Gerald Goggin

“Disability Commons: Culture, Technology, and New Publics” [ENG]


Abstract: In recent years, we have experienced the rise of new conceptions and relations of disability across many societies, places, and environments. It could be argued that disability arts, culture, and media, in particular, envision and construct new worlds, which require us to radically rethink our ideas of the human, non-human, bodies, and the social.

In this paper, I bring emergent concepts of disability, culture, and technology, in particular, into dialogue with the organizing and interlinking concepts of aisthesis and commons. I wish to suggest that disability offers an especially rich and provocative set of resources — as well as notable imperatives — in the project of rethinking public spheres.

First, I explore the concept of aisthesis from critical disability standpoints. The invocation of the senses, alongside the intellect, offers an important cue — as considering the sensory dimensions and modalities that the diversity of disability entails makes it clear that traditional theories of public sphere have as yet given little regard for how people with disabilities might participate. Shifting the model and implied communicative and cultural architecture of a public sphere from decision-making or deliberation to ideas such as sensibility offers some very interesting possibilities. So I consider how specific publics — for instance, constituted via Deaf or Blind people, people with autism, people with cognitive impairments, mental health disabilities, or episodic conditions — could be understood, and indeed revolve, around particular sensibilities.

Secondly, I look at case studies to do with the new kinds of perception involved in constituting publics, pivoting on the intersection among disability, cultural and digital technology (or what are often called “virtualized spaces”). Still relatively under researched, there is a fascinating, consequential, and suggestive range of ways in which the innovations associated with people with disabilities’ appropriation of digital technology — starting with early Internet platforms, evident now in mobile media, and dramatically expanding across a wide range of new digital technologies — do actualizing just and democratic public spheres.


Bio: Gerard Goggin is Professor of Media and Communications and ARC Future Fellow at the University of Sydney. He has published widely on digital technology, media, culture, and disability. His books include Digital Disability (2003; with Christopher Newell), Cell Phone Culture (2006), Internationalizing Internet Studies (2009; with Mark McLelland), Global Mobile Media (2010), Locative Media (2015; with Rowan Wilken), Disability and the Media (2015; with Katie Ellis). He is currently co-editing the Routledge Handbook to Disability and Media (with Beth Haller and Katie Ellis), and writing a book on Disability and Listening (with Cate Thill).