chapter  26
12 Pages

What can the study of science and technology tell us about disability?

ByStuart Blume

For all but its poorest inhabitants, life in a wealthy industrial society depends on a host of sophisticated technologies: for travel, communication, learning, carrying out household tasks, entertainment and leisure, and, of course, work. Engaging in these activities without recourse to airplanes, telephones, computers, microwave ovens, DVD players, and so on, requires imagination and effort. People who choose to live their lives with only minimal use of modern technology, such as the Amish, are generally regarded as quaint or eccentric. For many more people a vacation provides an opportunity for returning to ‘the simple life’: a precisely delimited period of time in which walking replaces driving, conversation replaces television, and the thermostatically controlled central heating gives way to the log fire. The rest of the time we strive for increased convenience or efficiency – enhanced functionality. But the effects of how we use all this technology go beyond this. Social life is experienced as structured by and around technologies. Widespread use of communications technologies (e-mail, MSN, social networking, texting, and so on) in particular seems to be leading to forms of sociality very different from those of the past.