Date of Degree

6-2021

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

English

Advisor

Carrie Hintz

Committee Members

Matthew K. Gold

Stephen Brier

Subject Categories

Digital Humanities | Disability Studies | Science and Technology Studies

Keywords

infrastructure, autobiography, techne, hacking, autonomy, epatient

Abstract

Negotiated Access asks how we can exercise our values from within systems and structures over which we have little control. The project, fundamentally, is about autonomy, a specific form of resistance to control, or the ability to act on values or goals despite influence from outside or above. Negotiation, here, is the ongoing encounter with enclosing or encircling systems, entities, or spaces. It is the gap, the small room for maneuver, between ourselves and the physical or social environment.

The project begins with local and concrete challenges and radiates outward to analyze and critique broader structures, forces, and institutions that universalize and abstract. Chapter one briefly frames the project in the context of my own experiences as a blind humanist and hacker seeking to research and write in a field dominated by print, proprietary databases, and other inaccessible formats and systems. Chapter Two considers how people, and especially people with disabilities, negotiate the immediate built environment, and introduces haccessibility, or the use of individual workarounds, prosthetics, or approaches to circumvent inaccessible social and physical structures. This chapter considers an alternate model of disability, the negotiated model, that may be of use in specific contexts. Chapter Three will engage with two autobiographies of disability. These readings will provide extended explorations of haccessibility, but more importantly suggest ways autonomy can be exercised in the face of imposed narratives. Chapter Four will consider the humanities as a larger affinity group and explore its negotiation, or failure to negotiate, in the broader context of the academy and an encircling society that does not share its values. In doing so, this chapter examines “lay hermaneutics,” or alternate humanities traditions developed outside the academy that contrast with our own approaches to engagement with the public. Finally, Chapter Five will aim at the largest systems at global scale of which we as individuals and humanity more broadly are components. We’ll term this theorized enclosure “the Abstraction,” and consider its implications on our collective capability for resistance. In so doing, we’ll critically analyze the conceptual space occupied by the term “technology” and attempt to reclaim some small portion for ourselves as “techne,” ways of knowing and doing that enable, rather than erode, autonomy.

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