Reeve, D. (2016) ‘(Re)making the human: A discussion of disability and impairment in virtual reality’, paper presented at Theorizing Normalcy and the Mundane, 6th International Conference, Manchester Metropolitan University, 25-26 July.
Online and video games have been criticised for consistently excluding (and overlooking) disabled gamers (Powers et al 2015). There have also been discussions of how disabled players present themselves as (non)disabled in these virtual worlds as well as the emotional/health benefits to the individual of making social contacts outside real life.
Drawing on the notion of Braidotti’s critical posthuman subjectivity (2013) I want to present my own experience of playing the quirky MMO game called Glitch which ended in 2012.In addition I have been working with an international group who are recreating the game as Eleven, a project supported by the use of Slack, a phenomenally successful workplace communication tool produced by the makers of Glitch.
I want to consider how participation changes for disabled people as they move from the real to the virtual. What does this journey enable and create? How do the meanings of ‘disability’ and ‘impairment’ change when one moves within digital spaces? These examples of ‘(re)making the human’ will be further discussed through an analysis of my personal experience of contributing to Eleven and using Slack, a software platform which incorporates ‘gamification’ at the possible expense of ‘includification’.
Reeve, D. (2010) ‘Ableism and disability studies: The myth of the reliable and contained body’, paper presented at Critical Disability Studies Conference: Theorizing Normalcy and the Mundane, Manchester Metropolitan University, 12-13 May.
Disability studies literature has focused on the production of disablism, the practices and assumptions which underpin the social oppression of people with impairments. In contrast, ableism, refers to the privileging of able-bodiedness and is created by a ‘network of beliefs, processes and practices that produce a particular kind of self and body (the corporeal standard) that is projected as the perfect, as the species-typical, and, therefore, as essential and fully human’ (Campbell, 2005: 127). As well as contributing to the valuing of a body which moves, thinks, speaks, sees and hears ‘normally’, able-bodiedness also privileges a body that is reliable and contained.
In some respects, disability studies analyses of disablism have been unduly influenced by these ableist assumptions, concentrating on the ‘paradigmatic person with a disability [who] is healthy disabled and permanently and predictably impaired’ (Wendell, 2001:21). This leaves the so-called ‘unhealthy disabled’, those with chronic illness, underrepresented in accounts of experiences of disablism. Related to the ideal of the reliable body, is the importance that bodies are also contained; one of the markers of adulthood, as opposed to childhood, is that bowel and bladder are controlled. However incontinence is a common impairment effect for many disabled adults and fear of an ‘accident’ can keep someone isolated at home as effectively as any other disabling barrier.
This paper will explore the challenges which unreliable and leaky bodies represent for the individual as well as for disability studies, supporting the argument that the experience of (dis)ableism is crucially interconnected with impairment and impairment effects.