If you’re receiving this email, you signed on for updates from Abler—notifications on new posts and such. I’m about to make Abler a searchable archive over at the nearly-completely-done Sara Hendren site. But I’m reconfiguring it in a couple of ways, and I wanted to hear how it might be useful to people as a future resource.
I started Abler with a magazine framework in mind. It was aimed at a tech-loving reader, someone also into Wired or BoingBoing back ten years ago when I began. I wanted to mix together straightforward reporting on high- and low-tech developments in prosthetics with far more speculative and creative approaches to technologies that could be thought of as “assistive technologies,” broadly conceived. I wanted the adjacency of the magazine style to do an estranging work—defamiliarizing ordinary design and tech for disability by letting these technologies share a home with more imaginative and unusual treatments of the prosthetic, with some framing text and book excerpts in between. The point, which only really became clear in retrospect, was to enact a critical social model of disability in artifacts.
The effect of Abler, also understood only in looking back, was to write myself into a way of working in design—that is, to articulate a point of view before I started my full time professorship at Olin, and then to set about in collaborations and teaching that proceeded from the things I’d collected and examined so closely.
Since switching to a new site, I’ve cast my net much more widely in topics. But I want to keep Abler as a mega-project in my history, because it laid so much of the background for my current work, and because I know a number of people still use it as a teaching tool. So my plan is to structure Abler as an archive that you can search, but as an archive that also comes with three or four Guides to the material: brief roundups that circle around a particular theme or question, the better to direct students’ focus and generate a discussion in a classroom setting. Here’s an example of a Guide:
Rethinking the high-tech/low-tech divide. Conversations about prosthetics still tend to assume that complicated and next-generation technologies must, by definition, do their jobs with more acuity and impact than simple tools. But take a look at this elegant transitional cutlery, or read about the sophisticated mechanism of the white cane for navigating through space, no electronics required. You might also be interested in another kind of cane when it meets a bike or body socks for sensory processing challenges. And for more in-depth reading, see Audre Lorde’s thoughts on the politics of old-school prosthetics for post-mastectomy and David Edgerton on the shock of the old.
I have some others in mind—Artists Exploring Prosthetics, and Design for Disability at Unusual Scales—but if there are topics you’d like to see covered, let me know! It’ll be rolled out in the next week or so, but of course I can add to it over time.
Finally: since Abler will be folded in to the new site, you won’t get notifications via WordPress anymore. If you like, you can sign up for my low-volume newsletter with an occasional roundup of updates here, or you can get blog posts on all manner of topics via RSS (I use Newsblur and Reeder for this). I’ll be tweeting new posts as well, once I’m back on Twitter after Labor Day.
In short, let me hear from you if you have used this set of writing in your classroom or other setting! I’m happy to think together about its use in the future.