Assistance, Assistants and Assistive Media

Assistance, Assistants and Assistive Media. Barriers and Interfaces of Digital Cultures

Conference, 1–3 July 2021, online/Zoom (Closed captions will be available)

As digital devices and automated systems are becoming more and more ubiquitous, human-machine interactions are mediated through a growing number and variety of interfaces.

This constellation of machines ‘helping‘ humans is sometimes referred to as an act of (technological) assistance. While the term "assistive technology" is usually reserved for (high and low tech) devices devised for people with sensory, cognitive or motor disabilities, the terminology of technological engineering seems to have a broader meaning: here an "assistive system" (Assistenzsystem) is any computer based device or programme that supports any user in successfully completing a specific task. Consequently, from an engineering point of view, the need for assistance is relational as well as temporary, since it only emerges from a specific (media) environment. This view resonates with statements from scholars within disability studies who point out that most technology – especially the "smart" kind – is assistive in principle, so it seems unnecessary to qualify certain devices as assistive but others not (see for example Katherine Ott).

Taking this perspective as a point of departure, this conference focuses on the investigation of software, hardware, interfaces and devices as mediators of barriers. It aims at an understanding of technological assistants in general and assistive technologies in particular as ‘assistive media‘ – media that intervene in an already existing technological environment and add an additional level of mediation to the human-machine interaction.

Download Flyer

For more information and registration please contact: