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robertogreco : adaptivetechnology   6

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
investigating normal. | Abler.

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
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
The Problem with “Personalization”
"What are the repercussions of radically “personalizing” education through computers? What do we gain? What do we lose?

There’s a very powerful strain of American individualism — and California exceptionalism — that permeates technology: an emphasis on personal responsibility, self-management, autonomy. All that sounds great when and if you frame new technologies in terms of self-directed learning.

But how do we reconcile that individualism with the social and political and community development that schools are also supposed to support? How do we address these strains of individualism and increasingly libertarianism as they permeate the classroom?

What do we do about the communal goals of education, for example — to produce good citizens, if nothing else — if we become maniacally focused on personal goals of education instead? What happens to meaningful moments to collaborate? What happens to discussion? What happens to debate? What happens to the idea that we must work through ideas together — not just in the classroom, but as part of our work and civic responsibilities?

And who gets the “personalized” education delivered through them via adaptive technology? And who gets the “personalization” that we hope a student-centered, progressive education would offer?

This image from a PBS documentary about Rocketship Education haunts me.

The chain of charter schools boasts personalization — “Rocketship uses the most adaptive and personalized programs available, and continues to push Silicon Valley vendors and others to create even more adaptive learning tools,” its website boasts.

So the problem with personalization via adaptive software isn’t simply that “it doesn’t work.” It’s that it might work — work to obliterate meaningful and powerful opportunities for civics, for connection, for community. Work to obliterate agency for students. And work not so much to accelerate learning, but to accelerate educational inequalities."

[Accompanies: "What Should School Leaders Know About Adaptive Learning?" ]

[See also: ]
rocketshipschools  audreywatters  education  personalization  bigdata  legibility  autonomy  personallearning  learning  schools  policy  adaptivelearningtechnology  data  datacollection  adaptivelearning  adaptivetechnology 
june 2014 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 
march 2011 by robertogreco

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