In this talk, Jonathan Sterne provides a brief overview of some of the themes of his new book, Diminished Faculties: A Political Phenomenology of Impairment (Duke, December 2021) and a deeper dive into the approach to the voice he develops therein. Impairments are usually understood as the physical or biological substrates of culturally produced disabilities, but in the book, Sterne considers them as a political and theoretical problem in their own right. Impaired voices present a particularly interesting problem. Most discussions of the voice frame it as a human faculty that is connected to self and agency, as when we say that a political group “has a voice,” or when the tone of voice is taken as expressing a speaker’s inner meaning or selfhood. But how to understand voices that are produced prosthetically? In this talk Sterne will consider his own experiments with vocal prostheses alongside projects and practices that locate voice outside the human body, and that question its connection to agency. He concludes with some reflections on the capture of voices by corporations like Otter.ai in their contract with Zoom. Bonus for those who like their talks to be “meta”: this will be a talk on Zoom that will theorize the condition of talking on Zoom.
Jonathan Sterne (sterneworks.org) teaches in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University. He is author of Diminished Faculties: A Political Phenomenology of Impairment (Duke, 2021); MP3: The Meaning of a Format (Duke 2012), The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction (Duke, 2003); and numerous articles on media, technologies and the politics of culture. He is also editor of The Sound Studies Reader (Routledge, 2012) and co-editor of The Participatory Condition in the Digital Age (Minnesota, 2016). With co-author Mara Mills, he is working on Tuning Time: Histories of Sound and Speed, and he has a new project cooking on artificial intelligence and culture.
The following is a transcript of the video’s content, generated by Otter.ai fittingly enough, with human corrections during and after. For any errors the human missed, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vivek Bald 00:47
Well, why don’t we get started.
Vivek Bald 00:48
It’s wonderful to see all the attendees tonight and I’m just going to get started. Tonight, we are very pleased to have Jonathan Sterne who many of you know teaches in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies and McGill University. He is the author of Diminished Faculties: A Political Phenomenology of Impairment, from which he’ll be drawing tonight. mp3 the meaning of a format, the audible past cultural origins of sound reproduction, and numerous articles on media technologies and the politics of culture. He’s also editor of the sound studies reader and co editor of the participatory condition in the digital age. With co author Mara Mills, he is working on tuning time histories of sound and speed, hopefully, we’ll be able to talk a bit about that in the q&a. And he has a new project cooking on artificial intelligence and culture. So without further delay, I’m going to hand things over to Jonathan, welcome.
Jonathan Sterne 02:04
Okay, can everybody hear me okay? Just making sure. Okay, thank you., Vivek. I want to thank Andrew too, for setting me up and remembering to ask about my access needs, that was a nice touch. You’re gonna get a talk in three parts today, originally, I was gonna make you one long movie, and then I was gonna chat with people in the chat window the whole time. And it was gonna be great. But it totally didn’t work. So there’s a movie for 11 and a half minutes at the end. The middle part is me doing talking torso for you. And the first part is, alas, torture by PowerPoint, or Apple keynote in this case. So here we are, should be able to see this. So I’m going to give you an overview of the book, we’re going to do a deep dive into one of the chapters and then we’re going to do a sort of drive through the third chapter to mix my metaphors want to begin with a land acknowledgement and in this case, also a technological in their acknowledgement sorry for my tweaking here, I’m just trying to get the pictures out of the way of the text. So while zoom is the technical custodium — custodian, the platform on which we’re gathered today, we’re no less occupants of the multiple territories on which we’re all physically located. I’m speaking to you from the unceded territory of Tiohtià:ke, now known as Montreal. The Kanien’kehá:ka, sorry, Kanien’kehá:ka nations are the traditional custodians of these lands and waters. Although learning the history of where you are is an ongoing process. A good starting place might be the website, nativeland.ca. But wait, there’s more. The platform we’re gathered on today is provided by zoom, a publicly traded company valued at about $117 billion. As of the end of 2020 zooms headquarters are located on Muwekma Ohlone territory. And when it comes to sustainability, communal living and giving gifts to passers by the aloni having more to offer than another Corporation. The alone is horizontal society might inspire different emergent models of peer to peer networking in the pandemic, than we’re enacting here on zoom. So as we meet today, let’s reflect on the unfinished work of restitution, justice, and reparation.
So, I’m gonna tell you a little bit about the book that I just finished copy out, it’s on and that’s coming out December 2021. The title is diminished faculties of political phenomenology of impairment, a subtitle that is sure to keep it out of airport bookstores, and I also like Before I get too far, I can actually see that many peoples that many people will as I’m talking, but you should feel free to stretch to look up, Look down, look around, turn off your video, whatever is comfortable for you, as we’re going through this talk. So the book is a weird book for me. I mean, I guess all my books are weird in some way. But this one is also highly personal. In 2009, I discovered that or rather, my doctors discovered that I had a very aggressive case of papillary thyroid cancer that ate my right recurrent laryngeal nerve. That means that one of my vocal cords is parallel lines to this one. So instead of going like this, which is what they did before 2009, and what normal vocal cords do, now, they work like this. So it is harder for me to talk and to swallow and you get plastic surgery every 18 months or so, on the paralyzed one to plump it up, you’ll see a short video clip of from one of those surgeries later on. But of course, this is profoundly affected my voice. Now that may or may not be audible to you. Because my vocal disability is not always an audible disability. In fact, sometimes when my voice is in the worst condition, it sounds the best in a sort of like Tom Waits meets Lauren Bacall after several packs of cigarettes kind of thing.
So, you know, lots of friends said, hey, you’ve published two books on sound, you should really write something about your voice. This is harder than it seems. But this led me down a path. I’ve been reading and thinking with disability studies for many years. And it’s sort of led me down the path of working on and thinking about this book. So the chapters are as follows. The first one is really an attempt to think about what it would mean to write about my voice, which is to say, I it’s me trying to resettle my accounts with phenomenology. And the audible past I was quite dismissive of phenomenological approaches to experience. But at the time, I was also pretty unaware of all the feminist critical race and disability work in phenomenology and since the beginning of the 21st century, there’s much, much more. And so that chapter is an attempt to think like what is it to do a phenomenology of a faculty when you’re not in full control of it? Because most phenomenology is begin from the presupposition that the subject during the phenomenology rising? That’s not a word, but the subject doing the phenomenology rising is in control of the faculties and the experiences that they’re describing. And so it is, in some ways, the most ponderous chapter, because it’s written in that sort of ponderous, phenomenological voice. But it’s also got lots of good details of awkward social interactions. And it also begins with me waking up on a surgical table. So there’s that. Chapter Two is meet the Dork-o-Phone. This is the Dork-o-Phone. Oh, yeah, I forgot I pictures. This is an illustration for chapter one done by Lochlann Jain, my tumor was 7.5 centimeters. One day, we were sitting on the porch trying to figure out what what else is 7.5 centimeters. And so Lochlann, very kindly helped helped me and us out with it. And so that’s in the book. So chapter two is about the Dork-o-Phone. That’s going to be what I talked about today. So I won’t say much about it. Right now, except it’s a personal voice amplifier. I haven’t had to. Oh, and also, it’s dark with a D, not borak with a B, because voice has this thing where certain consonants aren’t distinguishable from one another. So it’s not bork when you think of bork, think of Chihuahuas when you think of dork think of my personal portable speech amplifier. And this picture, which is on my desk a few minutes ago, is what I’m calling the Auto-Dork-o-Phone, which I’ll talk about midway through the talk, but you can see there’s a microphone there on like a radio arm. There’s a pair of headphones just above my keyboard. And then there’s a blue object on my desk, and I’m going to talk about those a little bit. later on. Chapter Three is written. So chapter one and chapter two, I really do talk about myself and then I just can’t deal with it anymore. So I more or less stop talking about myself. Chapter Three, is written as an imaginary exhibition. We’ve even mapped it out for you. So you can see here, where the different exhibits and rooms are on the chapter is actually written as the text of an audio guide. So even the detours three theory, it says like press star for more information on the ideology of vocal ability, or for more history of the larynx or something like that. So, it’s also like very much a conceit. But that chapter is about trying to think about different configurations of voice, body and agency. And I will show you some things from it, give you a little sample, from the last part of my talk, chapter four is about a normal impairment, which is hearing impairment. We and by by we, I really mean me and the people at MIT, I don’t know everybody who’s attending the talk. But at least the people on my screen, live in a culture that’s mostly designed for people who are a little bit hard of hearing. This is from a work called constellations by the Australian artist Marco Fusinato, and it is designed to produce, I think, 120 decibels of sound when you hit a wall with a baseball bat. And
it’s not just things like constellations that produce this slight, huge amount of sound, obviously, concerts, sporting events, things like that, we think about that, but also on airplanes, and those high powered hand dryers in tiled institutional bathrooms, all of those produce very high volumes of sound, which means in those spaces, it’s better to be a little hard of hearing, then to not be a little hard of hearing. And so in this chapter, I really start looking at what a normal impairment is, and what a sort of culturally preferred impairment is. And so instead of talking in terms of hearing loss, or hearing damage, I use sort of the anthropological literature on body modification and scarification as my guide and so the chapter is called Audile Scarification. And it’s everything from loud noises to the historical origins of your plugs. The final chapter is called there isn’t there are never enough spoons. It is named for an idea from the writer Christine Miseran-, Miserandino, who coined the Spoon Theory, which is a way of sort of quantifying one’s own fatigue. So, the chapter begins as a sort of, unpacking of this idea of fatigue as depletion. Most concepts of fatigue are concepts of a subject depleted of energy, and it ends with an attempt at a non completionist account of fatigue and this is interesting and important, because in disability theory, there are so many critiques of writing about impairment and disability is something that is less than that which is that which is non impaired or non disabled. But when we get to fatigue, even in the disability literature, it is treated mostly as an absence or a depletion. The final chapter, or the conclusion then is an instruction manual for using impairment theory. It’s illustrated by the artist Darcy Hewitt. This is one of her illustrations. And I guess that’s all I’ll say about it. No one ever reads the instruction manual, but you might want to read this one. Okay, that is my PowerPoint. I’m going to stop sharing now. Now you will see my rather large head. Now we’re going to do a deep dive into chapter two, which is entitled meet the dork of phone.
So this is a Dork-o-Phone. It’s basically a transistor radio with no radio attached to a small wearable microphone that lives inside a vinyl pouch. And you can’t really see it here but is fake cow skin embossing. It can be hung around my neck. Its real name is the spokeman personal voice amplifier. other devices can be clipped to a belt or built in the belts themselves or can be laid out on a table. I own two spokesman’s. Where do you call them spokesman now it’s two Dork-o-Phones, each of which costs me about $300 total. Now it seems prices have dropped since I purchased the last one in 2012. I’ve had both my units repaired more than once, and they’re clearly not designed for the abuse I inflict on them. I throw them around accidentally but I do it. They live in backpacks. They traveled all over the world with me. They’ve been operated at high altitude. And yet they’re also surprisingly hardy. And in some ways, even though part of me says this is just a transistor without a radio without a radio that I could pick up for five bucks at the thrift store, when I look inside is actually a marvel of engineering, of miniaturization, and of durability. Now the name spokeman is either a misuse of spokesman like a mistranslation, or more likely an unsuccessful riff on Walkman, which it must be noted was not named. Listen man, or listen man, probably for good reason. The spokeman is one example in a genre voice amplifiers, a genre without a shared name or a defining brand like Kleenex or Xerox, but whose names all pointed this weird gray area of voice and techne that it occupies. Speech amplifier, voice amplifier, personal public address system, personal voice amplifier, chatterbox, amplivox sound pocket, zavox, Zoweetek, voice buddy, sound buddy, zygo. But unlike the Walkman, they don’t signify mastery or coolness. They represent the social oddity of personal voice amplification itself. Now in one way, it shouldn’t be odd at all. voices are amplified all the time. And just think of us now. I’m doing our academic business meeting. As we are gathering as we are over zoom, everyone is using microphones and speakers. In fact, my dog phone right now is turned off, I’ll turn it on for a second. You can hear it amplifies my voice a bit, which reduces my vocal strain. I never use my darker phone. On Zoom. I’ll have things to say about Zoom a little bit later. So this is purely for the benefit of this talk. In real life. I haven’t had an occasion to use this since before March 2020. But still, I wrote about the Dork-o-Phone. So let me tell you about it. public address systems microphones speakers are common objects all over the world. And in many places, it’s a daily experience to be serenaded by a host of voices meant to refer to distant or absent bodies. Contemporary audio culture in most of the world now in speaker culture, and here speaker refers to the technical devices, not the people. Now even though my Dork-o-Phone is technically the same thing as a PA system, just smaller, it’s socially set apart. It’s oddities socially produced. It is a design object, you might expect to fall under the category of audio wearables, mp3 players, earbuds, smartphones, and now even boom boxes thanks to lighter battery, batteries, and other advances, but categorically falls on the side of a prosthesis, artificial limbs, insulin pumps, crutches, if they had to, if you have to experience the darker phone is a prosthetic. I wish they were more like eyeglasses once a stigmatizing object, and now a fashion accessory. Instead, darker phone share a set of cultural and technical problems with hearing aids and cochlear implants. Hearing aids introduced issues of portability and miniaturization in micro electronics. While generations of users have had to negotiate their relationship among social appearance stigma, and their own needs and desires for the technology. Mr. Mill’s has written about this in Jaipur varities new book. Hearing happiness also deals with the history of hearing aids and deafness cures.
So the Dork-o-Phone is a prosthesis. It is an assistive technology. And one of the standard arguments in disability studies most recently and eloquently made by Sarah Hendren is that assistive in front of the technology is actually redundant term, because all technologies are designed to assist. So what an assistive technology does it marks the person who is visibly using it as a need of assistance. In other words, the technology itself is in some ways, disabling socially, even as it is assistive professionally. When a space makes demands, and people have to make demands back, it marks them as different irrespective of their self concept. So I can imagine myself as impaired as disabled or not. I’m disabled, and the prosthesis does its semiotic work on my body. In terms of the perceptions of others, Hegel and his followers explained that identifications not just an individual choice, the politics and phenomenology of disability have an irreducible relationship to the politics of recognition, and therefore, also to the politics of a prosthesis. The simple choice of where to position the speaker on my body raises the questions of under what conditions avert person has a voice to speak with, and from where truly comes. The Dork-o-Phone speaker cannot be positioned over the mouth. And yet the mouth is supposed to be the visual and sonic point of origin with the voice. Even though even though technically mouths are just modulators in wearing a Dork-o-Phone, suddenly, my voice is somewhere it’s not supposed to be. And my mouth is not doing something it’s supposed to do. It does create a distance between me and my voice, even though there’s already one and the mic in my on my head in the box hanging from my neck, call attention to this distance, destabilizing ideologies and naturalize voice and speech. It performs a distance for others who see and hear me who are dealt then with a rich hand of philosophical questions about voice, intention, and embodiment, which they can either confront or work to ignore. So this simple prohibition to not hide your mouth with a prosthesis when speaking, initially, it’s one of the most demanding conceptual exercises in voice fearing. That is because of this close and visual coupling between mouth and voice, which I’m going to call oral voice. The oral voice is everywhere in writing, about voices and in vocal iconography. And more clearly, sorry, looking at the wrong place. It begins from a normative voice and a normative mouth. I can’t imagine contemporary work that engages with coloniality, sexuality, gender, race, or any other area, from the standpoint of a position was writer performing a kind of God trick in Donna Haraway’s term. And yet, much writing about the voice outside of voice studies, still treats the voice from a position of seeing from nowhere and hearing from everywhere.
The Dork-o-Phone dorkiness is not an accident, prosthetic fashion and by extension, the user’s emotional relationship with the device has often been the last concern for designers. And there’s this booming literature now on disability and design. In addition to the Hendren book that I mentioned, and the dirty book I read, I’m, I’m mentioned, Amy Hammering, Bess Williamson, […]. have also written excellent things on disability and the politics of design. The Dork-o-Phone follows that sort of prosthetic politics. As Vivian Sobchack has written, the fluctuating line between the and my prosthesis makes for all sorts of given take around meaning in her case, and she’s talking about a an artificial leg. She says there’s significant figural movement, from autonomy to select a key from doll prosthetic viewed abstractly to my prosthetic, leaning up against the wall near my bed in the morning to my leg, which works with the other one and enables me to walk in my case, the Dork-o-Phone assimilates into my voice in action. So let’s follow Sobchack’s arrow figuration, the voice is an impossible abstraction, my Dork-o-Phone charging on my desk, my voice, what makes the Dork-o-Phone noticeable and sometimes uncanny is its proximity to the physical generation of sound. You might diaphragm, throat, and mouth. This is its defining techno cultural feature. It audibly invisibly marks my vocal system as a need of supplementation when it’s supposed to be self sufficient. And that’s my doorbell, which I’m not answering in the middle of a talk. And it’s worth pointing out that this idea of prosthesis is still getting a lot of playing media theory right. So that media are prosthetic inherently in some way. But that is the metaphor is prosthesis and in McLuhan’s original discussion of it, it’s quite he metaphor arises directly he says media like our product. Static or they amputate the body but he’s not actually talking about actual amputation or amputees. So disability becomes an sort of ablest metaphor, the imagination, the ablest imagination of what amputation might be, like, undergirds that theory. And I think the same might be said for prosthetic theories of writing in Derrida where prosthetic theories of technology and the hand in Stiegler but that’s a that’s a discussion for the q&a if that’s something you’re interested in. So I think it’s good to sort of cordon off this category of the prosthetic is a particular kind of technology tied to a particular kind of political situation, rather than as a sort of generalized metaphor for understanding media. So the Dork-o-Phone does this sort of techno vocal doubling, if we’re going to riff if we’re going to mention Derrida, we could call it Dork-o-phonè. […] voice prostheses present themselves differently, his subjects we attend to adjust to them differently, and legs and voices represent different things. But of course, the metaphoric politics in the metaphoric process is related. So I’ll give you one example. And arrival of one of our house parties in 2011. look me up and down right after I open the door to greet him smiles points, and asks, What the fuck is that? I offered the shortest explanation I could muster classes for my vocal cords. cane for my voice works well, too. And within minutes, we were talking like nothing was out of the ordinary, right. So there’s that sort of shock. And then assimilation, which is something that Rosemary Garland Thomson has talked about, with disability and the gaze. So once the social question that Dork-o-Phone presents is answered, what the fuck is that, it retreats back into my voice, it becomes part of me in the course of social interaction. Now, I have more to say about Dork-o-Phone and prosthesis. But I want to, I want to talk to you a little bit from a section called of other Dork-o-Phones, which is named, of course, for Foucault’s Of Other Spaces. And I’ve I’ve worked on some sort of experimental alternatives. But now I want to talk about the setup. That came zoom, because it actually pertains to you even if you don’t have a vocal impairment.
My confinement during COVID has led to a voice amplification problem that’s slightly different. And it’s related to hearing oneself speak. When commentators reflect on zoom fatigue, they tend to reflect on the problems of looking at other people or even looking at yourself all day. But there’s also a problem of hearing on a landline telephone, the phone receiver plays back a little bit of your speech into your ear. This feedback mechanism is important for people like me, who are trying to avoid vocal strain. Put simply, people tend to talk louder when they don’t hear their own voices. And it’s while it’s possible to unlearn this behavior, it’s difficult and I actually haven’t successfully done it. And this is why when mobile phones were first to thing, there were all these sort of commentary pieces, and cartoons about people yelling into their phones. Mobile phones don’t have this feature because it was either entered out engineered out as a non necessity, or presented some kind of obstacle. And voice over air net over and over Internet Protocol VoIP also doesn’t have this, which means Skype, zoom, WhatsApp, messenger, teams, and all the rest, do not feed back your voice into your ears. So while I have no practical use for my Dork-o-Phone, right now speaking to you, the only way to get through many hours of video chats for work would be to construct an assembly of technologies and techniques for hearing myself speak. I call this assemblage the Auto-Dork-o-Phone. So God is the microphone, the microphone arm and the headphones and then the blue device on my desk that I mentioned before. Basically what happens is it plays back my voice into my headphones as it goes into the computer. So I can hear myself speak. And so I can modulate my voice. actually achieving this with someone difficult. There’s some tech support jokes in the article. But I’m gonna err in the chapter but I’m gonna leave, leave the story there. So to wrap up, the only adequate fear and I should say to wrap up this section before we move on to the movie, which is last part of the talk. The only adequate theories of vocality begin from a founding disunity of people and voices And a founding understanding of voice, the cast it in the plural. There’s a growing body of scholarship that begins from this premise. You know, I time Amanda Weidman, Meryl Alper, Kathy mizel, to name some places you could start your reading if you’re curious about this, for me, and for anyone with an impaired voice, this is a personal political and philosophical project all at once. People are at all at Best Vocal operators. Those operations happen in a world suffused by the ideology of ability, which says that ability is preferable to disability. They’re also suffused with the ideology of vocal ability, where I operate a voice as if it were the carrier of my intent, as if it were my soul and will spilling forward out of my mouth with my breath. What I seek for many Dork-o-Phone is a client that’s perfect. What I seek from any target phone is a kind of instrumental relationship, a merger of subject and object or the articulation of body vocalization and device becomes just my voice in a moment of action. As in any tool use this instrument, instrumentality requires practice and work like a musician who bonds with some instruments, but not others. My problem with other Dork-o-Phones is that I don’t know if I can get to this state of the instrumentality. Okay, that is the talking torso part of the talk now. And I’m gonna made a video for you. And so this will be the last 11 minutes of the talk. And it’s a little like, introduction to some of the things you’ll find in the imaginary exhibition of other localities. Here we go. So I’m wanting to just share a few examples from the imaginary exhibition
of new vocabularies that I felt would benefit from durational media for durational presentation. This first one is Nina Katchadourian’s Talking Popcorn.
As you can see, it handily explains itself. Check it out microphone. There it is, again. My favorite thing about this piece, besides the just incredible amount of labor, and the elaborate sort of Rube Goldberg machine to set this up is the degree to which you chose that voice is a matter of reception and interpretation. So one of the things Katchadourian’s did is actually take those last words and play them for and show them to my cartographer, a deaf Douala, psycho analyst, sound theorist, and a bunch of other experts to get their interpretations of it. So not only is it this wonderful, sort of dissolution of voice into signals and perception, it’s also a sort of meditation on the centrality of interpreting when talking about what a voice is, and how a voice works. The other thing I really like about the piece is that microphone, that mic is a Shure SM57, which in the performance world is like, the most ubiquitous vocal microphone on Earth, it is also the one one of the ones most well designed to take endless abuse. And so an SM57 is a perfect thing that you want to explore as to the heat and grease of a popcorn popper. Because it’s a vocal mic, not for rarefied studio situations. But for everyday performance, and perhaps the kinds of catastrophes that happen to technologies often in bars.
Jonathan Sterne 35:46
The second piece is listening in a portrait of Charles Graser, by the artist, Darrin Martin. And as you can see from the image here, to actually multimodal work that’s meant to be projected in three different places at once, and then you’re in a room and the sound sort of comes around you. So it’s even a bit of a reduction for me to present it to you in this two dimensional film format. But here you have voice and listening sort of distributed in very interesting ways. Right? You have the text, you have all this sound modulation, you have human speech, you have interpretation tied to speech, and you have signing as well.
Charles Graser 38:56
Well, when I was teaching high school, I already had three young kids in the house with my wife and me and I needed money and I enjoyed driving so I drove tech trucks.
Charles Graser 39:13
And I was driving for richville buying land, what Sunday took the truck out and I had to be back because there was a school function in the evening.
This next piece by Hodan Youssouf is an experiment in Deaf music videos. It actually has no soundtrack. And this was done with a group of people sort of organized by Véro Leduc at the University of Quebec au Montreal. Youssouf is a deaf artist and performer and you can see he’s very musical despite there’s no sound. Here signing takes the place of vocality it takes a place of I’m an audible voice on an audible soundtrack. I’m produces both sort of the expressive form as well as the sort of narrative form of the video.
The last piece I’ll share with you today is from the artist Erin Gee, it’s called the larynx series. So what she did was take a medical photograph of the larynx, turn it into vector like graphics, and then lay them out flat. And the reason she did that is because around the edges of the larynx, there was, there were lines though, in the vector graphics form looked sort of like musical notation. So she took it really seriously. And you can see here, she spreads out the lines around the edge, she then writes musical notation over for the voice over the over over the vector graphics. And then that is eventually turned into a musical score, which you are hearing performed, has in talking to you. And there’s, there’s one of the vocal parts that you’re hearing performed. So obviously, there’s much more in the exhibition, I just wanted to give you a little taste of what you might encounter there. And also show you ones that benefited from playback over time. So speaking of time, I’m definitely at the end of my talk here. I want to thank you all for sticking around and listening. And I really look forward to discussing this with you. And again, if you’re interested in anything I’ve talked about, not only do I recommend that you check out my book when it comes out. But the check out the writing of the author’s I’ve referenced throughout this talk. Thank you.
Mike Sugarman 43:32
I’m speaking on Can you please listen louder? Great. Thank
Vivek Bald 43:50
you so much. I’m going to open it up to questions.
Jonathan Sterne 43:57
Figure out how to stop sharing. There we go. Yeah, happy to discuss anything.
Vivek Bald 44:09
So I’ll be keeping an eye on the q&a bar as well as taking taking questions from on screen, whether you’d like to use your hands or the hand symbol.
See T.L. wondering about the video lag. I don’t know if everybody had that. That was not intentional. That’s just the crappiness of streaming.
T.L. Taylor 44:50
Well, it was perfect because it was the one where there was also the audio was coming through seamlessly. So it was this wonderful addition of the two With so
Jonathan Sterne 45:04
This is all about rupturing the audio visual contract.
T.L. Taylor 45:07
Yeah. Well, it did remind me a lot of old Eno looping stuff as well. Good.
Vivek Bald 45:18
Well, I’ll start with a question just picking up on on one. One thing that you mentioned in passing, and that is the, the sort of more recent move to InDesign in terms of applying new design principles to prostheses to different the different kinds of devices that are used by various different people. And I’m just curious to hear a little bit more about that about sort of both the the actual design process and, and the kind of, I guess the the impetus behind it, who is involved in, in in just designing new, new forms of prestige ease. And
sure, well, I’m just part of a bigger movement called participatory design. And the basic idea is, you shouldn’t design stuff for people without their input, which sounds like incredibly obvious, but it is designed for disability has not really been a principle until pretty recently. So, um, so designers, in the last couple of decades have started working with people with disabilities, and also thinking more seriously about prostheses and other technical assistive technologies as design objects. Whereas before, they were generally thought of more in functional ways. Part of this might also be like, you know, they were being presented as medical technology. In the US, they were being presented to the insurance industry for for covered, so you certainly want them wouldn’t want to look like you’re enjoying it, or having any fun with it. Like, that’s always bad for the Protestant ethic of reimbursement. But, um, but yeah, the idea, the idea behind it is simply that I’m on one. So for one, you know, if you’re designing something for someone, they ought to be involved, and to the design for disability really pushes the edges of design. And that’s really a central theme in in all four of the design. books I mentioned, two of them are sort of history, and two are much more contemporary. But what they all have in common is showing the ways that disability reveals aspects of design that are limiting, not just for people with disabilities, but for everyone, and also pushes the edges of what’s possible in design thinking, and design theory. So like the classic examples, for those of you that don’t read disability studies are things like the curb cut, which activists in wheelchairs most notably, the Rolling Crips in Berkeley had to fight for, but of course, are useful to people, not just in wheelchairs, but if you’ve got a granny cart, coming from the supermarket, or for that matter, a double bass with a wheel on it, or a roller board through suitcase or pick your pick your example. Another would be closed captioning, which is a fight we’re having right now. In terms of online media, and zoom and things like that. Closed Captioning starts out being again thought of, and this is a Greg Downey’s book, which is a great history of closed captioning starts out being a thing that networks TV networks in the US resist, because it’s seen as just a minority interest. But of course, today closed captioning, I mean, not that I’ve been to any of these places in the last year, but health clubs, airports, bars, any places were looking at, you might not actually want to listen to what’s on the screen, but you might want to know what’s being said. With closed captioning for zoom, there’s actually an additional sort of political dimension, which is that it’s done by otter.ai. And this is something I’m writing about with one of my students. otter basically, you know, he uses machine learning, to to try to caption and it’s it’s better than anything that I’ve seen that’s come before other than actual human beings. doing it. And of course, human beings will always give you better captioning, at least for the time being. But otters user agreements very interesting, because what they say is, well, we don’t own your speech. We don’t own the content of what you’re what you say. But they do feature extraction, they do voice printing, right? So in a way, the minute you get uploaded into that world, data are being generated about you and you’re being voice printed. So that’s a great example of also the conflict between design for disability and the politics of access, and sort of other kinds of capitalist enterprises. That might be I mean, there isn’t a good word for this mind disability class, we call it crip washing, like greenwashing where it’s this, it’s being presented, as Mara Mills calls it the assisted pre tax or is being presented as useful for people with disabilities, but it also has this other economic or political function. So those are some of the things about design and disability my Dork-o-Phone is clearly not an example of design for disability. However, I have been working with an artist Alexis […], you can go to her website, Le théorie postmoderne,
and she has been working on she does these giant sort of panel based speakers. So instead of having like, a magnet and a comb, like a normal speaker does, it’s all a single board. And so she’s been building me these based on wood panels. We did one experimental one, a few years back, but the batteries were too heavy. But advances in battery technology have actually allowed the creation of a much more lighter and more fashionable Dork-o-Phone that working on trial when there’s an occasion to do it.
Vivek Bald 52:00
Well, you still call it a Dork-a-Phone when it doesn’t
Jonathan Sterne 52:03
know let’s name it something else.
Vivek Bald 52:08
T.L. Taylor 52:12
thanks for such an interesting talk. It was really cool. I really loved the point you made about kind of rethinking phenomenology and, and sort of, I don’t know revisiting that approach, and then your own writing and sort of a more personal voice at points point. So I was I was just curious if you had any other kind of meta reflections on on writing phenomenology, in your own experience, I don’t very, very open ended. But
thanks. Well, I’m definitely not planning to do it in everything I write for the rest of my career. I don’t know I it’s really like I, you know, part of me doesn’t like putting myself on, I’m already putting myself on display. When I tell you what I think about other people. It’s worse when I’m telling you what I think about something happening with myself. But I think the grand con of phenomenology, especially like, Husserl, Heidegger, and even Merleau-Ponty, although he’s better, and he’s the one that the feminists tend to go back to. The grand con is that you can you’re in a position to like abstract your subjectivity from your senses. I mean, the other thing, I didn’t get into this in the talk, but I spent a lot of time in the book, thinking about impairment as a sort of very normal, though not universal condition. And the degree to which it affects things like the simple act of description, right, so when scholars describe something, and you can think this ethnographically you can think of it in literary criticism, and film theory and historical musicology in history and architecture and art history, like pick your discipline. In every case, when an author gives a description, we are to believe that the author is in command of their faculties. Now, that’s part of the academic game, right? We’re trying to convince each other that we’re smart, that’s authorial ethos, you want that, at the same time analytically, like if you’re really thinking seriously about senses and faculties. From a disability perspective, you cannot have that assumption. And disability studies itself hasn’t fully reckoned with this. I mean, there are writers who do this really well. Allison kafer, does does a really good job in feminist queer crip where she sort of interrupts her discourse to sort of say, Well, actually, like even I can’t live up to this, you know, actual ideal that I’ve set up. But I think it’s a really good challenge for theory. And I also think it’s a good challenge for theory in this moment, where people are trying to figure out How to be positional, but still talk beyond themselves and not just stand here and say, like, you know, as a white male in Montreal with these disabilities, blah, blah, blah, like, how do you? How do you? And so it’s a question of abstraction. And also, a question of like, the more concrete the description is, in a way, the more generalizable he could be, because you know, the position it’s coming from. And so for me, this whole book, it was very much, especially the first three chapters like in and then the conclusion, very much in a little bit elsewhere an experiment in writing. And trying to write a little differently. I mean, I think it probably still sounds like me, whatever that is, you know, the author function, Jonathan stern. But I did try to write differently at times, I’m having fun with it, obviously, with all the Dork-o-Phone puns and stuff. And that’s sort of a crip humor chapter. I don’t know, if I mentioned this, like, originally, I wanted the book to end with a cat throwing up on me. But that, but that ends the fatigue chapter. And I couldn’t figure out how to how to how to make that the end of the book and have a conclusion. So I had to let that go. So there is some like humor, and I tried to sort of self deprecate, but of course, it’s with a wink and a nod, because I also want you to believe me, and like, take what I’m saying, seriously. So I don’t know. It’s definitely like a sort of mid career book in that way. Like, you know, I can’t believe that they’re letting me do this kind of writing. But if it was a good experience, I don’t know. I don’t know what it’s gonna mean for down the road, like I finished it. And I’m like, okay, I really want to write about other people. Now, I don’t want to keep writing about myself. And I also think that’s really important right now, because there’s a lot of other people and other things that need writing about. So I see there are other questions. So I will hold my discourse.
Vivek Bald 57:02
I’ll go to Kelly and then I’ll take a question from the q&a bar. And then back to Nick.
Kelly Wagman 57:08
Thank you for the talk. I was interested in the comment, you mentioned kind of from a media studies perspective, how, you know, you’re, the voice is kind of like your voice, but versus the voice, the kind of the mediated voice that goes through an object and then it’s still your voice and how they kind of merge sometimes. And I guess I just I found that whole train of thought very interesting, but I didn’t quite know how to think about it. And I was wondering if you could kind of expand on how you think about that,
for sure. And I actually do in the book. I mean, one of the, you know, it’s always tempting to start a talk with a lot of caveats, by the way, thank you for the great question. And thank you TL for the great question. And also, thank you, Vivek, for the great question. I need to say thank you more obviously. It’s always a temptation to give lots of caveats. But one of the things I gave up was a little bit of conceptual precision to try to be a little more engaging in that setting. So what’s the book might answer the question or might not? Okay, so a couple basic things from sound studies, any sound always has multiple causes. Like we’re used to thinking of like, a sound, having one cause, like, you know, the dog barks or porks, or the cat meow, or I talk, right? But in fact, even me talking like there’s all these different causal dimensions, right? So we’ve got my larynx like pushing air up, we’ve got the mouth modulating the sound, the tongue tongues doing lots of work, then the sound has to move through a medium, right? It’s the old alien tagline in space, no one can hear you scream because it’s a vacuum. And so the result is to talk about any cause of a sound, he’s already to to reduce it in a way. I mean, obviously, you know, if you’re talking about intention, like I, the intending subject, produced this thing, but not alone, and not in full command of my own faculties. And in speaking to you on my screen, obviously, in concert with this whole technical assemblage, so Okay, part one sound has all these caught has multiple causalities. Part two is this thing I alluded to which I actually spend some time on in chapter three called the ideology of vocal ability. So the ideology of ability. Until then, come is a term coined by Tobin Siebers. And it’s simply the idea that people would rather be have, ability is preferable to disability. We would rather people be able to rather than disabled and like on one level intuitively, that makes sense. Allison kafer says, even though I have these disabilities in Don’t want to give them up. That doesn’t mean I want to require others. Right? So it’s a it’s also an effective relationship. So it’s a pretty expanded notion of ideology. But it’s this preference for ability over disability, but also this assumption that a subject is defined by its abilities and mean. And this could go all the way back to Aristotle saying deaf people aren’t people. So where was I going with that? Okay, so the ideology of vocal ability is the belief in the voice as the carrier of subjective intention and agency. And when it’s metaphor eyes, like, give the people a voice, over protesters are taping over their mouths, to like, represent that they’re being silenced. That is, and that’s the ideology of vocal ability at work. Right? So it’s about collapsing this multi causal thing of voice into an intending subject and saying, here’s how it always works. So what I’m trying to do in chapters two and three, is really think through voices multi causal, as contingently cited rather than organically cited in an intending subject or an intending body. And as something that might even act in the world beyond the intentions of an intending subject, right? So like, Nina Katchadourian’s Talking Popcorn is not Siri. Right? No one is interacting with talking popcorn. Like, no one’s gonna make a movie like her about talking popcorn, right? It’s not something that she’s not trying to get you to have an emotional relationship with this thing. In fact, you can actually eat the popcorn that the exhibit is producing as well. I mean, it’s not installed anywhere right now. And during COVID, probably don’t share food. But theoretically, one could eat this popcorn. And so it’s a completely different relationship than like a personal digital assistant or something like that. And yet, it’s also this like Rube Goldberg Machine have a voice, right? There’s a, there’s a digital voice. There’s a decoding of popcorn in Morse code, right dots and dashes and pauses. And then the Morse code instructs the voice in speaking. And it can be totally heard in different ways. And this happens all the time. Where tone of voice I mean, it’s the same with facial expressions, I was on a committee this winter. And the chair kept saying, Jonathan, you look concerned, and it was just the sun in my eyes. So it’s like I had
it, you’ll pardon the term resting zoom bitchface. And tone of voice is the same kind of thing, right? where it seems to be we treated as expressive and as the result of a person’s command of their abilities, but it also my mom, and especially along linguistic contexts, when you’re thinking about accents, Nina Eidsheim’s working on this, as well as on forgetting her name, and just saw talk covers on the name will come to me when I talk about something else. But accent is disability. And I think that this is another example of like the problem with connecting voice and intention. So does that answer your question? Because if not, I can try again.
Kelly Wagman 1:03:31
Yeah, that conceptual background is very helpful. Thank you.
Jonathan Sterne 1:03:34
Vivek Bald 1:03:37
We’re going to take a question from the q&a. from one of our attendees, who says thank you, Jonathan, for the amazing presentation. I’m interested in the metaphorization of disability in media studies that you mentioned, in your opinion, was the disability slash prosthetic metaphor. So sticky, persistent, persistent. What kinds of advocacy Do you see needed in order to make academia itself less?
Jonathan Sterne 1:04:09
Hoo-boy, well, thank you anonymous attendee that’s a great question. I want to see it. So I’m just clicking over to answered while I’m answering it. Why is it so sticky? Okay, so there’s a bunch of answers, like one of the obvious and simple ones unsanctioned ignorance, like, what do people know about and what do people know about you in a given field and what are you expected to be responsible to and not? And that changes over time. I mean, we’ve been seeing that we’ve been seeing that change around indigeneity and around blackness over the last few years, in a lot of previously overwhelmingly white curricula. Feminists have been fighting this battle for generations with cannons. You know, I’ve I’ve academic literature. And still in Communication Studies, men are cited way more than women. Obviously, I’ve benefited from this. But I will, I can still say it’s a problem. So I, you know, I’d say part of it is just playing on sanctioned ignorance, like how many people in media studies have taken a course on disability, have thought about it critically, if that’s not their area. And I’ll give you an anecdote is not just Media Studies. So I learned ice. So I went to Norbert Wiener’s archives looking for something at MIT at the MIT library. If you go through his papers, there’s letter after letter after letter about disability and prosthesis, on and on and on, because he’d written because of his writing on cybernetics, and sort of proto wrote what we call robotics now, and before Mara Mills, who’s my co author for this tuning time book, before she wrote about Wiener and disability, he was all over history of science and science technology studies is his major historical figure. And nobody had written about it, even though these people had gone to the archives. And these letters, were right there in the face. Right. So this is the ideology of ability, discounting disability, even when it’s right there in front of you. I, you know, I mean, I can go on, like, sort of ideologically. I mean, then there’s the persistence in media studies in general, in specific, sorry, Media Studies. Media Studies is a particular interest in bodies. Very often, it’s the way bodies are organized into ensembles, and ensembles with technology. And so, um, you know, in in post humanism, there’s a lot of interest in questions of sort of augmentation, or you could go back to your ways, Cyborg theory, which she herself now has sort of questioned in different ways in the, in the later work on animals. And so, in those cases, I think if you’re not educated about ableism prosthesis is a super exciting metaphor, because it’s just extending the body man, and it’s modifying the body and changing the body. And those are all good things, right? Like I, I like insulin pumps, I like Dork-o-Phones, even though I make fun of them. I like artificial limbs. I like artificial larynx. It’s like all those things are good. But prosthetic technology, when understood socially, when understood, I think correctly through the lens of power relations, or in concert with talking about power relations, is not the same thing as somebody who’s not coded as disabled by their technology. Right. It’s also not the same thing by other technologies cause revulsion like the Google Glass slash glass hole phenomenon, right, which is a kind of discounting of the wearer, but that’s different than as hard ablest discounting. So my prescription for Media Studies would be, you know, people should learn not that everybody needs to study disability, but people should learn about disability just as they should learn about indigeneity, just as they should learn about race and sexuality, and gender, and age.
Jonathan Sterne 1:08:29
As one of the things you should just know a little bit about, whether you do it or not. I think that would be that would be really good and really helpful. As far as making academia itself less ablest. That’s a huge job. Right? So right now there’s this whole problem is campuses are hoping to come back in the fall. And many faculty are being asked to go through what’s called bio certification, which is essentially, I mean, it’s what a lot of professors do to their students, right? You miss the test? Well, I need to see a doctor’s note. So now, in order to have an excuse, for like, a fairly minor bureaucratic blip, this person has to go and medicalize themselves. Right in order to have institutional legitimacy. Right. So biocertification is problematic because of access to health care, because certainly illnesses themselves are stigma stigmatized. I just taught this great film called Unrest by the filmmaker Jen Brea, you can find it on Vimeo, which is documentary on chronic fatigue syndrome. That’s still not very well understood. And then, you know, universities are, you know, at McGill, my favorite example, I would always take my students to see this. There’s actually a door with an automatic door opener, right. So it’s great for people with wheelchairs to go outside and then No matter which direction you go, there were stairs. So compliance culture is also a problem where the like intent of the thing doesn’t work with the bureaucratic structures and the people operating within them. So I it will take a lot of work to make academia less able as to I do a lot of things. Personally, in my own classrooms, like even just saying, in a Zoom meeting, you know, it’s okay to stand, it’s okay to look around. It’s okay to inhabit your body. I mean, we’re all stuck in our homes anyway. Like, I’ve got a unicorn behind me like, clearly, there’s a, there’s, there’s a lot more flexibility. And hopefully, we can hold on to that as we move back into collective spaces. So thank you for that question. I’m going to try to be quicker so more people can ask questions.
Vivek Bald 1:10:49
I’m gonna go to Nick, and then we’ll in chat, and then back to Mike. So Nick,
Nick Montfort 1:10:59
Thank you, Vivek. And thanks, Jonathan, for your talk. And for this discussion, which is great. I actually have a question about prosthesis as it relates to voice and to telepresence and teleconference. That isn’t directly about disability. It’s about how people use different types of prostheses to evade surveillance. And so people do this, we know with, for instance, face paintings that might, you know, attempt to avoid face recognition. I’m wondering if people use vocal prostheses to try to avoid having the types of data collection that you discussed?
Jonathan Sterne 1:11:53
Yeah, I totally get where you’re going with this. That’s a great question. Not that I know of, however, if anyone would like to do an art project together trying to get that working. See me after class? I mean, the, the classic thing is like the pitch shifter on the voice on the like, No, well, they’re interviewing the person with the shadow or, you know, they’re in a shed like it’s a new show, and they’re in a shadow. And then their voice is thinking of Laurie Anderson performance where she’s got. She’s got, you know,
Nick Montfort 1:12:23
this device that, you know, transforms her voice, and she’s,
Jonathan Sterne 1:12:28
yeah, no, that’s a I mean, Originally, it was a Vocoder. I don’t know what she’s used. I don’t know what she’s using now. And obviously, like, it’s used to great aesthetic effect in r&b, like, first Vocoders, and then Autotune. So obviously, like, people do this, but specifically to resist feature identification and voice ID. I think that’s a very interesting question and a very interesting problem. And I think there’s all these other issues around audio surveillance that are just now starting to, well, they’ve been getting attention from sort of critical scholars. But the work is just now starting to come out. In fact, I have on my desk. Here’s a group in Australia working on machine listening. This is called eavesdropping a reader. And there’s a group in Germany that’s about to publish a book as well, unfortunately, in German, for those of you that don’t speak German, fortunately, in German for those of you who only speak German, but, but really, I think it’d be an interesting art project, to try to think of something similar to painting your face. So your voice can be voice printed, and making it something that people could easily do in ambient environments.
Vivek Bald 1:13:50
So I’ll go to will, who wrote in the chat, I’m curious about the idea that you mentioned, where people unintentionally Speak louder when they can’t hear their own voices, or can’t have their own voices fed back into their ears. I may have missed it. But is there a specific name for this phenomenon? And why do people have a tendency to do this?
Jonathan Sterne 1:14:15
Ah, there probably is, in the psychology literature, I haven’t bothered to learn it. As for why people do it, I mean, you know, speaking is a like ensemble of techniques of the body like any other. And so, I mean, I think it has to do with hearing your own voice in your head. Right, and when you’re projecting it into a microphone or projecting it into something else, when it’s not giving you that same feedback that you get in a room, for instance, so it’s worse with headphones on. Although I use their headphones because they feed my voice back in. So I mean, I There’s probably some like sort of naturalistic psychological explanation for it. But I just think of it as like, this isn’t something that people are skilled for. And over time people do learn to talk more quietly into mobile phones. Like it’s not treated, everybody that picks up. A phone call in public now is yelling into the phone. But it’s also true that lots of people like you know, on the bus or whatever on the metro, it is surprising how much you can hear those conversations. By the way, I see in the chat, somebody typed the name for me. It’s Pooja Rangan who’s doing voice and accent as disability. And she’s part she’s got a she’s got a collection, she’s co editing with a couple other people that’ll be out. Probably Well, given academic publishing problem, let’s give it two years. But she gave a talk recently that might be online. So definitely, if you’re interested in the politics of accent, her and then, you know, I time also as a project going. Great.
Vivek Bald 1:16:04
Let’s go to Mike. And then there’s also a question that’s been waiting in the queue thing.
Mike Sugarman 1:16:10
Hey, I hope it’s okay. Thank you my camera off and go voice only
Jonathan Sterne 1:16:14
extremely Okay, back. I was like, Wow, you’re sitting so far back from the
Mike Sugarman 1:16:21
Zoom power move? No, no, it’s been. Thanks for the talk. I really love that. I want to ask what’s kind of like the inverse of Nick’s question. I’m curious to hear you talk more about kind of like the potential for aesthetics ation, and art and kind of the realm that you’re describing, you know, one kind of parallel thing that comes to mind is certainly not the same thing you’re talking about. But there’s this kind of like famous case of this pop artists who recently passed away called Sophie, who was a trans artist who used pitch shifting technology, I guess, in some sense to sound more feminine, but really, the result was to sound kind of just otherworldly, right? So the idea of you can use the pitch shifting summer feminine, maybe that’s how it’s often used in like, the commercial recording industry. But there’s also some other things that you can do with it. There’s kind of a new realm of possibility that gets opened up when you sort of start to engage that technology. I don’t know, I guess I’m just kind of curious, especially about this book that talks about this exhibition. And I don’t know, it’s kind of a nebulous set of things that I’m asking. But I am just curious about kind of the role of art and aesthetics here.
Jonathan Sterne 1:17:32
For sure. Thanks, Mike. Well, so I would, I mean, in my own work, I’ve actually totally parsed out the pitch shifting, as like for the other book I’m doing with Mara. So the last chapter is on Autotune. And I think I saw Catherine Provenzano’s name in the audience, who’s writing a whole book on pitch correction. And oh, and Marshall also is working in this area. So just before I go off on it, I just want to make sure I’m not pretending on sui generis. So the pitch shifting thing as an aesthetic practice is really well established. And the genuine is interesting, because I can point back to patent applications in the 1930s Dennis Gabor, who wrote who created a sort of analog time stretching device in the 1940s, talking about pitch shifting as gendered. So it’s like very the high low thing is very much, very much embedded in installed in sort of Western vocal culture. But by the 1970s, that changes so one of the things we’re going to talk about later Later in the book is pitch shifting, like with eventide harmonizer. Parliament Funkadelic did this to create the character sir knows devoid of funk. And you hear it later in prints, you hear it in all sorts of EDM vocals, vocal samples, and of course, also, very commonly, in r&b and hip hop. People are using pitch correction very creatively. And I think that’s great. And now that many more performers are like intentionally gender bending than they were before. They, this is an even more common practice. The question for voiceprint identification civic connected back to next question. I don’t think it’s pitch. I think it’s stuff like formance, and all the all the stuff that Roland Barthes would have, like bundled under grain. So it’s not just pitch but all these other aspects of the timbre of the voice. And I think there’s a lot of potential there and musicians and our have played with formance. And they’ve played with other aspects of voice there used to be Antares who made Autotune also made a product called throat, which I don’t think they make anymore. But it actually had a visual graphic interface i’d like you could make the throat bigger or smaller, and it would change the sound of the voice. But I’d be interested in being able to do that in real time in real space, and not just to dog especially in relationship to this feature extraction. So I think there’s a lot of room for that.
Vivek Bald 1:20:34
Right, there’s a question in q&a. And thank you, Sasha, for being very patient. This is from Sasha Crawford-Holland. Love the talk. Can you elaborate on the implications of McLuhan’s, prostheses, amputation metaphors being ablest?
Jonathan Sterne 1:20:54
Yeah, thanks, Sasha. Well, I mean, so McLuhan’s your classic mid century intellectual the rights in universalist terms, but he was also somebody who didn’t really believe in culture, right? So McLuhan treats the senses in terms of some sense ratios, he treats. The human body is like this one universal thing, he doesn’t even really talk seriously about gender or race. And when he does talk about race, it’s really, really not good. So it’s ablest in the sense that he assumes that you human beings all have the same sets of abilities, and relations to those abilities, which are then sort of ratioed I don’t mean ratioed. In the Twitter sense, I mean, put in ratios to one another. So the reason why they have the metaphor is able is well first, because using disability as a metaphor, when you’re not talking about disabled people, is enabled a stack just in the same way. That when people use when people use race or gender, to describe something that is not about, about sort of marginalized people. So I think of like men using gendered insults, designed for women, for other men, for instance, that is like there’s no non sexist way to do that. Also, it’s not very creative. There’s much better ways to insult men, we can again see me after class, if you want to talk. But so table is because it is disability. It’s something about us without us, right. One of the slogans of the disability rights movement is nothing about us without us. And it is basically speaking of an absent population, using stereotypes, and the imagination something. Let me give you one other example that I think helps, which is disability simulation, which is still used in medical schools quite often. So you give students blindfolds and say, Well, now you know a little bit about what it’s like to be blind. But actually, you don’t, because first of all, you know, the blindfolds coming off. And second of all, anybody that’s been blind for any amount of time, is going to be way better at navigating around a room than a sighted person who just had a blindfold put on them. So they’re going to assume the blind people are disabled in all these ways that are actually not. Right. And so that’s part of the problem with McLuhan’s McLuhan’s understanding of amputation is this very superficial, metaphorical one. If you talk to people who’ve had things amputated, they’re not going to describe it the way McLuhan does, and they’re also probably not going to describe their prostheses the way McLuhan does. I really recommend that Vivian sub Jacques essay on her artificial leg. The first it’s got a long title, but I think the first part is a leg to stand on, as a good place for thinking about sort of the metaphoric work of prosthesis and sort of the problems and opportunities around.
Vivek Bald 1:24:15
Great, thank you so much. And we’re right up against 6:30. But there’s one informational question, what was it? Someone wanted to hear more about mentioned? Sorry, I’m scrolling all the way back. The designer who is working with you to create the, the alternative to the Yeah, and and whether that designer has a website, or,
Jonathan Sterne 1:24:52
yeah, let me just get their word. If I type it into the chat, let me just make sure her site is up because you know, it is what The digital humanities
Jonathan Sterne 1:25:14
looks like it’s not up at the moment, but I’m going to give you I’m going to give you a name. Sorry. So this is the name. And we’ll also give you the website. Although I can’t guarantee that it’s up at the moment. Let me triple check. It is.
Vivek Bald 1:26:18
All right. Thank you so much for that. And thank you so much for for your presentation. And for all these amazing answers to all these amazing questions. Thank you all, who participated in that way. And we are We will look forward to the book. And when is it? When is the actual pub date?
Jonathan Sterne 1:26:45
December 1 2021. I think there’s some talk of November but let’s say December. Okay. So I want to thank you all for coming. Here. It’s wonderful to see you while I’m still going home. Next time. We’ll like all the cloud for dinner and gossip after this because that’s, that’s where the fun happens. Not that this wasn’t super fun. It’s just a whole other regime of fun. So, all right, lovely to see you all. Thank
Vivek Bald 1:27:13
you so much.
Jonathan Sterne 1:27:15
Thank you, as you might
thanks. Take care.