Accepted Paper:

Deaf futures: moralities of technology in a deaf/hearing workplace  


Rebekah Cupitt (Birkbeck, University of London)

Paper short abstract:

Empowering a disabled deaf minority through new technologies is only one moral view of a better future. This paper presents a workplace example of how technology, deafness and multiple moralities intersect in potentially transformative ways.

Paper long abstract:

In a setting where Deaf and hearing employees working together to produce television content, this study highlights the intersections of multiple visions of video meeting technologies. Like most technological innovations, video meeting technology has its own rhetoric founded on working towards a better future. This future is a 'virtual reality' of mediated meetings that are indistinguishable from face-to-face meetings. When it comes to communication between deaf and hearing, visions of the future created by technological innovators, shift to focus more on 'enabling' flawless communication across language and cultural barriers. Visions of the future for these types of video meetings focus on creating equality for a 'disabled deaf' through increased access to information and communication alternatives. This contrasts slightly with how Deaf employees' express their video meeting needs and the moral concepts they invoke. These underlying moralities of these visions emerge in the ways hearing employees talk about their deaf colleagues' needs and especially through how they summon up notions of deafness and tie them to the morally powerful concepts of empowerment and discrimination.

These different moral views are situated within a state-run and funded, centralised organisation with its own moral ontology (at times, shared by its employees - deaf, hearing and translators alike). On occasions when individual and organisational agendas collide, there is potential for employees to manipulate and strategically employ the moral discourse and rhetorics of future visions of video meetings to influence policy and procurement processes in interesting and arguably, unintended ways.

Panel Tem01
Technological visions of the future: political ontologies and ethics