#necs2017 Panel „Changing sensory regimes and emergent corpo-realities“ (01 July 2017)

Reflections on dis-/abling practices

We are very happy to announce this exciting panel with the following speakers: David Parisi (Charleston) and Jason Archer (Chicago), Melike Sahinol (Istanbul), Denisa Butnaru (Freiburg) and Andreas Henze (Siegen). Convenor: Robert Stock (Konstanz).

Please come join us on July 1, 2017, 13.00-14.45 / J, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle. (Notice the schedule update!)

Have a look at the definitive programme on the NECS-homepage.

ABSTRACT: This panel will analyze changing sensory regimes and emergent corpo-realities by looking at dis-/abling practices and exploring relevant examples within contemporary contexts of digital media or medial dispositives developed in medical sciences and robotics. According to Schillmeier, who analyzes blind money practices, the notion of “(visual) disability refers to complex sets of heterogeneous practices that (re)associate bodies, material objects, and technologies with sensory and other practices.” (2007: 197) Relations between biotechnologies (i.e. neuro-prostheses) and bodies provide the basis for new sensory practices that might be both enabling and disabling. In order to grasp how these practices are produced, we discuss some paradigmatic contemporary examples such as brain machine interfaces, computer interfaces or exoskeletons. While considering these concrete cases, the panel will bring together scholars from media ethnography, philosophy and sociology in order to demonstrate how new modes and senses of touch or being touched (Paterson 2007) emerge and how they revise forms of knowledge and experience. Thereby, the significance of the human skin, of the technologically produced skin or of technologically produced movement as well as their intrinsic entanglement partly realized through digital sensor-based technologies will be problematized. Last but not least, the panel shall question how dis-/abling practices are to be conceived as forms of “becoming with” (Haraway 2007: 5-8, 35-6), that is, as a process through which the agencies participating to a specific context of action are reciprocally formed.

 

PANEL OVERVIEW

Making Analog: On the Prospect and Perils of a Haptic Media Studies
David Parisi (Charleston) and Jason Archer (Chicago)

 The Power of Inscription: First Phase of Becoming a Techno-Cerebral Subject
Melike Sahinol (Orient-Institut Istanbul) 

The Body Medial: from Fiction to Faction
Denisa Butnaru (Freiburg)

Practices of the hand: Skills, Mediation and Disability
Andreas Henze (Siegen)

 

ABSTRACTS

Making Analog: On the Prospect and Perils of a Haptic Media Studies
David Parisi (Charleston) and Jason Archer (Chicago)

 In this paper, we argue for the urgency of establishing a coherent tradition of haptic media studies, suggesting that the fields of Visual Culture Studies and Sound Studies provide analogs, however imperfect, for modeling a new touch-oriented approach to media. With the host of recent developments in touch-based communication–including virtual reality interfaces, touchscreens, haptic messaging systems for wearables, cybersex technologies, prosthetics, assistive technologies to compensate for sensory impairments,and vibrating alerts for automobiles–the sense of touch is achieving a new centrality in mediation schemes. While the intervention we propose is prompted by this technological reorganization of the mediated sensorium, it provides an occasion to reflect on previous efforts to transform touch through the use of scientific instruments and methods.  Our call to make touch like the senses of seeing and hearing, then, echoes earlier movements in touch’s discursive and institutional history, as investigators in prior generations similarly aspired to reshape and reformat tactility through the development of new institutionally-grounded research programs. Further, we outline one possible genealogy of haptic media that attends specifically to the power relations expressed through the technoscientific harnessing of touch by haptics. Accounting for a sharp uptick in academic conferences and publications devoted to touch across a range of disciplines, we close with a programmatic set of suggestions for operationalizing Haptic Media Studies as a field dedicated to empirical and theoretical explorations of touch media in the past, present, and future.

 

The Power of Inscription: First Phase of Becoming a Techno-Cerebral Subject
Melike Sahinol (Orient-Institut Istanbul)

The treatment of stoke patients is strongly dependent on medical technology. The neurosciences refer directly to these acting patients, with the aim of (re-)enabling their ability to act through neuro-scientific and -technological procedures. In my monograph „The techno-cerebral subject“ I described how precisely human and machine are adapted to one another in neuroscientific studies.

The neuroscientific studies I analyzed, were concerned with the restoration of cerebral processes by neurofeedback (via Brain-Machine Interface), with which they had to regulate their brainwaves and thereby to control an orthotic device opening and closing their paralyzed hand. I showed that human-machine adaptation in this context can be divided into three phases. In this paper, I foucs on the first phase of the man-machine adaptation, the bodyly-material adaptation. First, neuroscientists are taking various measures mainly concerned with physical and material adaptation: the preparation and purification (skin, muscle, hand, brainwaves), the coordination and the interaction of biological / physical (body) and technical / mechanical (robotic device, etc.). It is constitutive for the production of the bio-technical figure (Lindemann) as a type of the cyborg (Haraway), which produces expressions that are useful to neuroscientists. For this phase, I specifically question the preparation and localization processes in which neuroscientists define biological elements (skin, hand, muscle, brainwaves) and, depending on their state or shape, transform them into the inscription devices (Latour) or integrate them into the machine devices. The latest refers to the integration of the stroke patient into a robotic orthosis. In this context, I demonstrate that in the next adaptation step, biological and technical co-ordination must be coordinated in order to stabilize the man-machine connection. Within this connection the inscription of the biomechanical produced movement – as a part of the imagination of movement – via the robotic orthosis into the “Leib” (Merlau-Ponty) will be problematized.

  

The Body Medial: from Fiction to Faction
Denisa Butnaru (Freiburg)

The field of body studies is at present strongly challenged by recent scientific and technological achievements. Some of them are realized in the medical field or having medical purposes. Examples coming from bionics, biotechnologies or genetics are elucidating in this respect.
In some sociological theoretical perspectives, the body was defined as being both a producer and a product of different structures, among which also social ones (Gugutzer, 2012). However the development of the above mentioned technologies challenge the status and the functions of the body in that the body seems not to represent a guarantee for our individual limits anymore, but it emerges rather as a malleable texture, becoming medial. This has major implications in changing sensorium repertoires.
The intention of this presentation is while discussing the concept of “imaginary” in a sociological context to show how corporeal models once associated with science-fiction entities challenge precisely everyday sensorium repertoires and representations which were taken for granted until now. They operate therefore a transition of “stocks-of-knowledge” (Schütz [1932] 2004). The combination between fictional models and factual practices a new form of imaginary emerges, which shall be defined as faction. The body contributes in this example to a process in which what has been thought to be extraordinary (Bröckling et al., 2015), becomes real, and thus ordinary. To show this transformation, empirical material in the form of narrative interviews realized with persons having motility disabilities and having used exoskeletons shall be considered.

 

Practices of the hand: Skills, Mediation and Disability
Andreas Henze (Siegen)

My contribution asks how people with different physical disabilities accomplish everyday routines of navigating, perceiving and communicating. In this context, I will examine the premise that touching is relevant for acting in and connecting with the social world (Merleau- Ponty 1965, Sudnow 2001). Drawing on ethnographic material from two case studies, I will reconstruct sensory regimes and methods of people with disabilities as practices of the hand. I will first describe how a community of visually impaired people uses remote controls. The members explore the materiality, affordances and instructions of the devices primarily by touch. The second study is based on experiences of people living with spastic paralysis. I will show how a joystick, a keyboard and speech generating devices work through practices of the hand. It will be argued that touching is accomplished in skilled ways, that it mediates relations between and distributes agency among material entities of the social world and therefore has an impact on the construction of social identities of disabled people (Schillmeier 2010). It will be further argued that touch serves as a medium for discovering (dys-)functionalities and (im-)possibilities of technical devices and finally how touching is related to time and sound in social practices.

 

Speakers CVs

Denisa Butnaru studied English and Japanese, sociology and philosophy (having specialized in phenomenological philosophy). She holds a doctor title from the University of Strasbourg, France earned in 2009 with a thesis in social phenomenology, in which she focused on the concept of signification. She co-edited Corps abîmés (2013) and is currently preparing a collective volume with Ursula Kluwick, Medial Bodies between Fiction and Faction: Reinventing Corporeality. She published various articles in the field of phenomenology of the body and disability, social phenomenology and qualitative methodology in social sciences. At present, she works on a habilitation project. One of the foci of this project is the narrative construction of bodily disability in life stories of persons having cerebral palsy and spinal cord injury. Another aspect which is at the core of this research is the bodily transformation by means of biotechnologies, external to the body.

Jason Archer is a Phd candidate and IGERT fellow in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His work grapples with an increasingly touch-oriented media environment by exploring the relationships and consequences of haptic technology, tactile engagement, human augmentics, and privacy and security within multiple societal contexts. He has presented his work on the haptic dimensions of media at NCA, AoIR, and 4S conferences. He is also coeditor, along with David Parisi and Mark Paterson, of a special issue of New Media & Society (2017) organized around the theme of Haptic Media Studies.

Andreas Henze, M.A., since 2015 research assistant at the DFG Graduate School “Locating Media” at the University of Siegen. In his PhD research, he analyzes media practices of people with physical disabilities. He is holding a MA in sociology and BA in cultural studies.

David Parisi is an Associate Professor of Emerging Media at the College of Charleston. He holds a Ph.D. in Media, Culture, and Communication from New York University. He has published extensively on the relationship between touch and media technology, attempting to give the sense of touch a new centrality in Media Studies. His book Archaeologies of Touch: Interfacing with Haptics from electricity to computing (February 2018) will be published by the University of Minnesota Press, and his coediting issue of New Media & Society organized around the theme Haptic Media Studies (forthcoming). 

Melike Şahinol (Dr. rer. soc.) is a Research Fellow at the Orient-Institut Istanbul of the Max Weber Foundation and head of the research area »Human, Medicine and Society«. She is guest researcher at the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT, Germany). Melike Şahinol received several grants and fellowships, including one at the program on »Science, Technology and Society« (STS) at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Her research interests lie in the field of STS, Sociology of Technology and Medical Sociology. In addition she deals with bio-/technology policies in Turkey, particularly in the field of Human Enhancement and Reproductive Medicine. At the Orient-Institute Istanbul she is actually working on two projects: „Neuroehancment: Practices and Techniques (NEPTurkey)“ and „Blurred Boundaries of Assistive Reproduction Technologies (B.B.ART)”.

Robert Stock is the coordinator of the DFG-research group “Media and Participation” at the Uni-versity of Konstanz, Germany. His main research interests are the mediality of dis-abling processes in digital culture, media practices of hearing and seeing, representations of disability, museums and the question of accessibility as well as documentary film and audiovisuality. He is co-editor of ReClaiming Participation. Technology – Mediation – Collectivity (Bielefeld: transcript 2016). Recent publications include “Singing altogether now. Unsettling images of disability and experimental filmic practices”, in Documentary and Disability, Routledge Forthcoming).

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