Subproject 2

Principal Investigator: Prof. Dr. Beate Ochsner (University of Konstanz)

Postdoc: Markus Spöhrer
Associated: Robert Stock
Student assistant: Julia Kohushölter


In the subsequent phase of the project, we will extend our previous focus on processes of participation in Cochlear implant hearing (or non-hearing) assemblages. Thus, we will analyse techno-sensory modalities and conditions of partaking in and through contemporary app-solutions for visually impaired and deaf or hard-of-hearing persons. Yet, we will not mainly discuss the oftentimes criticized discourses on ‘enablement‘ and ‘empowerment‘ of assistive technologies, which conceptualize assistive apps or complex attendance systems as ‘neutral’ agents of normalization. In this way not only a presupposed difference between ‘abled’ and ‘disabled’ is reproduced. These discourses also obstruct the view on those techno-situational app practices, which do not invoke the differentiation between enablement or disablement in order to overcome these differences in a process of normalization. We instead intend to bring them to attention in a productive and critical manner: Based on Bachelard’s concept of phenomenotechnique we will thus identify the participatory processes within specific app assemblages and practices. In doing so, we will analyse their relations to each other, in order to deconstruct established power relations and simplistic dichotomizations. By referring to Haraway’s partial perspective on heterogeneous companion-ships, we on the one hand intend to uncover and describe the complex relationships that produce both participation and non-participation in relation to specific techno-sensory or socio-technical constellations respectively. On the other hand, we want to analyse the power relations, which produce asymmetries between agencies and ultimately between different actors. In the first phase of our sub-project, we were able to overcome the a priori differentiation of enabling and disabling everyday sensory practices with and by apps. In addition to this, we went beyond concepts based on the premise of subjects that are presupposed as acting autonomously and intentionally in contrast to objects, applications and environments. Rather, we depart from the assumption that senses, (technical) objects, human actors, practices and discourses/knowledge are inextricably interlaced and linked to each other. Because of them being reciprocally conditioned, they cannot be described as distinguishable. Consequently, all describable elements in such networks, can basically be understood as both mediatising and mediatised. In our first area of work, we will develop the basis for a theory of techno-sensory participation. In the second area we will focus on medial, ethical and social potentials as well as conditions of participation in relation to the practices of contemporary assistive app technologies. The third area will analyse and describe constellations of participation of audio (video) games and the corresponding phenomenological processes that occur in the course of auditory translations of predominantly visual/graphical gameplays.


Sub-project 2 analyses the practices of the cochlear implant (CI), which is a medial link between human and non-human actors and thus either promises or prevents socio-cultural participation and the right to have a say.The sub-project thereby focuses on the mediation processes that enable or prevent the assembly of different actors in the context of the CI, as well as the related programs of action that are to be located between euphoria and refusal, claims and demands, promises of participation and practices of (self-)normalization. Hence, the CI is not to be understood as an artefact or a medical instrument, the study is much rather based on the conviction that the actors are produced in co-evolutionary processes and are adjusted in reciprocal adaptation processes in the context of which usages, programs of action and different formations of knowledge are com-municated. In doing so, the CI functions as „putty“ (Schroer 2008: 386), which separates and relates the upcoming biosocial communities equally and which, as a quasi-object, remains transformable and reusable in itself.

The studies in the sub-project are divided into three fields of research in order to analyse the medial conditions of community building and dissolution processes as well as those of ex- and inclusion. While research area 1 focuses on the medial conditions of collective or individual participation/non-participation in CI-communities, area 2, based on documentary film material, explores the audiovisual operations that, in equal measure, produce cultural knowledge on hearing, non-hearing and CI-hearing as they are fabricated by those practices. Finally, research field 3 concentrates on the analysis of ethical, socio-political, technical and philosophical discourses about the CI ranging from therapy to enhancement. Here too, the mediation processes of knowledge production on CI-subjectivisation and on CI-community building – as well as their mobilisation, functionalisation and exploitation – occupy a central position that regulates and determines the conditions of ex- and inclusion.

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