Critical Disability Studies Working Group Seminar: How App-Practices enact Hearing and Non-Visual Navigation

In this lecture, Robert Stock (Konstanz, SP 2) will explore the relationships between digital mobile devices, apps, non-visual navigation and blindness. Organized by the Critical Disability Studies Working Group and in collaboration with Dr. Arseli Dokumaci.


When and where:

Concordia University, Monreal, Thursday, October 10, 2019, 5 PM

EV Building (Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Science and Visual Arts Integrated Complex)

Room Number: 11.655

Accessible Entrance to EV Building: Corner of St. Catherine Ouest and Guy.

ASL interpretation provided



Daily practices are increasingly enacted through the entanglement of people, digital technologies and complex infrastructures. Smartphones, other mobile devices and apps are becoming ubiquitous (Wade/Murray 2018). These devices complement and challenge established forms of mobilities, communication and sensory practices. At the same time, such techno-sensory arrangements raise the question how digital technologies can be accessed and in which ways they may facilitate or inhibit cultural and societal participation (Ellcessor 2016).

Against this background, the presentation starts with an overview of current mobility apps for visually impaired and blind people to map the field of contemporary forms of non-visual navigation. This is followed by some theoretical remarks to contextualize my research within the emerging field of Disability Media Studies (Ellcessor/Kirkpatrick 2017) and its possible connections to Sound Studies (Bull 2018; Friedner/Helmreich 2012). I extend these discussions by drawing on Schillmeier (2010: 138) and Mol (2002: 33) to propose that sensory practices and dis-/abilities are enacted by heterogeneous (non-)human agencies. The main part of the talk analyzes how non-visual practices of navigation are re-configured by focusing on the apps Camassia and Blindsquare. By drawing on different materials and preliminary results from interviews with blind persons in Germany, I show that smartphones, headphones and apps using sonification (Supper 2012) or others relying on information conveyed by synthetic speech generate varying conditions of possibility that frame situations of hearing in acoustic urban spaces.


Accessibility information

The EV building is wheelchair-accessible. There are accessible washrooms on the 11th floor where the seminar will take place.

This seminar is free and open to public. The seminar will be in English and ASL interpretation will be provided.

Scent Sensitivities: To minimize scent as much as possible, we kindly ask all attendees to use and wear unscented products.

If you have any access needs, please email:

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