Home » Ponderings » Public Lecture: ‘Disability & Digital Cultures: Brave New Worlds, or Just New Forms of Injustice?’

Public Lecture: ‘Disability & Digital Cultures: Brave New Worlds, or Just New Forms of Injustice?’

Who: Professor Gerard Goggin , University of New South Wales
Where: Alexander Lecture Theatre, UWA
When: 6pm, Monday, 5 May 2008

The Blurb: From networked computers and 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. People with disabilities are playing an important yet under-appreciated role in the user-powered creative innovation coming out of digital cultures. At the same time old problems of accessibility and exclusion remain, while new forms of oppression and stereotyping are emerging.

In this lecture, Professor Goggin will explore this rich theme of disability and digital cultures, with case studies drawn from YouTube, Second Life, and mobile phones. He looks at the pressing concerns of accessibility, investigate what is distinctive about people with disabilities’ use of digital technologies, as well as considering how disability is being represented and constructed in new digital cultures. Finally, he will consider how these developments in disability and digital technology fit into the larger social, cultural and political arrangements of Australian life.

Biographical Note: Gerard Goggin is Professor of Digital Communication, and Deputy Director of the new Centre for Social Research in Journalism and Communication, University of New South Wales. He has had a long time interest in disability, digital technology, and media culture. With Christopher Newell he is author of “Digital Disability” (Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), and many other papers on technology, disability, and society. Christopher and Gerard’s second book “Disability in Australia: Exposing a Social Apartheid” (University of New South Press, 2005) was awarded the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Arts Non-Fiction prize. Gerard’s other books include “Global Mobile Media” (2009), “Internationalizing Internet Studies” (2008), “Mobile Technologies: From Telecommunications to Media” (2008), “Mobile Phone Cultures” (2007), “Cell Phone Culture” (2006), “Virtual Nation: The Internet in Australia” (2004), and “Digital Disability” (2003). Gerard is editor of the journal “Media International Australia”.

This public lecture precedes a one-day Seminar on Driving Change in the Disability Sector, sponsored by the Institute of Advanced Studies, the Western Australia Disability Collective and Equity & Diversity UWA.

Update: For those interested, Goggin’s lecture is now available as either streaming audio or for download here.

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  1. Amusingly, there are no plans to make the Symposium accessible to those who can’t attend in person due to their disabilities.

    Har har har.

  2. Hey Laura, While I’m not sure about the Symposium (I suspect all of the contributors would happily share their talks if asked) I do know that the public lecture will be recorded and made available online for those who can’t attend! 🙂

  3. I heard that the public lecture would be available after the event.

    What this says to me is that people with disabilities are part of the passive, listening “public”, but they’re not actually part of discussing possible solutions to disability access, if involving them costs actual money or time or energy.

  4. Hi again Laura, While I’m sure it’s not perfect, I think having recorded versions of the lecture available afterwards and a venue which is accessible to people with a range of physical disabilities (including wheelchair access and mechanical desks specifically designed to be used by people with certain physical disabilities), then I think some important steps are being taken to try and make the lecture accessible. More to the point, in my experience working with students who have different access needs, they have generally reported that the UniAcess folks do a pretty good job and trying to ensure UWA-based events are as accessible as they can be. I’m sure there’s also more that could be done, but I do think UWA has made substantial progress in the right direction.

  5. I have had significantly bad and clueless experiences with the disability access department, one of which I’ve written about on my blog. In the end, the access that I did end up getting depended on the goodwill of individual lecturers, not on anything systemic. Other lecturers refused point blank to work with me at all. If things have changed dramatically in the past year? That’s an improvement, but they’re starting miles behind.

    Wheelchair access is not the only accessibility issue. “It’s not perfect”? Yeah, it’s not. What’s being done about it? Making limited efforts for only certain people with certain disabilities doesn’t make UWA immune from criticism.

    The bottom line is that I’m being treated as a passive listener, not a potential participant. And despite me being a triple alumnus of this very university. This from a university that is supposedly trying to get me to come back to do Honours? It’s a slap.

    Is anyone in the symposium a person with a disability, or is it all people talking about us? The bios contain only formal “qualifications”, as though actual experience is insignificant and irrelevant.

    You know what – the email I got back didn’t even contain a “sorry”.

    (Please don’t call me “Laura”. Ta.)

  6. (sorry- the email address I had in before is now invalid, I think. Bad netiquette, that. I’m findable through my blog’s ‘contact’ page.)

  7. Hi lauredhel (not “Laura” – apologies, my bad there!),

    I completely agree that access for people in wheelchairs and with other physical disabilities is far from covering the needs of all people with disabilities – I just mentioned that example because I teach in that lecture theatre a fair bit and have noticed the mechanical desk put to good use a student who is in a wheelchair. Nor, I should add, am I suggesting UWA should be immune from criticism – criticism is, indeed, helpful as it flags areas where improvement can be made.

    In terms of UniAccess, I can only comment from fairly limited experience of how they operate, but for one student I know, at least, they managed to remove one substantial barrier to access. I’m sorry to hear your experiences with them haven’t been positive – I hope that your experience has served as a catalyst to get UniAccess working to try and address those needs in the future.

    To be honest, reading from your LJ (the blog I got a trackback from gave me a “Bandwidth Limit Exceeded” notice for some reason), I’m disappointed with the response you got from the Institute for Advanced Studies and can completely understand why you’d be seriously unimpressed, especially in relation to a symposium which, one imagines, will definitely have accessibility as one of its core issues. If you’ve not done so already and you’d still like to be involved in the symposium, I’d suggest you contact Bev Hill, the manager of the Equity and Diversity Office. I’ve worked with Bev on an unrelated equity project at UWA, and she’s always struck me as very keen to ensure UWA lives up to the rhetoric of inclusivity it teaches.

    As to the symposium itself, I’m really not if anyone presenting is a person with a disability or not. (I should add I’m not involved in organizing the symposium or the lecture – I’ve just re-posting the publicity material I was sent since I thought it might be of interest to someone who reads this blog.)

    If you do pursue getting access to the symposium, I wish you the best of luck! As an entry-level lecturer on a short-term contact, I don’t have much clout around campus, but if I can be of help, do let me know.

  8. Thanks Tama, and thanks for the suggestion.

    It is interesting, and notable, that the issue of whether the speakers actually have disabilities or not doesn’t seem to be considered important. (From where I’m lying.) Imagine organising a seminar on racism with mostly white speakers, or a seminar on feminism with mostly male speakers. Yet many activists don’t see to view disability activism through the same lens.

  9. Well, Newell [that Goggin did the “Exposing a Social Apartheid” book with] has disabilities and that book was one of the better ones about PWD politics in Oz to date.

    I agree that disability issues are discussed for rather than with us compared to other forms of activism. OTOH I also think that paternalism in health services and depoliticizing disability advocacy is heavily reliant on employing PWD staff in tokenising ways, to gatekeep each other.

    So I’m less concerned whether an academic is a PWD than what their politics and methodology are on how to research PWD’s cultural practice and work with PWD.

    That lack of access for PWD on a campus to participate [or become academics!] is a pretty major issue though.

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