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Jonathan Mooney: "The Gift: LD/ADHD Reframed" - YouTube
"The University of Oregon Accessible Education Center and AccessABILITY Student Union present renowned speaker, neuro-diversity activist and author Jonathan Mooney.

Mooney vividly, humorously and passionately brings to life the world of neuro-diversity: the research behind it, the people who live in it and the lessons it has for all of us who care about the future of education. Jonathan explains the latest theories and provides concrete examples of how to prepare students and implement frameworks that best support their academic and professional pursuits. He blends research and human interest stories with concrete tips that parents, students, teachers and administrators can follow to transform learning environments and create a world that truly celebrates cognitive diversity."
neurodiversity  2012  jonathanmooney  adhd  cognition  cognitivediversity  sfsh  accessibility  learning  education  differences  howwelearn  disability  difference  specialeducation  highered  highereducation  dyslexia  droputs  literacy  intelligence  motivation  behavior  compliance  stillness  norms  shame  brain  success  reading  multiliteracies  genius  smartness  eq  emotions  relationships  tracking  maryannewolf  intrinsicmotivation  extrinsicmotivation  punishment  rewards  psychology  work  labor  kids  children  schools  agency  brokenness  fixingpeople  unschooling  deschooling  strengths  strengths-basedoutlook  assets  deficits  identity  learningdisabilities  schooling  generalists  specialists  howardgardner  howweteach  teams  technology  support  networks  inclusivity  diversity  accommodations  normal  average  standardization  standards  dsm  disabilities  bodies  body 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Cyborgology: What is The History of The Quantified Self a History of?
[from Part 1: https://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2017/04/13/what-is-the-history-of-the-quantified-self-a-history-of-part-1/]

"In the past few months, I’ve posted about two works of long-form scholarship on the Quantified Self: Debora Lupton’s The Quantified Self and Gina Neff and Dawn Nufus’s Self-Tracking. Neff recently edited a volume of essays on QS (Quantified: Biosensing Technologies in Everyday Life, MIT 2016), but I’d like to take a not-so-brief break from reviewing books to address an issue that has been on my mind recently. Most texts that I read about the Quantified Self (be they traditional scholarship or more informal) refer to a meeting in 2007 at the house of Kevin Kelly for the official start to the QS movement. And while, yes, the name “Quantified Self” was coined by Kelly and his colleague Gary Wolf (the former founded Wired, the latter was an editor for the magazine), the practice of self-tracking obviously goes back much further than 10 years. Still, most historical references to the practice often point to Sanctorius of Padua, who, per an oft-cited study by consultant Melanie Swan, “studied energy expenditure in living systems by tracking his weight versus food intake and elimination for 30 years in the 16th century.” Neff and Nufus cite Benjamin Franklin’s practice of keeping a daily record of his time use. These anecdotal histories, however, don’t give us much in terms of understanding what a history of the Quantified Self is actually a history of.

Briefly, what I would like to prove over the course of a few posts is that at the heart of QS are statistics, anthropometrics, and psychometrics. I recognize that it’s not terribly controversial to suggest that these three technologies (I hesitate to call them “fields” here because of how widely they can be applied), all developed over the course of the nineteenth century, are critical to the way that QS works. Good thing, then, that there is a second half to my argument: as I touched upon briefly in my [shameless plug alert] Theorizing the Web talk last week, these three technologies were also critical to the proliferation of eugenics, that pseudoscientific attempt at strengthening the whole of the human race by breeding out or killing off those deemed deficient.

I don’t think it’s very hard to see an analogous relationship between QS and eugenics: both movements are predicated on anthropometrics and psychometrics, comparisons against norms, and the categorization and classification of human bodies as a result of the use of statistical technologies. But an analogy only gets us so far in seeking to build a history. I don’t think we can just jump from Francis Galton’s ramblings at the turn of one century to Kevin Kelly’s at the turn of the next. So what I’m going to attempt here is a sort of Foucauldian genealogy—from what was left of eugenics after its [rightful, though perhaps not as complete as one would hope] marginalization in the 1940s through to QS and the multi-billion dollar industry the movement has inspired.

I hope you’ll stick around for the full ride—it’s going to take a a number of weeks. For now, let’s start with a brief introduction to that bastion of Western exceptionalism: the eugenics movement."

[from Part 2: https://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2017/04/20/what-is-the-history-of-the-quantified-self-a-history-of-part-2/

"Here we begin to see an awkward situation in our quest to draw a line from Galton and hard-line eugenics (we will differentiate between hardline and “reform” eugenics further on) to the quantified self movement. Behaviorism sits diametrically opposed to eugenics for a number of reasons. Firstly, it does not distinguish between human and animal beings—certainly a tenet to which Galton and his like would object, understanding that humans are the superior species and a hierarchy of greatness existing within that species as well. Secondly, behaviorism accepts that outside, environmental influences will change the psychology of a subject. In 1971, Skinner argued that “An experimental analysis shifts the determination of behavior from autonomous man to the environment—an environment responsible both for the evolution of the species and for the repertoire acquired by each member” (214). This stands in direct conflict with the eugenical ideal that physical and psychological makeup is determined by heredity. Indeed, the eugenicist Robert Yerkes, otherwise close with Watson, wholly rejected the behaviorist’s views (Hergenhahn 400). Tracing the quantified-self’s behaviorist and self-experimental roots, then, leaves us without a very strong connection to the ideologies driving eugenics. Still, using Pearson as a hint, there may be a better path to follow."]

[from Part 3: https://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2017/04/27/what-is-the-history-of-the-quantified-self-a-history-of-part-3/

"The history of Galton and eugenics, then, can be traced into the history of personality tests. Once again, we come up against an awkward transition—this time from personality tests into the Quantified Self. Certainly, shades of Galtonian psychometrics show themselves to be present in QS technologies—that is, the treatment of statistical datasets for the purpose of correlation and prediction. Galton’s word association tests strongly influenced the MBTI, a test that, much like Quantified Self projects, seeks to help a subject make the right decisions in their life, though not through traditional Galtonian statistical tools. The MMPI and 16PFQ are for psychological evaluative purposes. And while some work has been done to suggest that “mental wellness” can be improved through self-tracking (see Kelley et al., Wolf 2009), much of the self-tracking ethos is based on factors that can be adjusted in order to see a correlative change in the subject (Wolf 2009). That is, by tracking my happiness on a daily basis against the amount of coffee I drink or the places I go, then I am acknowledging an environmental approach and declaring that my current psychological state is not set by my genealogy. A gap, then, between Galtonian personality tests and QS."]

[from Part 4 (Finale): https://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2017/05/08/what-is-the-history-of-the-quantified-self-a-history-of-the-finale/

"What is the history of the quantified self a history of? One could point to technological advances in circuitry miniaturization or in big data collection and processing. The proprietary and patented nature of the majority of QS devices precludes certain types of inquiry into their invention and proliferation. But it is not difficult to identify one of QS’s most critical underlying tenets: self-tracking for the purpose of self-improvement through the identification of behavioral and environmental variables critical to one’s physical and psychological makeup. Recognizing the importance of this premise to QS allows us to trace back through the scientific fields which have strongly influenced the QS movement—from both a consumer and product standpoint. Doing so, however, reveals a seeming incommensurability between an otherwise analogous pair: QS and eugenics. A eugenical emphasis on heredity sits in direct conflict to a self-tracker’s belief that a focus on environmental factors could change one’s life for the better—even while both are predicated on statistical analysis, both purport to improve the human stock, and both, as argued by Dale Carrico, make assertions towards what is a “normal” human.

A more complicated relationship between the two is revealed upon attempting this genealogical connection. What I have outlined over the past few weeks is, I hope, only the beginning of such a project. I chose not to produce a rhetorical analysis of the visual and textual language of efficiency in both movements—from that utilized by the likes of Frederick Taylor and his eugenicist protégés, the Gilbreths, to what Christina Cogdell calls “Biological Efficiency and Streamline Design” in her work, Eugenic Design, and into a deep trove of rhetoric around efficiency utilized by market-available QS device marketers. Nor did I aim to produce an exhaustive bibliographic lineage. I did, however, seek to use the strong sense of self-experimentation in QS to work backwards towards the presence of behaviorism in early-twentieth century eugenical rhetoric. Then, moving in the opposite direction, I tracked the proliferation of Galtonian psychometrics into mid-century personality test development and eventually into the risk-management goals of the neoliberal surveillance state. I hope that what I have argued will lead to a more in-depth investigation into each step along this homological relationship. In the grander scheme, I see this project as part of a critical interrogation into the Quantified Self. By throwing into sharp relief the linkages between eugenics and QS, I seek to encourage resistance to fetishizing the latter’s technologies and their output, as well as the potential for meaningful change via those technologies."]
gabischaffzin  quantifiedself  2017  kevinkelly  garywolf  eugenics  anthropometrics  psychometrics  measurement  statistics  heredity  francisgalton  charlesdarwin  adolphequetelet  normal  psychology  pernilsroll-hansen  michelfoucault  majianadesan  self-regulation  marginalization  anthropology  technology  data  personality  henryfairfieldosborn  moralbehaviorism  behaviorism  williamepstein  mitchelldean  neoliberalism  containment  risk  riskassessment  freedom  rehabilitation  responsibility  obligation  dalecarrico  fredericktaylor  christinacogdell  surveillance  nikolasrose  myers-briggs  mbti  katherinebriggs  isabelbriggsmeyers  bellcurve  emilkraepelin  charlesspearman  rymondcattell  personalitytests  allenneuringer  microsoft  self-experimentation  gamification  deborahlupton  johnwatson  robertyerkes  ginaneff  dawnnufus  self-tracking  melanieswan  benjaminfranklin  recordkeeping  foucault 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Microsoft's Radical Bet On A New Type Of Design Thinking | Co.Design | business + design
"De los Reyes wasn’t proposing that Microsoft become a sidewalk company. He was proposing a metaphor. He was hoping to find the digital world’s equivalent of the curb cut, something elegant that let everyone live a little easier. At a meeting of Shum’s top deputies, de los Reyes mooted this idea of making Microsoft’s design accessible to all. On its face, this idea flattered Microsoft’s culture. Remember how Windows famously let you adjust the setting on almost anything you wanted, while Apple didn’t? That wasn’t an accident, but rather the perfect expression of Microsoft’s abiding belief, descended from the great garage-hacker Bill Gates, that users should be able to adjust everything they touched as they saw fit. So for Microsofties, it was only natural to think that users, including the disabled, should have as many settings as they wanted. But de los Reyes was after something more ambitious. Kat Holmes, there at the meeting with Shum, supplied another puzzle piece."



"One of Holmes’ first insights was that she didn’t have to figure out all these problems on her own. Other people already had. After all, real personal assistants think every day about getting their clients to trust them, providing the right information at the right time, being helpful before you’ve been asked. So Holmes sought them out. She found real personal assistants who’d served demanding clients ranging from celebrities to billionaires. By studying how they delicately cultivated trust, Holmes was able to recommend a series of behaviors for Cortana. The best personal assistants have logs about client preferences, but they’re also transparent about why they’re recommending certain things. Thus, Cortana, unlike Siri or Google Now, has a log of all the preference data that it has extrapolated about you, which users can edit. Cortana also behaves like a human would, though she doesn’t quite have a personality: Instead of simply giving you a flippant joke when befuddled by a question, like Siri does, Cortana admits to what she does and doesn’t know. She asks you to teach her, just like a trustworthy personal assistant would.

The point wasn’t simply to copy what those personal assistants did, it was to figure out why they were doing what they did. Instead of tackling a thorny problem head on, Holmes had found an analogue to give structure to what she was doing, to provide a framework for the endeavor.

And then Holmes saw the movie Her, a visionary sci-fi film in which a love-lorn everyman played by Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with a digital assistant voiced by Scarlett Johansson. Holmes wangled her way into a connection with the movie’s production designer, K.K. Barrett, and asked him how he’d come up with such a credible-looking vision of the future—one which, in fact, she’d been working on even as the movie was being shot. Barrett answered with a curveball: He said that to make the technology look futuristic, he’d taken everything out that was technology. His approach was to simply let the director Spike Jonze focus only on what was human. All at once, Holmes saw it: She figured that in trying to understand how computers should interact with humans, the best guide was how humans interacted with humans."



"De los Reyes and Holmes, with the help of design experts including Allen Sayegh at Harvard and Jutta Treviranus at the Ontario College of Art and Design, eventually hit upon a vein of design thinking descended from Pat Moore, and universal design. Dubbed inclusive design, it begins with studying overlooked communities, ranging from dyslexics to the deaf. By learning about how they adapt to their world, the hope is that you can actually build better new products for everyone else.

What’s more, by finding more analogues between tribes of people outside the mainstream and situations that we’ve all found ourselves in, you can come up with all kinds of new products. The big idea is that in order to build machines that adapt to humans better, there needs to be a more robust process for watching how humans adapt to each other, and to their world. "The point isn’t to solve for a problem," such as typing when you’re blind, said Holmes. "We're flipping it." They are finding the expertise and ingenuity that arises naturally, when people are forced to live a life differently from most."



"As promising as these smaller projects might be, Holmes and de los Reyes believe there is a bigger opportunity. Today, we are drowning in interactions with smartphones and devices, such as our cars and homes—all of which suddenly want to talk to our phones as well. We live in a world of countless transitions. Instead of one device, there is actually an infinite number of hands-off between devices. There needs to be a new kind of design process to manage those seams. "The assumptions about computing are that our devices are one-on-one with visual interactions," Holmes points out. "The design discipline is built around those assumptions. They assume that we’re one person all the time."

Holmes believes that inclusive design, by bringing a diverse set of users into a design process that typically strips away differences and abstracts them into what seems user-friendly to the maximum number of people, can actually help with the fact that our capabilities change throughout the day. We don’t simply have a persona, fixed in time and plastered on a storyboard, like most design processes would have it. We have a persona spectrum. When you’re a parent with a sprained wrist, or you’re reaching for your phone while holding your groceries, you share a world, albeit briefly, with someone who has only ever been able to use one hand. "There is no such thing as a normal human," Holmes says. "Our capabilities are always changing."

The hope is that in seeking out new people to include in the design process, we can smooth away the gaps that bedevil our digital lives. Which brings to mind Pellegrino Turri and his typewriter, Alexander Graham Bell with his telephone, and Vint Cerf and email—these were inventors who all started with the disabled in mind but eventually helped everyone else. The difference is that while each of those inventors stumbled upon an analogue that helped them invent something that everyone else could use, Microsoft is starting with the analogues. They're seeking out the disabled and the different, confident that they've already invented exactly the solutions that the rest of us need.

For de los Reyes, the promise of this new design process isn't in just a better Microsoft: "If we're successful, we're going to change the way products are designed across the industry. Period. That's my vision.""
disability  microsoft  design  conversationalui  accessibility  2016  augustdelosreyes  cortana  siri  googlenow  katholmes  ux  ui  interface  juttatreviranus  allensayegh  julielarson-green  albertshum  stayanadella  normal  inclusivedesign  incluive  inclusivity  disabilities 
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
How the Idea of a 'Normal' Person Got Invented - The Atlantic
"The notion that there is a “normal” height or a “normal” salary is a relatively new one, and it's had a profound effect on how people think about each other and themselves."
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"In the early 1840s, Quetelet analyzed a data set published in an Edinburgh medical journal that listed the chest circumference, in inches, of 5,738 Scottish soldiers. This was one of the most important, if uncelebrated, studies of human beings in the annals of science. Quetelet added together each of the measurements, then divided the sum by the total number of soldiers. The result came out to just over 39 ¾ inches—the average chest circumference of a Scottish soldier. This number represented one of the very first times a scientist had calculated the average of any human feature. But it was not Quetelet’s arithmetic that was history-making—it was his answer to a rather simple-seeming question: What, precisely, did this average actually mean?

It seems like the answer would be obvious, but it’s not actually clear what the significance of average size is. Is it a rough guide to the size of normal human beings? An estimate of the size of a randomly selected person? Or is there some kind of deeper fundamental meaning behind the number? Quetelet’s own interpretation—the first scientific interpretation of a human average—was, not surprisingly, conceived out of concepts from astronomical observation.

Astronomers believed that every individual measurement of a celestial object (such as one scientist’s measurement of the speed of Saturn) always contained some amount of error, yet the amount of aggregate error across a group of individual measurements (such as many different scientists’ measurements of the speed of Saturn, or many different measurements by a single scientist) could be minimized by using the average measurement. In fact, a celebrated proof by the mathematician Carl Gauss appeared to demonstrate that an average measurement was as close to a measurement’s true value (such as the true speed of Saturn) as one could ever hope to get. Quetelet applied the same thinking to his interpretation of human averages: He declared that the individual person was synonymous with error, while the average person represented the true human being.

After Quetelet calculated the average chest circumference of Scottish soldiers, he concluded that each individual soldier’s chest size represented an instance of naturally occurring “error,” whereas the average chest size represented the size of the “true” soldier—a perfectly formed soldier free from any physical blemishes or disruptions, as nature intended a soldier to be.

Quetelet followed the same line of reasoning with regard to humanity as a whole, claiming that every one of us is a flawed copy of some kind of cosmic template for human beings. Quetelet dubbed this template the “Average Man.” Today, of course, someone described as “average” is implied to be inferior or lacking. But for Quetelet, the Average Man was perfection itself, an ideal that Nature aspired to, free from error. He declared that the greatest men in history were closest to the Average Man of their place and time.

Eager to unmask the secret face of the Average Man, Quetelet began to compute the average of every human attribute he could get data on. He calculated average stature, average weight, and average complexion. He calculated the average age couples got married and the average age people died. He calculated average annual births, average number of people in poverty, average annual incidents of crime, average types of crimes, the average amount of education, and even average annual suicide rates. He invented the Quetelet Index—today known as the body mass index, or BMI—and calculated men’s and women’s average BMIs to identify average health. Each of these average values, claimed Quetelet, represented the hidden qualities of the Average Man.

As much as Quetelet admired the Average Man, he held an equal amount of antipathy toward those unfortunate individuals who deviated from the average. “Everything differing from the Average Man’s proportions and condition, would constitute deformity and disease,” Quetelet asserted. “Everything found dissimilar, not only as regarded proportion or form, but as exceeding the observed limits, would constitute a Monstrosity.” He also pronounced, “If an individual at any given epoch of society possessed all the qualities of the Average Man he would represent all that is great, good, or beautiful.”

Though today an average person isn’t thought to embody perfection, it is presumed that an average person is a prototypical representative of a group—a type. There is a powerful tendency in the human mind to imagine that all members of a group—such as “lawyers,” “the homeless,” or “Mexicans”—act according to a set of shared characteristics, and Quetelet’s research endowed this impulse with a scientific justification that quickly became a cornerstone of the social sciences. Ever since Quetelet introduced the idea of the Average Man, scientists have delineated the characteristics of a seemingly endless number of types, such as “Type-A personalities,” “neurotic types,” “micro-managers,” and “leader types,” arguing that useful predictions could be made about any given individual member of a group simply by knowing the traits of the average member—the group’s type.

Since Quetelet’s concept of the Average Man seemed to impose welcome order on the accelerating jumble of human statistics while simultaneously validating people’s natural urge to stereotype others, it’s little wonder his ideas spread as they did."
normal  averages  average  roddrose  2016  statistics  adolpgeqetelet  data 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Spinoza in a T-Shirt – The New Inquiry
"This is the social and ethical function of design standardization: to assign and put bodies in their “proper” place. Standardized design creates violent relations between bodies and environments. The intensity of violence the standard body brings to bear on an individual’s body is measured in that body’s difference and distance from the standard. A chair that is too high, a beam too low, a corridor too narrow acts on the body forcefully and with a force that is unevenly distributed. Bodies that are farther from the standard body bear the weight of these forces more heavily than those that are closer to the arbitrary standard. But to resolve this design problem does not mean that we need a more-inclusive approach to design. The very idea of inclusion, of opening up and expanding the conceptual parameters of human bodies, depends for its logic and operation on the existence of parameters in the first place. In other words, a more inclusive approach to design remains fundamentally exclusive in its logic.

If Spinoza’s critical question points us toward an understanding of what standardized design does wrong, it also indicates how to get it right. The works of fashion designer Rei Kawakubo and of the artists-architects Shusaku Arakawa and Madeline Gins are the result of materialist practices that reflect the Spinozist principle of not knowing what a body is. Their approach to design is based not so much on what the designers claim to know about the body, but instead on what they ignore. Their approaches refuse predetermined conceptualizations of what a body is and what a body can do. For instance, Kawakubo’s “bumpy” dresses (from the highly celebrated “Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body” Comme Des Garcons Spring/Summer 1997 collection) form a cloth+body assemblage that challenges preconceived ideas of the body and of beauty. At a larger scale, Arakawa and Gins’ Mitaka Lofts in Tokyo and Yoro Park in Gifu prefecture deny any predetermined category of the body in favor of a profound ignorance of what makes a body a body at all.

These designs can have profound sociopolitical effects. Momoyo Homma (the director of the architects’ Tokyo office) relates how her mother, who normally cannot walk without her cane, had no problems navigating the bumpy floor of the Mitaka Lofts. Homma’s mother’s experience does not mean that the Mitaka Lofts are a miraculous instrument that would resuscitate a septuagenarian’s ability to walk without a cane. It reveals that her body only needs a cane in environments designed for bodies that differ substantially from hers.

The cane, itself a designed object, is a clear marker of the differential (often antagonistic) relations that design produces between bodies and spaces/places, and between non-standard and standard bodies. As a prosthesis, the cane’s purpose is to “correct” the non-standard body so that its functions reflect as closely as possible a fidelity with the “normal” body. Arakawa and Gins’ architecture offers an environment where the non-standard body does not need a “corrective,” since the environment’s design is not structured around what they think a body is.

Spinoza’s question—what can a body do?—insists that we set aside preconceived and normative notions of what a body is. Arakawa and Gins’ architecture suggests a slight but significant revision: Rather than conceptualizing bodies from the position of not knowing what they are, we should begin from the position that we don’t know what bodies are not. The double-negative allows a crucial correction to the Spinozist account of the body.

Spinoza’s question delays conceptualizations of the body, but it still doesn’t do away with normative formulations of the body. Affirming an ignorance of something presupposes that what is ignored could be actually known. “We don’t know what a body is” implicitly suggests that a holistic knowledge of what a body is actually exists—we just don’t presume to know it (yet).

The position of “not presuming” is too close to the liberal stance of having tolerance for difference—a position of liberal multiculturalism we find suspicious. The problem with liberal tolerance is that it already assumes and takes up a position of power. The designer is in the privileged position of being tolerant of another, and of designating who is deserving of tolerance. Whether the presumption is to know or not know the body, it is either way an act of the designer’s agency since knowing/unknowing the body is realized exclusively in the design of the garment, room, chair, table, etc. The power of the designer remains intact either way.

Alternatively, to not know what a body isn’t does more than suspend or delay normalizing conceptualizations of the body. It refuses such total claims of body knowledge at all. Just as the double-negative construction becomes affirmative, not knowing what a body isn’t affirms all bodies by doing away with the ideal of the normative body altogether. To not know what a body isn’t means that the idea of the body is infinitely open, rather than just momentarily open. To not know what a body isn’t means that all bodies are equally valid modes and forms of embodiment. Nothing is “not a body” and so everything is a body. This is not a philosophical issue but a political problem. What is a body? What is a human body? These are philosophical treatises that do not address our concern with how built environments empower some bodies and disempower others according to a set of “universal” design presumptions and methods.

By shifting our focus from what a body is to what a body can do, we can begin to explore the political—sometimes violent—relations of bodies, objects, and environments that are produced and maintained through standard design practices and knowledge. How might a collaborative relation of body and environment create the potential for a more non-hierarchical architecture? How might it build one that frees all bodies from the abstract concept of a “normal” body?

As impressive and seductive as the designers named above are, they are not politically egalitarian even though their designs may be aesthetically radical. Kawakubo, Gins, and Arakawa’s built environments are among a highly rarified class of design, out of reach to all but a select few inhabitants/consumers. Although their design approaches are unconventional, they don’t disrupt the hierarchical relations that structure dominant paradigms of design. In fact, their work is greatly celebrated in establishment fashion and architecture design circles.

A design process and philosophy that doesn’t know what a body isn’t can be found in a decidedly more mundane built environment. The jersey knit cotton T-shirt—a product found across the entire price point spectrum—is accessible and inhabitable by a great number of people. Jersey knit cotton is one of the cheaper fabrics, pliable to a broad range of bodies. Jersey knit cotton T-shirts really don’t know what a body isn’t—to this T-shirt, all bodies are T-shirt-able, all bodies can inhabit the space of a T-shirt, though how they inhabit it will be largely determined by the individual body. How the t-shirt pulls or hangs loose (and by how much) will certainly vary across bodies and across time. Indeed, the T-shirt’s stretchy jersey knit cotton materializes precisely this principle of contingency.

Julie Wilkins’ designs are aimed at “extending the grammar of the T-shirt.” Stretching the T-shirt to new proportions, her Future Classics Dress collections (made entirely of jersey knit fabrics, though not necessarily knit from cotton) are even more adaptable and modifiable than the classic T-shirt, which is somewhat limited by its fundamental T shape. (“Somewhat limited,” because its T shape has not precluded the vast number and variety of bodies that do not conform to the T-shape from wearing T-shirts.) Wilkins’ design approach is unlike those that make up traditional tables, chairs, windows, and clothing that are designed and fabricated around standard body dimensions. Wilkins’ designs create built environments that are pliant, dynamic, modular, and mobile.

Wilkins’ Future Classics Dress designs are modifiable by and adaptable to an unspecified range of bodies; they are conditional architectures. As demonstrated on their website, one garment can be worn in many ways, on many bodies. How users inhabit the clothes depends on them as much as on the designer. Choosing how to wear a Future Classics garment can be an involved process. While the Future Classics Dress collections don’t give individuals total autonomy, they allow bodies more freedom than we’ve seen before."



"The idealized relationship of bodies and designed grounds is a predictive geometric one. It is widely accepted that a surface directly perpendicular to the body provides the best environment for bodies to function. As a result, the surfaces of designed grounds are overwhelmingly flat, and non-flat floors are marked as problems to be fixed. Yet even a cursory glance at any playground and its many and differently uneven grounds—“terrains” is a better word—trouble this taken-for-granted logic.

Children tend to have a particularly acute relation to their physical environment. Their small and unpracticed bodies almost never fit the overwhelmingly hard, flat surfaces of mainstream environments. In this way, all young children can be understood as having non-standard bodies. Their “unfitness” is measured in relation to normatively designed built environments. The image of any young child climbing a set of stairs illustrates the kind of unfitness we mean. By contrast, the playground’s dense rubbery foam floors, its flexible pathways (e.g, chain-linked bridges), and its integration of Parent and Virilio’s Oblique Function of various slopes and elevations, are surfaces that children’s bodies navigate capably, oftentimes with a level of ease that escapes adults… [more]
spinoza  design  arakawa  madelinegins  body  bodies  normal  normalization  standardization  variation  architecture  fashion  politics  inclusion  tolerance  inclusivity  adaptability  léopoldlambert  minh-hatpham  henrydreyfuss  reikawakubo  juliewilkins  paulvirilio  claudeparent  theobliquefunction  futureclassicsdress  modification  stretch  give  glvo  uniformproject  audiencesofone  philosophy  standards  canon  canes  ability  abilities  disability  variability  ablerism  ethics  textiles  personaluniforms  fabrics  clothing  clothes  inlcusivity  disabilities 
july 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
iTunes - Books - Let's Challenge the Myth of Normal by The Pilot School & Bruce Mau Design
"We are The Pilot School, established in 1957. We are an individualized, therapeutic, multidisciplinary, independent day school for children with normal potential, ages five through fourteen, who are experiencing language-based learning problems. We are located in Wilmington, Delaware, and our enrollment is about 150 students. We exist to develop children who become catalysts of their own success."

[Via: http://www.brucemaudesign.com/#/work?project_id=17 ]

[See also: http://www.pilotschool.org/

"Established in 1957, Pilot is an individualized, therapeutic, independent day school for children with normal potential, ages five through fourteen, experiencing language based learning problems." ]

[Published: Dec 05, 2013 ]
thepilotschool  normal  schools  independentschools  education  wilmington  delaware  books 
june 2014 by robertogreco
Discussing A Search Past Silence with David Kirkland - YouTube
[Transcription of the first 11:18]

"A lot of times we frame conversations around English and English teaching, English education that too often ignore and neglect the lives of the young people that we work with. Increasingly, those young people will look different than the norm. In fact, normal, in our world, probably looks more varied than homogeneous. I think we have to begin thinking about that. The extent to which we can teach English well will depend on how well we know our young people. The extent to which we can begin to ensure equal education for everyone will depend on how well we know students. And I think, unfortunately, when we look at education statistics, young black men too often find themselves on the other side of achievement. To often when we look at social statistics, young black men almost always seem to be overrepresented in places that we don't want them… death, joblessness, I can go on.

And so, the book was written in part to humanize, if you will, conversations about young black men. So, in this sense, it is to provide a humanizing narrative of young black men that illustrates the sensitivities and intimacies that shapes his ways with words. Another goal for the book, for teachers, is to raise awareness of the conditions of the young students in our class, in this sense of contemporary African-American males. And a third objective is to provide suggestions for effectively engaging young black mane in a transformative project of education on his terms for social healing and for social justice. Now what do I mean by that? I think I mean that we can't teach well (quality) without equality and we can't teach well without knowing the students who enter our classrooms. And certainly we can't teach well if the only perspective that we have on those students is a deficit perspective, that our students lack.

And so I've argued in the book and I want to reiterate this point today that the study of literacy is incomplete until it folds together the doing and the being, the struggle and the sacrifice, and thus the story of literacy becomes the story of all of us. That's not what we see in schools. The story of English literacy in classrooms across the country is the stories of some of us. We only read books by certain genders that reflect the experiences of the elite. The questions are: How do we understand our students and their place within our consciousness, our pedagogical consciousnesses. And how do they come to be whoever they are? And what stories are invented in the life of their being that finds its way through the pen and through the creases of words practiced and ultimately into our classrooms? So, hopefully by sharing snippets of Shawn and Derrick and José and Sheldon [not sure about the spelling of each of those names] and the others, I've given you an experience with black men that many of us would never have.

And from that experience, the hope is that we can begin to build durable pedagogies about their literacies. We could also look at them not from a deficit perspective, but from what I call a profit perspective. Because here everyone is literate. Everyone is actively constructing with words or with other types of tools the world that we live in. In this sense, we're doing what Paulo Freire calls not just reading the work, but also the world. We're not just writing with words, we're also writing the worlds that we exist in. And for me, moving from the deficit perspective, seeing young black males in this sense are constructing that universe, the words, the ways that they are writing is so important for reimagining classrooms and for reimagining the space that we exist in."

[…]

"Shelly's question is How can a nigga like me write research like poetry? I'm going to share it with you. So, check this out. I spent three years initially with six young men and I'm going to go back into the back story. And I spent a lot of time with these cats and then I had an opportunity, I got a grant to spend more time with them. So the studies have all been over the process of about eight years, close to a decade. … Doing the research was one thing. As a researcher, I was a critical ethnographer. Not only did I ask questions and have interviews with the young people and allow them to really talk to me and explain to me things about their lives, following the rich anthropological, ethnographic method. I was part of their life for years. I was the seventh member of the group, if you will. I was at homes and at kitchen tables and at restaurants. I travelled their trails. I interviewed people who were in their lives, grandmothers and aunts, uncles, mothers and fathers where they were available, friends, employers, girlfriends, whoever I could. I was another member. I collected artifacts — napkins with scribbles of rap on them (lines of rap), notebooks, videogame magazines, all types of literacy artifacts came to me. The question then was How do I put this together in a way that best represents them?

And so to get at Shelly's question, how did A Search Past Silence emerge? Well, the first book that I wrote — and I write about this in the book — the young men didn't like. So I did my member checks and I wrote this scientific book that was in rich academic jargon. I used all the -t-i-o-ns and -i-z-es that academics use. I cited Bakhtin and Foucault and all the people that you're supposed to cite if you're an academic de certo. I thought it was cool. And then I gave the book to the young men and they didn't understand shit that I was talking about. So I did work with these young men and they couldn't read the book that I had written about them and it felt exploitative and it felt nasty and it felt like the type of work that I didn't want to do.

And so I wrote another book using that same data, attempting to get it better. The next book I wrote, I presented to them, it felt like a rich ethnographic narrative, but it still was overly scientific, the theories were somewhat academic, and they didn't get that book either. And they said — sometimes they called me Doc because I'm Dr. Kirkland, other times they called me Kirk, other times they called me sir — they're like "Sir, we don't understand what you're talking about here. I don't know who this cat is. I don't know who he is. He's not important to us." And then I finally got it, that to tell their story I needed to tell another type of story. They had to be my audience. Because if teachers and educators and intellectuals were going to get them, they needed to hear from them. They needed to hear their voice.

And so I decided to write a book in their voice. So if you look at chapters one through sixteen, I don't use the personal pronoun I. Not in reference to me. Instead I try to privilege their voices and the telling of their stories. And I draw from what Chimamanda Adichie calls the varied or multiple narrative, the multiple story, to get away from the danger of the single story. And within these many stories, within the creases of many narratives, I believe we accomplish something. And the thing that I believe that we accomplish was a textured narrative of them that was written in their voice, that gives privilege to their voice in their story. And for me that was important. So the move that I made from researcher collecting a bunch of data, making sense of that data in order to understand some theory of black male literacy is a lot different than who I write about. I had to become a writer and less of a researcher in writing the book, but the book does represent real research. It may read like fiction, but it's not."

[Related: http://www.theamericancrawl.com/?p=1181 ]
[Book link: http://www.amazon.com/Search-Past-Silence-Literacy-Language/dp/0807754072 ]
davidkirkland  anterogarcia  literacy  education  teaching  writing  reading  research  2014  literacies  multiliteracies  youth  teachingenglish  diversity  normal  ethnography  narrative  anthropology  voice  chimamandaadichie  multiplenarrative  multiplestory  chimamandangoziadichie 
february 2014 by robertogreco
New Normal? - Radiolab
"Evolution results from the ability of organisms to change. But how do you tell the difference between a sea change and a ripple in the water? Is a peacenik baboon, a man in a dress, or a cuddly fox a sign of things to come? Or just a flukey outlier from the norm? And is there ever really a norm?

John Horgan examines how Americans seem to have a completely different attitude toward war than we did thirty years ago. He takes us on a stroll through Hoboken, asking strangers one of the great unanswerable questions: "Will humans ever stop fighting wars?" Strangely, everyone seems to know the answer. Robert Sapolsky brings us farther afield - to eastern Africa, where a population of baboons defies his expectations of violent behavior. Robert is surprised to feel hopeful for a gentler future, but then primatologist Richard Wrangham asserts that their aggressive nature is innate, unchanging, and hanging over them like a guillotine.

Stu Rasmussen, of Silverton, Oregon, is an avid metalworker, woodworker, and electrician - and in 2008 became our country's first transgendered mayor. News of his election swept the country, but what was it like at home?

Brian Hare tells us the story of Dmitri Belyaev, a geneticist and clandestine Darwinian who lived in Stalinist Russia and studied the domestication of the silver fox. Through generations of selectively breeding a captive population, Belyaev noticed not only increased docility, but also unexpected physical changes. Why did these gentler foxes necessarily look different than their wild ancestors? Tecumseh Fitch has a hypothesis, something about trailblazing cells and embryonic development. And Richard Wrangham takes it a step further, suggesting us humans may have domesticated ourselves."
behavior  radiolab  2009  robertsapolsky  change  normalcy  normal  richardwrangham  sturasmusssen  dmitribelyaev  tecumsehfitch  domestication  evolution  primates  baboons 
october 2013 by robertogreco
David Simon | Barack Obama And The Death Of Normal
"For lost and fretful white men, unwilling to accept the terms of a new America, Congress is the last barricade against practical and inevitable change. But there, too, the demographic inevitabilities are all in play. All the gerrymandering in this world won’t make those other Americans, those different Americans, go away. And the tyranny of minority and lack of compromise that you employ to thwart progress now will likely breed an equal contempt when the demographics do indeed provide supermajorities.

Hard times are still to come for all of us. Rear guard actions will be fought at every political crossroad. But make no mistake: Change is a motherfucker when you run from it.”

Regardless of what happens with his second term, Obama’s great victory has already been won: We are all the other now, in some sense. Special interests? That term has no more meaning in the New America. We are all — all of us…even the whitest of white guys — special interests…There is no normal. …"
culture  politics  change  republicans  minorities  davidsimon  normal  race  specialinterests  barackobama  election2012  2012  elections  us 
november 2012 by robertogreco
David Byrne's Journal: 12.13.11: Odyshape
"We instinctively want to believe that a merit-based world exists—that with some hard work, focus, time, effort and perseverance, you too will be rewarded with the body you see on the billboard. The same also applies to our notions of economic well-being. As a result, you have Bill O’Reilly and Newt Gingrich (among many others) implying that poor people are poor simply because they aren’t trying hard enough (note the clever segue from Barbie to politics and economics). The implication is that poor people, or anyone who isn’t successful, just aren’t applying themselves or trying hard enough. Also, that less than fabulously attractive people similarly aren’t going to the gym enough. The corollary is that Bill and Newt are as wealthy as they are because they worked hard. This, excuse me, is bullshit…

Sadly, this dissonance between what is possible image wise, and what is being aimed for by many normal women, is making many of them nutso."
davidbyrne  odyshape  2011  science  politics  sociology  anthropology  darwin  sexualselection  geoffreymiller  photoshop  girls  women  gender  truth  brain  vision  normal  economics  luck  barbie  beingbarbie  henrikehrsson  arvidguterstam  björnvanderhoort  perception  neuroscience  via:lukeneff  bodyimage  femininity  charlesdarwin 
april 2012 by robertogreco
mini. Quiet Babylon | In Defence (but not Praise) of Fans
"I don’t remember where but I remember reading that pretty much everyone thinks of high school as being a place that was full of cliques but thinks as themselves as someone who kind of floated between them without really belonging to any one in particular…

The kind of people Cory celebrates here will always be my people. I will always have a soft spot for them, especially for the younger ones, constructing shells to keep the hateful, hateful world out. But there comes a point of growing, a point where you can look back at your own Martian’s distance from a Martian’s distance and you recognize that there too, there were empty habits or worse."
timmaly  corydoctorow  cliques  cosmopolitanism  opinions  selfimage  identity  normal  whatisnormal  adolescence  superiority  difference  pretension 
november 2010 by robertogreco
Celebrating the beauty of 'super normal' little objects of daily life - Style - International Herald Tribune
"objects that really make a difference to our lives are often the least noticeable ones, that don't try to grab our attention... [they] add something to the atmosphere of our homes...we'd miss...most if they disappeared. That's why they're 'super normal.'
beauty  design  everyday  japan  tokyo  furniture  objects  life  supernormal  normal 
march 2007 by robertogreco

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