. Some of our projects attempt to influence industry: better designs, full stop. And some of our projects address issues of culture: symbolic, expressive, and playful work that investigates normalcy and functionality. We want high-tech work right up alongside low-tech work. Cardboard at one end, and circuits and Arduino at the other. Materially and symbolically, adjacencies in real time create unusual resonances between and among projects. They expand the acceptable questions and categories of what counts as research. They force big-picture ideas to cohere with granular problem-solving.

6. We presume, always, that technology is never neutral. And accordingly, we seek to create tools for conviviality, in the sense that Ivan Illich laid out in his book of the same name. Tools that are “accessible, flexible, noncoercive.” We won’t be perfect at it, but we won’t shy away from hard questions: What will it cost? What might be unintended consequences? What have we overlooked?

Like life, this version is subject to change. More on the studio/lab/workshop in this earlier post.

1. “I went from making things, to making things happen.” That’s artist Jeremy Deller on how his art practice went from objects to conditions and situations."
art  design  making  sarahendren  2014  assistivetechnology  adaptivetechnology  olincollege  manifestos  rhizomes  adaptation  human  humans  bodies  criticaldesign  conviviality  ivanilllich  normalcy  functionality  orchestratedadjacencies  hitech  lowtech  agency  makers  socialpractice  transparency  questionasking  askingquestions  jeremydeller  studios  lcproject  openstudioproject  howwework  ethics  ideals  disability  disabilities  differences  time  change  conversation  principles  adaptive  body  low-tech 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Twitter / ablerism: a workshop for designers: they ...
"a workshop for designers: they do nothing but develop and write 3 versions of a bio/about page, and 1 sample project narrative"

[thread that followed]

"‏@annegalloway
"@ablerism Yes please. Assessed on intelligibility."

@ablerism
"@annegalloway I recently sent someone to your lab site, and they remarked particularly about how well you articulated the questions/work."

‏@annegalloway
"@ablerism thanks - and that’s nice to hear :) it’s something i believe in strongly and really push my students to do well."

‏@ablerism
"@annegalloway Do you have a basic formula? I relied this past year on the following: Tell us 1) What is your question(s)? +"

‏@ablerism
"@annegalloway 2) What did you make? 3) Walk us through your material choices. 4) Why does it matter? Big > smaller > smaller > very big. +"

‏@ablerism
"@annegalloway I had good exchanges with students using that generally. But I think it could be much better, more nuanced than that."

‏@annegalloway
"@ablerism v similar: 1) what did you want to know? 2) why did you want to know? (can include but must go beyond curiosity/personal interest)

‏@annegalloway
"@ablerism 3) how did you answer it (methods & materials) and why those choices? 4) what did you learn? 5) what would u do differently/next?"

‏@ablerism
"@annegalloway I like your grouping of question + why right up front. And reassured to see the overlaps!"

@annegalloway
"@ablerism I find it helps get away from design as *either* problem-solving *or* self-expression :)"

@ablerism
"@annegalloway Yep. Have you written formally or informally about that both/and wish explicitly?"

‏@annegalloway
"@ablerism Nah - I rant about it so much in class that I try not to think about it otherwise ;)"

@annegalloway
"@ablerism and since I wasn't trained as a designer, I've only recently started to get validation from (some) designers"

‏@ablerism
"@annegalloway I was suddenly wondering whether purselipsquarejaw contained these ideas."
sarahendren  2014  workshopideas  classideas  profiles  biographies  narratives  writing  design  art  communication  teaching  howweteach  projectideas  reflection  presentation 
july 2014 by robertogreco
studio : lab : workshop | Abler.
"I’ve been saying for some years now that my wish is to be as close to science-making as possible: that is, not merely teaching complementary art and design practices for young scientists in training, but to be in the formative stages of research and development much further upstream in the process. Asking collaboratively: What research questions are worthy questions? What populations and individuals hold stakes in these questions? Are there important queries that are forgotten? Could parallel questions be pursued in tandem—some quantitative, others qualitative? And how do we engage multiple publics in high-stakes research?"

To put it another way: What happens when extra-disciplinary inquiry lives alongside traditional forms of research—especially when those traditional forms occupy the disciplinarily privileged status of the STEM fields? Inviting both generalist and specialist approaches starts to hint at what a “both-and” disposition could look like. As here in David Gray’s formulation of specialists and generalists:

[image]

Breadth, he says, is the characteristic of the generalist, and depth the characteristic of the specialist. A thriving academic research program surely needs both: but not just in the forms of symposia, scholarly ethics, or data visualization to (once more) “complement” or even complicate the science. It’s the last note of Gray’s that I’m particularly paying attention to, because it’s what good critical design and hybrid arts practices often do best: They act as boundary objects.

Gray says those objects can be “documents, models, maps, vocabulary, or even physical environments” that mark these intersections of broad and deep ideas. Well, I’d say: especially physical environments and phenomena. At the scale of products or screens or architectural spaces, these objects can act as powerful mediators and conduits for ideas. They can become modes of discourse, opportunities for public debate, sites of disciplinary flows.

It’s these kinds of objects that I’d like to be a feature of the studio/lab/workshop I’ll bring to Olin: An ongoing pursuit of ideas-in-things that live at all the various points along a continuum between practical use, on the one hand, and symbolic or expressive power on the other. Two poles in the manner still most accessibly captured by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby—both of which I’d like to be present.

And what does this mean for the habits of mind we cultivate? I return often to the ideas of Jack Miles in this essay—also about generalists and specialists, with a key useful heuristic: that specialists tend to embody the disposition of farmers, while generalists tend to embody the virtues of hunters. Both are necessary, and both need each other. The careful tending to a field whose needs are more or less known, protected, and nurtured further, on the one hand. And the more landscape-crossing, round-the-next-bend pursuit of the not yet known and its promised nourishment, on the other.

I want students to try out and value both operative modes, no matter where their own career paths take them. Knowing that others are also asking valuable questions in different disciplinary ways ideally breeds humility: a sense that what one has to offer could be enriched when conjoined in conversation with others whose expertise may not be immediately legible from within a silo.

And not just humility: I want students in engineering to know that their practices can be both private and public, that their status as citizens can be catalyzed through making things. Things that may be practical, performative, or both.

In practical terms, we’ll be looking at labs like Tom Bieling’s Design Abilities group in Berlin, Ryerson’s EDGE Lab, the Age and Ability Lab at RCA, and the newly-formed Ability Lab at NYU Poly. But we’ll also be looking methodologically at Kate Hartman’s Social Body Lab at OCAD, at the CREATE group at Carnegie Mellon, and of course Natalie Jeremijenko’s Environmental Health Clinic.

Possible paths to pursue: A “design for one” stream of prosthetic devices made for one user’s self-identified wish or need. An ongoing partnership with any of a number of schools or clinics in the Boston area where provisional and low-tech assistive devices could make education more responsive to children’s up-to-the-minute developmental needs. Short-term residencies and workshops with critical engineers and artists working with technology and public life. Public, investigative performances and installations that address issues of ability, dependence, and the body in the built environment.

These things will take time! I can’t wait to begin."
sarahendren  2014  olincollege  design  specialization  specialists  generalists  interdisciplinary  transdisciplinary  engineering  stem  davidgray  research  academia  extra-disciplinary  ability  dependence  audiencesofone  jackmiles  anthonydunne  fionaraby  dunne&raby  ablerism  events  nataliejeremijenko  tombieling  kateharman  prosthetics  abilities  disability  designcriticism  criticaldesign  speculativedesign  humility  crossdisciplinary  crosspollination  accessibility  assistivetechnology  discourse  conversation  openstudioproject  lcproject  howwelearn  howweteach  disabilities 
june 2014 by robertogreco
empathy and education | Abler.
"Other students seem to understand that empathy is always perched precariously between gift and invasion. They won’t even press the stethoscope to my skin without asking if it’s okay. They need permission. They don’t want to presume. Their stuttering unwittingly honors my privacy: Can I…could I…would you mind if I—listened to your heart? No, I tell them. I don’t mind. Not minding is my job. Their humility is a kind of compassion in its own right. Humility means they ask questions, and questions mean they get answers and answers mean they get points on the checklist: a point for finding out my mother takes Wellbutrin, a point for getting me to admit I’ve spent the last two years cutting myself, a point for finding out my father died in a grain elevator when I was two—for realizing that a root system of loss stretches radial and rhizomatic under the entire territory of my life.

In this sense, empathy isn’t just measured by checklist item 31—voiced empathy for my situation/problem–but by every item that gauges how thoroughly my experience has been imagined. Empathy isn’t just remembering to say that must really be hard—it’s figuring out how to bring difficulty into the light so it can be seen at all. Empathy isn’t just listening; it’s asking the questions whose answers need to be listened to. Empathy requires inquiry as much as imagination. Empathy requires knowing you know nothing. Empathy means acknowledging a horizon of context that extends perpetually beyond what you can see."
empathy  education  listening  context  sarahendren  2014lesliejamison  heidijulavits  medicine  leanawen  joshuakosowsky  ritacharon  literature  subtext  askingquestions  questionasking 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Knitting bones with fact and fiction: A conversation with Design Culture Lab's Anne Galloway
"Blurring the distinction between fact and fiction is something that's always intrigued me. Anthropology has long been described as producing "partial truths," because it's impossible to fully capture and represent entire cultures or the whole of human experience. And I can't imagine that anyone who's read a novel, or seen a movie, wouldn't tell you that at least part of it rang true to them. But I guess what I'm saying is that I'm interested in resonance—and since that doesn't ever need to choose between fact or fiction it's kind of a perfect concept for exploring creative empirical research."
annegalloway  sarahendren  spaculativedesign  designfiction  newzealand  countingsheep  2014  interviews  research  criticaldesign  anthropology  ethnography  speculativedesignethnography  speculativeethnography 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Pretty Ramp Machine — Weird Future — Medium
"Unlike its siblings, which must rotate or be used as an active tool to perform work, the plane lies still. It barely seems like a machine at all. “I’ve been calling it a ‘sleeping machine’ for that reason,” says Hendren, who focuses her work on disability studies. It’s “a static object, deceptive in its simple geometry.”

Hendren calls herself a public amateur. Her research and practice, documented on her website, is a riot of associations that cross the lines between high-end design, architecture, medical theory, prosthetics, and cybernetics. Spend some time with Hendren and you’ll find yourself in a conversation that veers wildly between fashionable hearing aids, Braille tattoos, the design of space suits, the relation of curb cuts to gentrification, and the origins of the smooth curves of the Eames Chair in the lacquered wooden leg splint that Charles and Ray designed for the US Navy.

Her own projects tend toward the informal and the temporary. She seeks out what she calls the margins of design: work that’s happening away from the spotlight of the mainstream tech and design press, “either because they’re made of low-cost materials, or in informally organized settings, or because they happen in the context of, say, special education.” Her low-tech approach allows her to intervene and launch discussions in graphic design, architecture, and prosthetics.

“All of these fields are professionalized for good reasons — standardization of practice and form,” she says. “But you can easily get some calcification around the ‘proper channels’ for the way things are done.”

“Defining what counts as health, as normative experience, as quality of life — these are easily as much cultural questions as they are about statistics and data,” she says. “I want the latitude, as an amateur, to also ask those questions in public, to engage with specialties as much as possible as an outsider.”



"She explains that in disability studies, there is a growing distinction between the medical model of disability and the social model. In the medical model, people with atypical bodies are seen as being impaired. In the social model, the problem isn’t with the bodies, but with the environment that was built around them.

After all, the environment we live in didn’t just leap out of the ground from whole cloth. Cities were designed and then built a certain way; they could have been built differently. In the social model, “people are disabled, but by the built environment, schools, transportation, economic structures having evolved to offer only the rather narrow goods that a late capitalist culture presumes,” says Hendren. “So we nurture some bodies, and we tolerate others.” If stairs were 5' tall, just about everyone on earth would be disabled."



"In the social model, disability is a matter of circumstances rather than a fundamental diagnosis about any particular body. It’s a state that we pass into and out of depending on what’s going on with us and the environment we’re in. If you are in possession of a relatively typical body and have found yourself blocked by a door because your arms were full, you’ll have a sense of what it means to be temporarily disabled.

If, laden by packages, you’ve ever hip-checked one of those buttons adorned by a wheelchair logo, you’ll have a sense of the degree to which the environment plays a role in enabling or disabling you. The automatic door is not an accommodation for special cases but a useful feature for everyone."



“What I want is much more energy and imagination given to questions of access and use — not tiresome and medicalized ‘accommodations,’ but edited cities where alternate bodies are assumed to be part of the landscape, and where the use of structures and tools might be less scripted,” she says.

Hendren reads a passage from Susan Wendell’s The Rejected Body.
Not only do physically disabled people have experiences which are not available to the able-bodied, they are in a better position to transcend cultural mythologies about the body, because they cannot do things the able-bodied feel they must do in order to be happy, “normal,” and sane…
If disabled people were truly heard, an explosion of knowledge of the human body and psyche would take place.

“I would take out ‘physically’ from the first sentence and add cognition/development to this idea as well,” Hendren says.

In the medical model of disability, this attitude is almost impossible to understand and feels pretty patronizing. After all, aren’t people with disabilities missing out? In the medical model, resistance in the deaf community to cochlear implants seems incomprehensible.

The point, says Hendren, is that we all get the same number of hours per day. “It’s as simple as: some experiences you’re having, and some you’re not,” she says. “You are not having rather more or rather less, unless you arrange your metrics in a lazy way.”

Hendren thinks designers and architects can do better. “It’s possible to have a very ‘correct’ idea about accommodations, provisions for schooling and such, and still presume a medical model,” says Hendren. “You can carry around the notion that a democratic society is one in which everyone thrives — regardless of productivity, regardless of capacity — and want to provide for those ‘needs.’”

“But it’s a much more radical notion to start to think about the ways structures have been un-imagined or preemptively imagined without much variation in body or mind. What would it mean to really profoundly undo our sense of which bodies count?”
sarahendren  timmaly  disability  disabilities  design  amateurs  amateurism  professionals  professionalization  imagination  access  cities  health  society  education  art  democracy  architecture  ada  capacity  productivity  davidedgerton  chrisdowney  bodies  diversity  assistivetechnology  susanwendell  galileo  ramps  inclinedplanes  standardization  brianglenny  blind  blindness  urban  urbandesign  urbanism  body 
december 2013 by robertogreco
BlindSide: A Game for Players Who Can't See : The New Yorker
[Sara followed up on this one: http://ablersite.org/2013/12/09/a-video-game-with-nothing-to-see/ ]

"Built to entertain blind players as well as those who can see, the audio-only game’s accommodation of disabled gamers is a pleasant anomaly in the gaming industry, even though the number of gamers with disabilities is significant. The latest Americans with Disabilities report, which draws on 2010 census data, estimates that nearly fifty-seven million Americans, or roughly nineteen per cent of the population, have a disability, with over thirty-eight million suffering from what the report considers to be a “severe disability” of a physical, mental, or communicative nature. While nearly twenty million Americans “had difficulty with physical tasks relating to upper body function,” more than eight million over the age of fifteen have difficulty seeing and seven and a half million reported difficulty hearing. There is certainly overlap with the fifty-eight per cent of Americans who, according to the Electronic Software Association, play video games; the Able Gamers Foundation, a charity organization for disabled gamers, estimates that there are thirty-three million gamers with some kind of disability.

In the nineteen-eighties, gamers like John Dutton, a quadriplegic who learned to use the Atari 2600 joystick with his mouth and chin, drew attention to the need for hardware that disabled gamers could use. In 1988, Nintendo released the NES Hands Free, a video-game controller designed explicitly for disabled gamers, which was worn like a vest. It had a chin stick for movement and a tube that players breathed in and out of to control the “A” and “B” buttons. In the nineties, attention shifted to making in-game control schemes more accessible, leading to releases like Shades of Doom, a first-person shooter for visually impaired gamers. More recently, the Call of Duty franchise, inspired by the quadriplegic professional gamer Randy Fitzgerald, introduced a special button layout for disabled gamers which makes it easier to aim, while the Able Gamers Foundation has published a guide that shows developers how to design more accessible products."



"“There are gamers out there who are anxious for more accessible content, and very little, if any, of it is coming from established publishers,” Astolfi said. “People with disabilities are a group that has, in general, not been targeted by major video-game releases. But as the indie game movement continues to grow, I think we’ll see more games designed specifically for this audience.”

Yet a large part of BlindSide’s success seems tied to the fact that it doesn’t feel like a game that’s been designed for disabled players. A game with no visual stimulus can be just as engrossing for players who can see as for those who cannot, it seems. “Our favorite feedback on the game was actually a negative comment,” Astolfi said. “It was a three-star review from a sighted player who said he found the game too scary.”"
blind  blindness  papasangre  games  gaming  videogames  blindside  2013  accessibility  play  disability  disabilities  sensors  audio  johndutton  randyfitzgerald  kinecy  ios  aaronrasmussen  michaelastolfi  thenightjar  sarahendren  ablerism 
december 2013 by robertogreco
​Introducing Abler: All Technology is Assistive Technology
[Related: http://abler.gizmodo.com/
http://sarahendren.kinja.com/ ]

"So you'll see lots of new and near-future prosthetics design on Abler. But you'll also see:

Critical design. Plenty of prosthetic devices solve problems. But others investigate what counts as a "problem" in the first place. Whose bodies need "fixing," and why? What happens when designers reconsider the definition of "normal"? Whether you call it "design for debate" or "interrogative design," these are tools and technologies that raise and suspend the friction of questions, rather than rushing to the seamlessness of solutions.

Old and new devices. There are surprising connections between devices across widely differing historical and cultural contexts. The history of war, for example, reveals both incredible advances and deep ironies in the development and use of assistive technologies among veterans. A long perspective is a good one. Abler will talk to historians and anthropologists who can illuminate these technologies.

Assistive technologies as culture. Abler is influenced by historian David Edgerton's call to pay attention not just to technological innovations because they're new, but to also pay attention to technologies in use to assess their importance. The day-to-day adoption and appropriation of technologies is where their real power lies. Assistive devices reveal all kinds of fascinating collisions with politics, material science, economic structures, and fashion, but also with accidental histories and contingent relationships.

What you won't see at Abler:

No soft piano music, no "overcomer" stories. Too often, tech writers are so much in love with the conflict-and-resolution stories of prosthetics that the users of those devices become a simplified backdrop for a scripted, questionably emotional catharsis. No prosthetics users here will necessarily be "suffering from" their conditions. Abler is about assistive technologies without sentimentality.

No breathless tech utopianisms. There will be plenty of celebration here about technical innovation. You will see us join sometimes in the holy-crap-they-built-WHAT?! conversation. But Abler values a measured skepticism about technological fixes for complex, sensing humans and their many tasks. Some new devices are truly groundbreaking; some are merely new. Abler is about welcoming the future with critical wits intact.

Abler is written and edited by Sara Hendren, with research assistance by Anna Raymond. Note: the Kinja platform doesn't allow us to provide alt-text for blind readers; we'll be describing images in posts and suggesting they change their policy."
sarahendren  aberism  gizmodo  2013  assistivetechnology  technology  culture  society  criticaldesign  utopianism  skepticism  complexity  annaraymond  davidedgerton  history  anthropology  prosthetics 
november 2013 by robertogreco
The White Cane as Technology - Sara Hendren - The Atlantic
"A conversation with scholar Georgina Kleege about what her cane tells her, how tech designers should think about visual impairments, and why "bluetooth shoes for the blind" are a terrible idea"

[See also Alan Jacobs in reaction: http://text-patterns.thenewatlantis.com/2013/11/bluetooth-shoes.html

"And there’s another aspect of this: the white cane is clearly a superior technology here, but connectivity is just what we do now, technologically. Bluetooth is cool in a way that Lucite is not. People want to offer digital solutions to problems — or pseudo-problems — that are not really digital in nature. It’s like rummaging around in your ear with a screwdriver." ]

[See also: http://ablersite.org/2013/11/06/the-white-cane-as-technology/ ]
sarahendren  blind  2013  assistivetechnology  technology  alanjacobs  problemsolving  disability  georginakleege  disabilities 
november 2013 by robertogreco
Computers are for people
"Markets are gonna market, and specs are gonna spec, but it often feels like companies are forgetting that computers are for people, first. And people have bodies, those bodies have limitations, and all of us have limitations in specific situations.

We're all disabled sometimes. If I turn off the lights in your room, you can't see. If I fill the room with enough noise, you can't hear. If your hands are full, you can't use them to do anything else.

But as Sara Hendren writes, "all technology is assistive technology." When it's working right, technology helps people of every ability overcome these limitations. It doesn't throw us back into the world of assumptions that expects us all to be fully capable all of the time.

That's not what good technology does. That's not what good design does. That's what assholes do.

I think often about Jason's post on one-handed computing because I'm in the story. He wrote it for his wife, and he wrote it for me. I'd badly broken my right arm in an accident, snapping my radius in half and shooting it out of my body."



"The thing that tech companies forget -- that journalists forget, that Wall Street never knew, that commenters who root for tech companies like sports fans for their teams could never formulate -- that technology is for people -- is obvious to Jason. Technology is for us. All of us. People who carry things.

People. Us. These stupid, stubborn, spectacular machines made of meat and electricity, friends and laughter, genes and dreams."

[Update: see also (via @ablerism):
"It’s a Man’s Phone: My female hands meant I couldn’t use my Google Nexus to document tear gas misuse"
https://medium.com/technology-and-society/its-a-mans-phone-a26c6bee1b69 ]
technology  timcarmody  2013  assistivetechnology  sarahendren  humans  vulnerability  ability  disability  iphone  limitations  computing  computers  accessibility  computersareforpeople  disabilities  zeyneptufekci 
october 2013 by robertogreco
All Technology Is Assistive Technology — Medium
[Another "read the whole thing" post from Sara]

"1. Question invisibility as the assumed goal. …

2. Rethink the default bodily experience. …

3. Consider fine gradations of qualitative change. …

4. Uncouple medical technologies from their diagnostic contexts. …

5. Design for one. …

6. And this is perhaps the most important: Let the tools you make ask questions, not just solve problems."

[Dead link, try here: https://medium.com/backchannel/all-technology-is-assistive-ac9f7183c8cd ]
sarahendren  technology  ability  disability  design  assistivetechnology  canon  ablerism  askingquestions  bodies  humanbody  disabilities  questionasking  body 
september 2013 by robertogreco
All Technology Is Assistive Technology — Thoughtful Design — Medium
"First, it’s a false divide to make a we/them: either able-minded, able-bodied, or disabled. After all, how cultures define, think about, and treat those who currently have marked disabilities is how all its future citizens may well be perceived if and when those who are able-bodied become less abled than they are now: by age, degeneration, or some sudden—or gradual—change in physical or mental capacities. All people, over the course of their lives, traffic between times of relative independence and dependence. So the questions cultures ask, the technologies they invent, and how those technologies broadcast a message about their users—weakness and strength, agency and passivity—are important ones. And they’re not just questions for scientists and policy-makers; they’re aesthetic questions too.

Second, in many cultures—and certainly in the US—a pervasive, near-obsession with averages and statistical norms about bodies and capacities has become a naturalized form of describing both individuals and populations. But this way of measuring people and populations is historically very recent, and worth reconsidering."



"So how might designers and artists engage these myths about what’s normal, and make more visible, critical, and expansive technologies that keep these questions alive? …

Undoing the distinctions between design for disability and design in general yields a couple of goods: It brings new attention to technologies that are profound in their use and impact on physical and political accessibility. The advanced replacement limbs, all-terrain wheelchairs, and exoskeletons you can find now are evidence of this new attention.

It also brings a productive uncertainty and a powerful friction to the task of designing technologies of all kinds. Whether you’re designing for an established need or seeking an application for a technical novelty, you might take more time before confidently assigning it to a user, or to over-determining its modes of deployment—it might be for practical ends, or for play, or for something else you’ve not yet imagined.

Instead of labeling some technologies and not others as assistive, let’s start like this: We’re all getting all kinds of help from the things we make. All kinds of help, all the time, for our many material and social and educational and political needs. Private needs and public ones. No one is exempt. Then the questions get really interesting: What can a body do? What needs are you interested in? Who might use which thing for what? Where might the surprises be? How might a familiar thing morph into something else altogether?



In the name of good friction, then, I want to suggest some possible dispositions for designers and artists taking a look at ability and disability.

1. Question invisibility as the assumed goal. …

In other words, one strand of design might be devoted to making hearing aids as discreet as possible—to hide its function from view. But another round of questions becomes more interesting altogether: What might a hearing aid also do—or do instead—that’s never even been considered? …

2. Rethink the default bodily experience. …

Instead of approximating a hand movement with joystick directionality, this system exploits a built-in sensitivity goldmine, protected from outside elements. Sometimes heightened functionality is about reconsidering typical adaptations entirely, inverting the expected sensory mechanism.

3. Consider fine gradations of qualitative change. …

So many medical technologies for treatment are just that: medicalized. They operate with the assumption that a change in ability is primarily a biological condition, without thought for the broader ways the built environment can expand and shift to welcome multiple kinds of bodies and experiences.

4. Uncouple medical technologies from their diagnostic contexts. …

What happens when a tool used for therapeutic reasons also points outward from a diagnostic mode toward something more ambiguous, entering the realm of the poetic? Why shouldn’t a critical object like this one possess more affect, be more responsive? When an object’s uses and users get less clearly marked, new stories about that object and its users can suddenly emerge.

5. Design for one. …

6. And this is perhaps the most important: Let the tools you make ask questions, not just solve problems. …

Yes—of course—some users want discreet tools! But others roundly reject the notion that all bodies should conform to some standardized or performative ideal.This kind of variability and disagreement should also be a generative friction for the designer. Designed artifacts that reveal psycho-social or cultural dynamics not typically housed in an ability/disability framework can destabilize easy notions of dependence and autonomy, passivity and agency."

[Dead link, try here: https://medium.com/backchannel/all-technology-is-assistive-ac9f7183c8cd ]
sarahendren  2013  assitivetechnology  technology  canon  design  disability  ability  ablerism  disabilities 
september 2013 by robertogreco
slope: intercept // A Search for Ramps and Elevations Everywhere
"It might seem counterintuitive—it doesn’t even move, after all—but its very structure affords an operative effect of force, allowing you to elevate and transfer an object you can’t lift with brute strength. It’s an elegance of physics.

In mechanical engineering, a ramp is an inclined plane, a flat surface that sits at an angle for raising and lowering a load. The inclined plane joins the pulley, the wheel-and-axle, the lever, the wedge, and the screw to create the historical pantheon of simple machines; they’re the core structures that give mechanical advantage. They transform energy, which is why they’re the building blocks of compound machines, of all sophisticated engineering."
sarahendren  ramps  machines  physics  art  engineering  2013  elevations  architecture  access  accessibility  mobility  visibility  matthewbattles  inclinedplanes  accelerations  diminutives  transversals  vantages 
may 2013 by robertogreco
5 Things About Ubiquitous Computing That Make Me Nervous | Design Culture Lab
"[I]t is difficult to develop a critical perspective whilst in school that includes the possibility of *not* designing something, simply because we force them to make things."

"[O]ur imaginations are not as strong when we come to the task of redesigning design itself."

"to understand … *process* as a form of social, cultural, political, ethical, etc. *agency*"

***

"1. Technological determinism & defeatism

Or, the cultural belief that technological development and progress is inevitable, and we have to adapt.

2. Technological solutionism

Or, the cultural belief that technology is the best solution to life’s problems.

3. Quantification imperatives

Or, the cultural belief that everything can and should be measured, and that everyday life would be better if all our decisions were based on these data.

4. Connection & sharing imperatives

Or, the cultural belief that everyday life would be better if more information was transmissible and accessible to people.

5. Convenience & efficiency imperatives

Or, the cultural belief that people would be better off if there were more technologies to make daily life more convenient, and common tasks more efficient."

"Like many students facing a critique of their practice, they struggled to understand how they could proceed. Some still focussed on how to provide the right solutions to the right problems (I asked who should get to decide what is right); others wanted to know how they could predict the likelihood of something bad happening (I pointed back to #3); and a few wanted ethical guidelines (I wondered if this fell under #2, or if I needed to add a #6, Prescriptive imperatives). Taking a more pedagogical perspective, a couple of students recognised that it is difficult to develop a critical perspective whilst in school that includes the possibility of not designing something, simply because we force them to make things."

"A few students even accused me of being defeatist and anti-technology in my critique, but I responded that I never said that ubicomp shouldn’t be designed, and neither did I say that we couldn’t create technologies in more critical, or interrogative ways. A serious problem, I think, is that our imaginations are not as strong when we come to the task of redesigning design itself. Design still suffers, for example, from having contradictory interests in sustainability and planned obsolescence, and still responds to the perils of mass production through the design of small-run luxury goods. In these, and other cases, one problem is simply substituted for another–and the solutionist imperative encourages us to respond by designing and producing more and more in turn.

In my class this term we’re using Anne Balsamo’s Designing Culture as a starting point for identifying when, where and how designers make decisions. For all our focus on teaching students to design digital and physical products, I don’t think we’re doing a good enough job of getting them to understand their process as a form of social, cultural, political, ethical, etc. agency. There is still, I think, too much emphasis on design process as some sort of mythical, mystical, essentially ineffable, act of creation.

This problem, I think, is further compounded in more critical approaches, where design effectively begins and ends with the creative act."



"By articulating “things that make me nervous” instead of talking about “things that are bad,” I had hoped to help students realise that critique is also not a final act. I wanted them to keep moving, to keep acting–but with greater awareness, responsibility and accountability. Critique shouldn’t stop us from acting or, in my opinion, tell us how to act. Critical awareness should help us situate ourselves, make active decisions to do some things and not others, and accept the consequences of these actions for ourselves and others."

***

[See also:

"And indeed true “interrogative” works, in my estimation, are best when they suspend questions indefinitely. They press and hold two or more opposing functions or symbolic/expressive gestures together at once, without resolve."

"resisting the seduction of “solutions” in design where “problems” become invisible"

http://hastac.org/forums/disability-moving-beyond-access-academy

and

"Sometimes *not* building is the right answer, but it is not one that architects are trained to recommend."

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.06/koolhaas_pr.html ]
annegalloway  criticalthinking  design  making  thinking  ubicomp  awareness  adesign  evgenymorozov  solutionism  technologicalsolutionism  2013  defeatism  determinism  quantification  measurement  data  everydaylife  efficiency  productivity  ethics  pedagogy  howwethink  howweteach  crticism  designcriticism  annebalsamo  decisionmaking  criticaldesign  remkoolhaas  sarahendren  inquiry  questions  questioning  systemsthinking  agency  cv  tcsnmy  products  technology  convenience  sharing  connections  culture  capitalism  teaching  learning  imagination  designeducation  education  unschooling  deschooling  canon  shrequest1 
march 2013 by robertogreco
Dis/Ability: Moving Beyond Access in the Academy | HASTAC
"Converging at the intersections of disability theory, pedagogy, and media studies, this forum intends to harness both theoretical and praxical discussions. We are interested in sharing ideas about how disability theory can positively intersect with our larger understandings of accessibility and the potentiality of technologies and multimodality. We are interested in classroom practices—the practical strategies folks have developed for increasing accessibility and centralizing issues of dis/ability as both material condition and social construct. We are interested in the everyday ways that we—as scholars and researchers and teachers—take up (or don’t, for various personal or institutional reasons) the challenge of creating more accessible physical and digital spaces for learning, teaching, and researching.

• What strategies do you use in your classrooms to increase accessibility or even to cater to or accommodate particular disabilities? What challenges have you faced making your classroom more accessible? Have some strategies backfired? Are there particular issues that have prevented you from making accessibility-related changes?

• What technologies are people using (whether assistive technologies or broader tech like YouTube & Twitter) to meet the needs of students? What technologies are used to create and/or support online disability identities?

• How can our own scholarly research be more accessible? I mean this both in terms of wider availability (open access publishing, perhaps) and in terms of ensuring that a range of people with various physical differences can access our new media projects. How might accessibility enhance a digital or multimodal project?

• How does disability theory intersect with technology, particularly in relation to race & resistance studies; “assistive” technologies; innovation, hacking & appropriation; and gender & queer studies?"

[From Sara Hendren's comment: http://hastac.org/forums/disability-moving-beyond-access-academy#comment-21573 ]

"I think some of the strongest art/design-and-technology practices result in objects or interactions or performances where “use” isn’t the mandate at all—and therefore, leaving aside the creation of resonances for use, at least as a goal. Usefulness or functionality may result, but it’s not the destination, if you will, of the work. And indeed true “interrogative” works, in my estimation, are best when they suspend questions indefinitely. They press and hold two or more opposing functions or symbolic/expressive gestures together at once, without resolve.

I think that strong interrogative objects, when engaging ideas in disability studies/politics, help skirt the artificial denoument of erasing difference, a la Jay’s “whack-a-mole” analogy. That is, resisting the seduction of “solutions” in design where “problems” become invisible."
via:ablerism  ability  disability  academia  marylalper  melissahelquist  stephanierosen  jaydolmage  alanfoley  maramills  cyndirowland  questions  questioning  unfinished  solutions  solutionism  transparaency  visibility  problems  problemsolving  design  art  technology  interactions  interrogativeworks  resolution  laurenmccarthy  matthiasgommel  jennifercrupi  accessibility  assistivetechnology  hacking  appropriation  innovation  resistance  unresolved  seams  seamlessness  canon  sarahendren  allisonhitt  disabilities 
march 2013 by robertogreco
minimum force, corporeal anticipation |
“For it is Sennett’s contention that “nearly anyone can become a good craftsman” and that “learning to work well enables people to govern themselves and so become good citizens.” This line of thought depends, among other things, upon the Enlightenment assumption that craft abilities are innate and widely distributed, and that, when rightly stimulated and trained, they allow craftsmen to become knowledgeable public persons.

And what is it that such persons know? They know how to negotiate between autonomy and authority (as one must in any workshop); how to work not against resistant forces but with them (as did the engineers who first drilled tunnels beneath the Thames); how to complete their tasks using “minimum force” (as do all chefs who must chop vegetables); how to meet people and things with sympathetic imagination (as does the glassblower whose “corporeal anticipation” lets her stay one step ahead of the molten glass); and above all they know how to play, for it is in play that we find “the origin of the dialogue the craftsman conducts with materials like clay and glass.”

The assumption that craft abilities are widely diffused leads Sennett into a meditation on our love of those intelligence tests by which we supposedly single out the very smart and the very stupid so that some will go to college and others go to bagging groceries. Sennett points out that such sorting ignores the “densely populated middle ground” where most of the population is actually found. Rather than celebrating a “common ground of talents,” we tend to inflate “small differences in degree into large differences in kind” and so legitimate existing systems of privilege. Thinking of the median as the mediocre creates an excuse for neglect. This is one reason, Sennett argues, that “it proves so hard to find charitable contributions to vocational schools” while currently the wealth of the Ivy League schools is compounding at an astounding rate.”

[from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/06/books/review/Hyde-t.html?pagewanted=all ]
crafy  autonomy  craftsmanship  richardsennett  authority  resistance  force  forces  minimumforce  imagination  sympathy  play  materials  making  middleground  talent  talents  privilege  mediocrity  median  vocationalschools  wealth  knowing  knowledge  understanding  enlightenment  sarahendren  citizenship  openstudioproject  glvo  lcproject  cv  corporealanticipation  learning  work  tcsnmy  progressiveeducation  elitism  2008  lewishyde 
march 2013 by robertogreco
ignorance in science | Abler.
"This crucial element in science was being left out for the students. The undone part of science that gets us into the lab early and keeps us there late, the thing that ‘turns your crank,’ the very driving force of science, the exhilaration of the unknown: all this is missing from our classrooms. In short, we are failing to teach the ignorance, the most critical part of the whole operation.

And so it occurred to me that perhaps I should mention some of what we don’t know, what we still need to find out, what are still mysteries, what still needs to be done—so that these students can get out there and find out, solve the mysteries and do these undone things. That is, I should teach them ignorance. Finally, I thought: a subject I can excel in."
science  ignorance  learning  mindset  neuroscience  sarahendren  stuartfirestein  unschooling  deschooling  2006  2013  teaching  education 
february 2013 by robertogreco
cardboard carpentry |
"Last week I started a new project: getting trained in cardboard carpentry at the Perkins School for the Blind. Perkins has a long and storied history, and they develop high-tech Braillers and more. But it’s the assistive device center that has me obsessed—they’re building all kinds of prosthetic supports and aids out of tri-wall cardboard, a material I’ve come to think of as completely magic in recent months. I’ll update this post and say more as I go, but I had to get these photos up."
prototyping  2012  sarahendren  cardboard  from delicious
december 2012 by robertogreco
repetition, tardiness, and collaboration | ["Collaboration is good in theory, but it sure can get marshy and overwrought."]
"And then something interesting happened: The fifth person came in, so we had to catch him up. Even though I’d just arrived not an hour before. So one of us recapitulated our conversation, and suddenly, in the telling, it started to sound coherent, like a project. And then it happened again: A sixth person arrived. We retold the idea again. This time the constellation of ideas had even more connection; we emphasized an aspect or two that had been more minor before. And it happened once more: the final two of our group arrived. Someone repeated it once more–and we were a little surprised to have what seemed like a properly bounded but generative idea. It had topical and methodological spokes in several directions. It had the look and feel of a project.

We didn’t belabor other options, and we didn’t obsess over every detail. We started assigning each other tasks and planning the execution and submission gatherings. But the key, perhaps, was accidentally staggering our arrival times."
productivity  making  doing  donemanifesto  howwework  tardiness  iteration  collaboration  2012  sarahendren  from delicious
december 2012 by robertogreco
recognizing openness | Abler.
“Popular science, media representations, pundits, and futurologists all portray our own moment in history as one of maximal turbulence, on the cusp of an epochal change, on a verge between the security of a past now fading and the insecurity of a future we can only dimly discern. In the face of this view of our present as a moment when all is in flux, it seems to me that we need to emphasize continuities as much as change, and to attempt a more modest cartography of our present.

Such a cartography would not so much seek to destabilize the present by pointing to its contingency, but to destabilize the future by recognizing its openness. That is to say, in demonstrating that no single future is written in our present, it might fortify our abilities … to intervene in that present, and so to shape something of the future that we might inhabit.”

Nikolas Rose, The Politics of Life Itself.
flux  openness  nikolasrose  present  future  mapping  maps  cartography  2012  sarahendren  from delicious
march 2012 by robertogreco
Twitter / @ablerism: Love Berlin. Human scale o ...
"Love Berlin. Human scale of Boston, sophistication of Brooklyn. And way cheaper, even in 2012. Wish I could share it w/ @bjford, @infrathin."
nyc  2012  comparison  sarahendren  cities  brooklyn  boston  berlin  from delicious
february 2012 by robertogreco
what’s wrong with “prosthetics porn”? (part I) | Abler.
"Which brings me to consider a question someone asked me after a lecture I gave last year: Is it preferable to design adaptive devices that are elegantly designed to be camouflaged (think hearing-aid jewelry), or beautiful & conspicuous, like the legs above? &, with Wallace in mind, should we ethically aim more design research toward near-future applications, rather than wildly speculative gear that may never see the light of day?

Well—yes. To quote Maile Meloy: Both ways is the only way I want it.

I think our energy can go in all these directions, provided we’re reflective enough. I’ve already affirmed the inherent value in playful experimentation. But the bigger challenge is to make extensive machinery that is truly extensive, truly outward in its posture. I think design matters crucially to these questions, because design for disability has the opportunity to critique the weakness of all personal technologies: its tendency to hermetically seal its user from engaging…"
interdependence  design  prosthetics  prostheticsporn  sarahendren  abler  architecture  disabilities  aesthetics  bespokeinnovations  matthewbattles  aimeemullins  objects  mailemeloy  hearing-aids  jewelry  disability  from delicious
march 2011 by robertogreco
what’s wrong with “prosthetics porn”? (part II) | Abler.
"How can technologies demonstrate an outward posture? I mean, how might they extend their forms and also their functions, beyond a single user? Couldn’t they both resolve & reveal, pose more questions than answers?…"

"A built environment, a city that accommodates—& indeed demonstrates—physical or cognitive interdependence doesn’t only call for limbs & ramps. We need wholly-spectacular impracticalities, & artistic research & collaboration, & public interactive art, & we need the most durable accessibility equipment we can design."

"Moreover, we might take the long view in order to get the short view more clearly in focus. This has long been said of science fiction in literature—that our ideas about the future are really an index of our attitudes in the present. I’m interested in futurism in prosthetics as an inquiry & spectacle, & I also want to make projects that help us harness our technologies for a more inclusive world."
abler  sarahendren  prosthetics  bikes  bikesharing  interdependence  cities  architecture  technology  assistivetechnology  art  publicart  accessibility  design  present  future  inclusiveness  inclusion  futurism  objects  objectfixations  prostheticsporn  modernism  utopia  structures  spatialagency  brunolatour  parasite  michaelrakowitz  rebar  adaptivetechnology  adaptive  eyeborg  eyewear  tandems  tandembicycles  biking  spoke-o-dometer  inclusivity  inlcusivity  from delicious
march 2011 by robertogreco

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