Table of contents

Disability and technology
3(102)/2018

I DISABILITY AND TECHNOLOGY

Magdalena Zdrodowska, Sylwia Kołos

Introduction. Disability – techniques of support, techniques of representation

Magdalena Zdrodowska

Technology as a tool of social distinction. Unobvious relations between technology and disability

Beata Borowska-Beszta

Artifacts, military culture and technologies in the service of veterans with disabilities

Wojciech Otto

The strategy of an intermediary in presenting disability on the screen in terms of evolving film technologies and language of motion picture

Katarzyna Ojrzyńska

From the idea of progress to the technology of extermination. the exhibition progress and hygiene and other cultural references to the Nazi extermination of people with disabilities

Anetta Luto-Kamińska

Exploring the 16th-century world of medicinal products and treatments for all kinds of maladies

Sylwia Kołos

From tuberculosis to electric eye. Medicine, disabilities and technology in the Polish film chronicle

Bartosz Wieremiej

Visibility, compensation and control. Video game characters with disabilities

Aleksandra Powierska

Selfies: crafting one’s image and the emancipatory role of photography in representing people with disabilities

 

II CONTEXTS OF DISABILITY

Sławomir Łotysz

Penicillin and prostheses. UNRRA’s help in rehabilitating Poland’s medical industries after World War II

Juliusz Iwanicki, Beata Iwanicka

Deaf culture and hearing assistive technologies. Between cyborgization and neo-luddism of the deaf and hard of hearing

Robert Więckowski

“The cloud” of art accessible online

 

III BOUNDARIES OF ART

Jerzy Olek

Mathemarts

Katarzyna Wiącek

The bidonville architecture in Casablanca

 

IV REVIEWS

Agnieszka Kaczmarek

The indivisible and its limits

Magdalena Juźwik

In the circus triad

Magdalena Szewerniak

Return to interpretation or the Interpretative Dictionary of Cultural Terms 2.0

Disability and technology

Assistive technologies are solutions designed to improve everyday functioning of people with disabilities. However, critical analysis of this concept may lead to surprising conclusions. If under the term of assistive technologies we understand solutions that support everyday functioning of human body and mind, it turns out that in fact every technology could be considered to be assistive in one way or another. Nevertheless, commonly used technologies are identified as assistive only when they are intended for users with disabilities. This indicates how ambiguous this concept is and that assistive technology (just like disability) is in fact a social and cultural construct.

The article deals with advanced technology and its basic applications used to support military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), presenting it in the context of military culture, or more narrowly, the culture of soldiers who have become veterans. The text discusses problems with defining the disability in veterans with PTSD acquired during active military service, analyzes such values as health and fitness in terms of military culture, and identifies specific needs in providing assistance to military veterans, including technology as a discreet tool intended to improve their cognitive, emotional, mental and social functioning, and everyday life skills. It also outlines various rehabilitation possibilities with the use of computers, the Internet, online communication, and virtual reality (VR).

In Polish cinema disability is not a marginal phenomenon. It is commonly depicted through images of people with disabilities, often shown in the context of social stereotypes, and strategies of their presentation as adopted by filmmakers. They might include the strategy of a witness, activist, craftsman, artist, etc. Each of them determines the author’s approach to the topic, and the purpose of such production. With the advancements in technology, the most representative strategy seems to be that of an intermediary which provides for the use of modern and innovative means of expression in film production, including special effects and intentional deconstruction of the narrative. By adopting this strategy, the filmmakers try to reach the psyche and inner self of their film character who is disabled, thus constructing his or her image on the screen with a variety of sophisticated means of expression. Such approach is characteristic not only of popular culture productions, but also of independent art films. It allows to address mass audience, often young viewers, and their demand for highly attractive images, as well as to recognize the authors’ need to talk about difficult and controversial topics in an original and convincing manner.

The article starts with a general reflection on the extermination technology developed by the German Nazis to effect mass murder of psychiatric patients. It discusses the references to these often neglected and largely forgotten historical facts that are conspicuous in the exhibition Progress and Hygiene and other cultural texts. The author analyzes the manner in which the exhibition reminds its viewers of these events and exposes the forms of operation of various Foucauldian technologies that enable control over individuals and societies.

The research material for the article was based on Polish medical texts from the 16th century which present a valuable source of knowledge about the past concepts of health and disease, as well as diagnostic and therapeutic options available at that time. These early printed texts shed light on what other things,apart from health,were important to people in the times of Renaissance, and what advice was popularly sought. The cited medical works provide answers to many questions,including instructions how to get rid of freckles and wrinkles,dye hair, whiten teeth or obtain a dream figure.They also offer practical advice on how to eat, care for hygiene, and even how to check if one’s wife was faithful. The lead motif of the article does not seem to differ much from what constitutes an important component of life and research also in the 21st century.

The author of the text draws on the Polish Film Chronicle (PKF, Polska Kronika Filmowa) in which the subject of disability and illnesses is presented in a very original manner compared to the Chronicle’s typical propaganda contents. Appearing as early as in the first episodes after World War II, with minor exceptions, it remains free of propaganda accents. Instead a stronger emphasis is put on issues related to advancements in medicine, medical technologies and therapies. One of the most interesting topics addressed in the Chronicle are Polish health resorts and sanatoriums, among which the ones intended for children were of particular importance. The article also discusses the poetics of the films, ways of presenting the diseases and therapies in the PKF. The author examines popular episodes about disabilities, medicine and physical therapy, exploring what and how was accentuated by the filmmakers, what characters, patients and convalescents, they were particularly interested in, and how the narrative of the chronicles changed between the 1940s and 1970s.

Characters with disabilities do not often appear in video games. In fact, there are hundreds of virtual worlds in which disability is practically absent, invisible, almost unacceptable. The article aims to draw attention to how characters with disabilities function in the game environment. What changes when we are in charge of or when we otherwise interact with a character with disability? What impact does the presence of such figures have on the space and environment of the game?

The article aims to analyze the importance of selfies as an emancipatory tool used by people with disabilities. As observed by Jose van Dijck, in the era of new technologies the value of individual photographs and images as private memorabilia is decreasing while their potential in the area of social communication is on the rise; photos are turning into a visual language. Major role is here played by selfies, self-portraits intended as a form of self-presentation and self-creation. The person presented is at the same time the presenter who gives meaning to his or her own image, indirectly imposing it on others. A selfie has become a tool of emancipation for people with disabilities. Having regained their own look, they can oppose the looks from others which often express compassion, surprise or rejection. Similarly to selfie-feminism, which is to fight the power of the male gaze, selfies of people with disabilities are to fight the power of the gaze as such, with social media as the main frontline. In the article, a selfie is analyzed with respect to the theory of visual language (van Dijck, Rubinstein), and research on crafting one’s own image online.

Contexts of disability

When World War II came to an end, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) offered substantial aid to many countries, including Poland. It provided food, medicine and clothing to millions of war victims, and also provided‘help to self-help’the nations as a whole, by assisting local government entities in reconstructing industry, agriculture, and transportation infrastructure in the war-torn countries. For example, a penicillin factory and a prosthetic production facility were built in Poland as part of the UNRRA program. This paper draws a comparison between disabled veterans and the early postwar states. The latter, also significantly affected by the war, had to be similarly aided and rehabilitated in order to regain their ability to perform their everyday duties. The article sheds light on how the artificial limb plant program was negotiated to meet the needs of Poland and its war veterans. The research was carried out with financial support from the National Science Centre, Poland, under Research Grant No. 2014/13/B/ HS3/04951.

The article focuses on hearing assistive technologies for hearing impaired people, and analyzes them in terms of the development of Deaf Culture. The culture of this community manifests itself through their attachment to the use of sign language and in various artistic activities which strengthen the identity of the members and supporters. With various assistive technologies available (particularly hearing aids and cochlear implants), a cultural dilemma arises related on the one hand to the cyborgisation and on the other hand to the neo-Luddism of the deaf and hard of hearing. Most of them avail of technology, but at the price of a certain level of cyborgization. However, there is a minority in Deaf Culture which, wishing to preserve its Deaf identity, rejects technology, thus subscribing to the technophobic process of opposing technological devices and machines, initiated by the Luddites in the 19th century.

Dissemination of art online is nowadays a global practice adopted by many museums and galleries. While the reasons behind it may be diverse, one of them is to provide access to works of art and art spaces to people with disabilities. The article analyzes the legitimacy of using modern technologies in communication with people with disabilities, and presents examples of solutions implemented in Polish social and cultural reality in order to make art accessible to people with disabilities. It also identifies opportunities and threats that may arise in connection with such communication model between cultural institutions and people with disabilities.

Boundaries of art

Mathematics, being a study on reality moulding, is a science of structures. Artists often draw on the patterns developed in this area. And mathematicians themselves present some of the theories as images that can be seen as works of visual arts. Inevitable questions appear about what art is and what it can be, and should objects, which were not made by artists, be seen as artistic. There are and always have been a lot of common themes: classic geometry with its central perspective, non-Euclidean geometry, topological aspects, reversible figures, impossible objects, fractals, anamorphosis, theory of numbers, games and many more.

The article analyzes the informal architecture of bidonvilles, contemporary shanty towns or slums in Casablanca, Morocco. In the years from 1920 to 1950, Casablanca was an architectural laboratory for French architects and urban planners. New plans of the city expansion by Tardif, Prost, Courtois, and Écochard aimed to structure the uncontrolled sprawl of the city, and define the urban layout of the respective districts. Bidonvilles kept growing as a result of mass migration of the Berbers who were detribalized under the French Protectorate and forced to move from the country to the city. The text discusses bidonvilles as a specific form of transferring“ruralness”to the globalized and overcrowded urban space. It is an expression of willful architecture,“architecture without architect”, erected by the users themselves, out of necessity, without respect for construction standards.

Reviews

Mukherjee Siddhartha, Gen. Ukryta historia [The Gene: An Intimate History], tłum. Jan Dzierzgowski. Wołowiec: Wydawnictwo Czarne, 2017.

Kondrasiuk, Grzegorz, red., Cyrk w świecie widowisk [Circus in the World of Spectacles]. Lublin: Warsztaty Kultury w Lublinie, 2017.

Madejski, Jerzy, Sławomir Iwasiów, red., Interpretatywny słownik terminów kulturowych 2.0 [Return to Interpretation or the Interpretative Dictionary of Cultural Terms 2.0]. Szczecin: Zachodniopomorskie Centrum Doskonalenia Nauczycieli, Wydawnictwo Naukowe Uniwersytetu Szczecińskiego 2017.