Assistive Media

This pro­ject ex­ami­nes the his­to­ry and pre­sent of bar­ri­ers con­tin­gent upon di­gi­tal me­dia, and looks at the way soft- and hard­ware as­sis­tants are de­si­gned to over­co­me them. Ge­ne­ral as­sis­tan­ce sys­tems (from sim­ple soft­ware uti­li­ties to com­plex per­so­nal as­sis­tants such as App­le’s Siri) will be ana­ly­zed as well as as­sis­ti­ve tech­no­lo­gy sys­tems de­si­gned for peop­le with sen­so­ry, co­gni­ti­ve, or mo­tor im­pair­ments (from sim­ple screen ma­gni­fiers and screen re­a­der to al­ter­na­ti­ve in­ter­face tech­no­lo­gies). The pro­ject’s ba­sic as­sump­ti­on is, that the his­to­ry of the­se ›as­sis­ti­ve me­dia‹ is cha­rac­te­ri­zed by a non-an­thro­po­centric ›thought style‹, which to this date pro­du­ces spe­ci­fic forms of di­gi­tal ac­ces­si­bi­li­ty. Con­se­quent­ly, the pro­ject does not pro­ble­ma­ti­ze how ›nor­mal‹ and ›disa­b­led‹ users par­ti­ci­pa­te in di­gi­tal en­vi­ron­ments, but ins­tead re­con­structs the his­to­ry and epis­te­mo­lo­gy of a way of thin­king, that con­cep­tua­li­zes man as an en­vi­ron­ment for the ma­chi­ne.

Many en­gi­neers, pro­gramm­ers and sys­tem ad­mi­nis­tra­tors think of ›users‹ as ›non-ma­chi­nes‹. The ›hu­man being‹ – for ex­amp­le in mo­dern working en­vi­ron­ments or when ›stee­ring‹ a semi-au­to­no­mous ve­hi­cle – thus ap­pears to be a par­ti­al­ly in­com­pa­ti­ble com­po­nent of a tech­no­lo­gi­cal­ly de­ter­mi­ned sys­tem. In or­der to over­co­me the­se bar­ri­ers wi­t­hin a pri­mor­di­al set­ting of ma­chi­ne-hu­man-in­ter­ac­tion, se­con­da­ry as­sis­tan­ce sys­tems are being de­ve­l­o­ped. The­se ›as­sis­ti­ve me­dia‹ are ex­pec­ted to help the ma­chi­ne to con­tact hu­ma­no­id ob­jects in its en­vi­ron­ment. The ex­ami­na­ti­on of the­se ›as­sis­ti­ve me­dia‹ pro­mi­ses a bet­ter di­a­chro­nic un­der­stan­ding re­gar­ding the con­cep­tua­liza­t­i­on and ne­go­tia­ti­on of bar­ri­ers as well as ac­cess points on the side of the de­ve­l­o­pers. Ba­sed on this, a his­to­ri­cal­ly in­for­med and cri­ti­cal per­spec­tive on con­tem­pora­ry forms of di­gi­tal ac­ces­si­bi­li­ty will be de­ve­l­o­ped. 

Struc­tu­red along three in­ter­de­pen­dent work are­as, a com­pre­hen­si­ve me­dia his­to­ri­cal sur­vey of di­gi­tal soft- and hard­ware as­sis­tants for both the ›nor­mal‹ user and users with sen­so­ry, co­gni­ti­ve or mo­tor im­pair­ments will be con­duc­ted. Ad­di­tio­nal case stu­dies of ›as­sis­ti­ve me­dia‹ al­low for as­ses­sing their po­ten­ti­als to act as well as boun­da­ries of their agen­cy. Collec­tive­ly all three work are­as aim at an­s­we­ring the ques­ti­on, if de­ve­l­o­pers and en­gi­neers of ›as­sis­ti­ve me­dia‹ think of the hu­man as an en­vi­ron­ment for the ma­chi­ne and to what extent this his­to­ri­cal­ly grown ›thought style‹ has shaped cur­rent forms of di­gi­tal ac­ces­si­bi­li­ty. The pro­ject thus ad­dres­ses a ma­jor re­se­arch de­si­de­ra­tum wi­t­hin me­dia stu­dies. The ap­p­li­cants lo­ca­te this re­se­arch ques­ti­on wi­t­hin the bor­der­land of cul­tu­ral stu­dies, disa­bi­li­ty stu­dies, me­dia stu­dies, com­pu­ter his­to­ry and com­pu­ter sci­ence and in­tend to an­s­wer it by com­bi­ning the me­thods of me­dia ar­cheo­lo­gy, his­to­ri­cal epis­te­mo­lo­gy and ac­tor-net­work-theo­ry.

„As­sis­ti­ve Me­dia“ is a Ger­man Re­se­arch Coun­cil (DFG) fun­ded re­se­arch pro­ject, led by Prof. Dr. Wolf­gang Ha­gen (Leu­pha­na Uni­ver­si­ty Lüne­burg) and Prof. Dr. Jan Müggen­burg (Leu­pha­na Uni­ver­si­ty Lüne­burg). It is part of the Cent­re for Di­gi­tal Cul­tu­res.


Project Lead

Prof. Dr. Jan Müggenburg
Universitätsallee 1, C5.303
21335 Lüneburg
Fon +49.4131.677-1647

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Hagen (†)
Universitätsallee 1
21335 Lüneburg

Project Assistants

Anna-Lena Wiechern, M.A.
Universitätsallee 1, C5.329
21335 Lüneburg
Fon +49.4131.608-2177

Cooperation Partners

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Karin Harrasser
Kunstuniversität Linz

Prof. Dr. Mara Mills
New York University / Steinhardt

Student Assistants

Maximilian Mohr
Universitätsallee 1
21335 Lüneburg