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Digitising Disability: on the work of Ju Gosling, Simon McKeown and Merce Cunningham
From networked computers, the world wide web, Internet platforms such as blogging, YouTube, Second Life, and social software, through mobile phones, digital television and entertainment, digital technologies are at the centre of the dynamics of contemporary culture. Disability is a pivotal part of this digital life, playing an important role in the user-powered creative innovation coming out of digital cultures, resulting in innovations that can be used by all. Jo Verrent considers the work of artists such as Ju Gosling, Simon McKeown and Merce Cunningham as well as finding out where on Grand Theft Auto you can steal a wheelchair…
We live in a digital culture – a world where the web, computers,mobiles, games and gismos are an essential part of the daily lives of most of us. Disabled people have been at the heart of this world from the start, resulting in the W3C international web accessibility initiative, and myriad technical adaptations allowing flexibility, freedom, openness and access - often beyond our wildest imaginings.
Yet the digital world is complex, and the positioning of disability within it, still more so:
There is high visiblity as clients and consumers – with the web providing access to people in ways that would have been unthought of ten years ago. The recent death of Steve Jobs prompted blogger Tim Carmody (father of a disabled son who gained significant developmental benefit through using Apple products) to comment:
“’Accessible’ means ‘something everyone can use.’ In pop culture and consumer technology, “accessible” sometimes means things that are easy for lots of people to understand or enjoy. In the disability community, “accessible” means something is open to people of all abilities, usually because it was designed with them in mind. And in both spheres, “accessible” can mean something almost anyone can both find and afford. Like anything else, Apple’s iThings can sometimes seem too complex, too presumptuous, too expensive. But really, even with their limitations, they’re amazingly accessible in every sense of the word.”
(Quote from ‘This Stuff Doesn’t Change the World’: Disability and Steve Jobs’ Legacy' by Tim Carmody in Wired.com)