Dis/Abling Video Conferences

A Video- and Auto-Ethnographic Exploration of Remote Collaboration Situations

Beate Ochsner (Konstanz, TP 2), Tom Bieling (Hamburg), Siegfried Saerberg (Hamburg) and Robert Stock (Konstanz, TP 2) will be presenting their paper during the Virtual Annual Conference 2020 “Pandemic Cooperation: Media and Society in Times of Corona” (University of Siegen | 27-28 October 2020).

More information: https://www.mediacoop.uni-siegen.de/de/annualconference-2020/


This presentation explores the co-creation of video conferences in times of SARS-CoV-2 to better understand digital communication practices, to think through the question of accessibility and to problematize how media participation of people with varying dis/abilities is produced in situations at work. It will present preliminary thoughts about a project at the Centre for Disability Studies ZeDisplus in Hamburg analyzing the diverse sensory practices within groups of persons with varying disabilities and abilities using digital communications like Zoom Technologies or similar applications. By doing so, we aim to map the challenges of socio-technical assemblages of people, diverse sensory practices and media devices that become even more evident during the pandemic. Tracing the communicative processes and sensory enactments during video conferences with media and auto-ethnographic methods provides us with the possibility of approaching the various dimensions of translation that are at stake in these situations: eye-camera-contacts, spoken words that are being transcribed and appear on screens, shared documents or chat messages read by screen readers, lip reading complicated by low video quality, etc. By assembling people, their social relations, senses and (assistive) devices with varying abilities and disabilities around a data stream, these remote collaboration situations transgress a notion of accessibility limited to a technical dimension. Rather, access is to be understood as a situated assemblage and collaborative process composed of workarounds and improvisations that lay bare the heterogeneous relations of sensory practices, experiences and digital media.


Beate Ochsner is Professor of Media Studies at the University of Konstanz and speaker of the research unit “Media and Participation” where she also heads the project „Techno-sensory processes of participation. App-practices and dis/ability“. Her research interest are audiovisual productions of disability, practices of Non-hearing and Non-seeing, participatory practices and cultures of Teilhabe. Among her recent publications are „Oikos und Oikonomia oder: Selbstsorge-Apps als Technologien der Haushaltung“, in: Internationales Jahrbuch für Medienphilosophie 4 (2018), „Talking about Associations and Descriptions or a Short Story about Associology“, in: Idem./M. Spöhrer (ed.), Applying the Actor-Network Theory in Media Studies, IGI Global 2017 and “Documenting Neuropolitics: Cochlear Implant Activation Videos”, in: H. Hughes/C. Brylla (ed.), Documentary and Disability, Palgrave & MacMillan 2017.

Tom Bieling, postdoc at Zentrum für Designforschung (HAW Hamburg), has been visiting professor at the University of Trento and the German University in Cairo. As a research fellow at the Design Research Lab he was head of the Social Design research cluster at Berlin University of the Arts (2010 – 2019) and TU Berlin (2007 – 2010). In his research he mainly focuses on the social and political dimensions of design, particularly on aspects of inclusion and exclusion. Visiting professorships and teaching assignments for design theory and research worldwide since 2007, as well as numerous publications. Recent books: Inklusion als Entwurf (Birkhäuser/DeGruyter 2019), Design (&) Activism (Mimesis 2019) und Gender (&) Design (Mimesis 2020). http://www.tombieling.com

Siegfried Saerberg is Professor for Disability Studies and Teilhabeforschung at ZeDisplus. Zentrum für Disability Studies und Teilhabeforschung, Evangelischen Hochschule für Soziale Arbeit & Diakonie. Stiftung Das Rauhe Haus in Hamburg, Germany. Siegfried specializes in Sensory Ethnography, Auto-Ethnographic Approaches, Phenomenology and Disability Studies. He is author of Saerberg, Siegfried. “The Sensorification of the Invisible Science, Blindness and the Life-World.” Science, Technology & Innovation Studies, vol. 7, no. 1, 2011, 9-28 and „Geradeaus Ist Einfach Immer Geradeaus.“ Eine Lebensweltliche Ethnographie Blinder Raumorientierung (UVK 2006).

Robert Stock coordinates the Research Unit ‘Participation and Media. Between Demand and Entitlement’ at the University of Konstanz. He has a Ph.D. in Cultural Studies (2017) from the University of Gießen and holds a Master Degree in European Ethnography from the Humboldt-University of Berlin (2009). His main research interests are digital media and dis/ability, cultural animal studies, and postcolonial memory politics. Together with Christian Meier zu Verl, he directs the scientific network Dis-/Abilities and Digital Media (2020-2022). He is co-editor of Affizierungs- und Teilhabeprozesse zwischen Organismen und Maschinen. (Springer 2020, with B. Ochsner and S. Nikolow) and recently published Singing Altogether Now: Unsettling Images of Disability and Experimental Filmic Practices. In: Documentary and Disability (2017). For more information visit https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2256-0928.

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