Writing begins with ideas, but we forget ideas are whispers in our minds. They’re always there. The trouble is we overpower the whispers with the loud voice of what we think we want our ideas to be. It takes quiet patience to listen carefully and that’s what creativity often means: simple quiet courage.
While I admire the effort to present an interesting form, I wonder what the slope is on this ramp. It looks a bit too steep for actual use in a wheelchair, and there aren’t any rails except for stair-climbing people.
i really admire the design for these stairs and how they incorporate a wheelchair access ramp. in a world were barrier free design is essential to living a full and happy life, its amazing to see landscape architect Cornelia Oberlander has taken literal steps to design stairs AROUND a ramp, instead of the other way around.
I am not a cyborg simply because I wear an artificial limb. I see cyborg more as a subject position than an identity, and believe it is more descriptive of my position vis-à-vis the relationships of production, delivery, and use surrounding my prosthesis than my actual interface with it. In other words, if I am to be interpellated as a cyborg, it is because my leg cost $11,000 and my HMO paid for it; because I had to get a job to get the health insurance; because I stand and walk with the irony that the materials and design of my leg are based in the same military technology which has blown the limbs off so many other young men; because the shock absorber in my foot was manufactured by a company which makes shock absorbers for bicycles and motorcycles, and can be read as a product of the post-Cold War explosion of increasingly engineered sports equipment and prostheses; and because the man who built my leg struggles to hold onto his small business in a field rapidly becoming vertically integrated and corporatized. I am not a cyborg simply because I wear an artificial limb, nor is my limb autonomous. Amputees (and other disabled people using assistive technology) are not half-human hybrids with semi-autonomous technology; we are people.” Steven L. Kurzman, “Presence and Prosthesis: A Response to Nelson and Wright.” Cultural Anthropology, 16: 3 (August 2001), 382.
When looking at an unprocessed collection (especially if it has been in someone’s house for 13 years collecting dust,) bring your own archival gloves. You can buy them inexpensively online. Just went through a few boxes of Ron Mace’s old business cards. I didn’t get my finger oils on them and the gloves caught a lot of the dust so I am not as sneezy as I would have otherwise been.
Today is my second day in Raleigh, having arrived here yesterday afternoon after the Duke Feminist Theory Workshop in Durham. I count yesterday as my first research day because I spent it with Joy W., the totally rad and wonderful disabled feminist activist who is the surviving partner of Ron Mace, who coined the term, “Universal Design.” I got to visit the house where Ron lived for about 20 years in Raleigh and where Joy currently lives. We spent the day talking about everything from the redesign of the house (which is full of magic, with amazing porches and a gorgeous accessible kitchen, among other features) to Ron’s life to feminist disability anti-racist politics to the politics of knowledge in the archive. We had an amazing brunch at Humble Pie, where she used to go with Ron, and where we did some work documenting ADA violations in the parking lot before riding around town and talking about places that she and Ron had helped make more accessible. We sat down with Ron’s old phone and address book and went through making notes about folks I should contact (and hoping that their phone numbers haven’t changed). After that, she very generously offered to let me come back to the house to look at some of Ron’s old stuff, which I will be doing as soon as I finish up in the archive during the day at NCSU. We are also talking about working on a digital archive, and digitizing a bunch of VHS videos she has of Ron on TV and of his memorial, among other things.
Today was my first day looking at the Ron Mace papers in the NCSU special collections. I was struck by how different it felt, in an embodied way, than being at NMAH. The reading room was just as hot — I don’t know why that is a thing in the archives. You’d think they would want the ink to not melt off of the paper. They didn’t ask for ID or even make me lock up my stuff, which was good because I could have water a little ways away from my stuff. There was also only one other person in the archival section of the reading room, and he came much later, so I didn’t feel pressured to get there super early. I got there around 10, left for lunch at 1:30 or so, and then spent 2-5 p.m. in the archive before leaving. In that time, I got through about half of the boxes, and I hope to get through the rest tomorrow. We’ll see if it works out because today a lot of the stuff I looked at, I had already seen in the NMAH unprocessed archive on UD.
That archive had some stuff about how this one was being put together and I assumed that it was some sort of collaboration of things, but I learned yesterday that it was mostly stuff that had been inherited and donated by Ron’s nephew to NC State. In that sense, it was a lot of really “official” stuff related to publications and consultancy work at Barrier Free Environments but not anything that was really personal or biographical. So far, I have not found very much institutional history related to the Center for Universal Design either. This means that very little in this archive is related to UD research, which is unfortunate because this is kind of where it began. I’m hoping some of the private collection stuff will have more on that. It has all made me think about the politics of the archive - how resources considered precious are taken from one place to another, and who decides what is worth keeping. What kind of archive of UD would I amass, if I could? What story would it tell?
Tomorrow, I’m headed to Durham, NC for the Duke Feminist Theory Workshop, where this year’s keynotes are Joanna Hodge, Patricia Williams, Gayatri Spivak, and Leti Volpp. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the workshop, there are four keynotes and no other presentations. Attendees are asked to do readings ahead of time and at the end of the conference, there is a seminar in which graduate students discuss the presentations with two professors. My first year, I got to be in a seminar with Liz Grosz and Rey Chow! This is my third year attending the workshop and I’m looking forward to it because I always meet cool new folks and get interesting feedback about my project.
After that, I will be staying in Raleigh for the remainder of the week to do archival research at North Carolina State University, where the Ron Mace papers are housed. While on the trip, I will also be meeting with Mace’s partner and some folks at the R.L. Mace UD Institute. In my archival research workshop the last two weeks, we have talked a lot about the difference between archives at different kinds of institutions. It will be interesting to see the difference between the various types of Smithsonian/NMAH archives I looked at and those here. This is especially the case because there was a great deal of info in the unprocessed Universal Design archive that I was able to access at NMAH that actually had to do with the process of setting up the Ron Mace papers at NCSU. Yay intertextuality!
“Prosthetic arms and legs are beginning to approximate the functionality of our natural limbs”.
Rob Spence aka the “Eyeborg” (a self proclaimed cyborg who lost an eye replaced it with a wireless video camera) investigates prosthetics, cybernetics and human augmentation.
Home made chicken soup (organic and from scratch), using Tyler Florence's recipe. Call it chicken soup for the allergic-to-everything but still busy with research grad student soul.