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Making Connections: Disabilities, Technologies and Affordances
Yvonne Latham, Lancaster University
This is a paper about disabled bodies, technologies and their connections. It demonstrates how these connections emerge as situated and indeed ongoing collective accomplishments.
This paper draws on material collected from ongoing (2005 - 2008) participant observation study of a scheme initiated and funded by a UK Non-Governmental Organisation (here pseudonymously called 'Opportunity'). The aim of the scheme - which has come to be known among organisational actors as the "Sociability Project" - is to use IT in order to address social isolation and disadvantage among housebound disabled individuals in the North West Region of England. More specifically, the main objectives of this scheme are as follows:
The material collected is used in order to explore the strengths and limitations of the concept of affordances (Gibson, 1977) as has been debated in this and other fora (eg Costall, 1997; Hutchby, 2001; 2003; Rappert, 2003; Woolgar, 2002; Bonderup Dohn, 2006). The paper proposes that the subject matter of such debates is, in settings such as the above, encountered by local actors not as a set of arcane philosophical issues but as pressing practical problems. Practical problems, the highlighting of which, will inevitably bring to the fore and force us to (re)examine a whole range of taken for granted assumptions and social arrangements that normally remain hidden and unexamined.
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