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. and Soldatic, K. (2012) ‘The arrival of the ‘brown envelope’: The embodied experience of welfare reform in the UK’, paper presented at 6th Biennial Disability Studies Conference, Lancaster University, 11-13 September.
Within the UK, the restructuring of disability social security measures under the Cameron Government welfare to work agenda has received considerable attention within the mainstream media. Frequently, we are exposed to a range of discourses and discursive practices that seek to morally, politically and socially justify the on-going withdrawal of disability social entitlements via the realm of disability benefits such as the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). While there has been a growing body of work that has sought to identify the significant material and stigmatising effects of the Cameron Government’s disability welfare to work agenda, thus far, there have been few studies that have directly drawn upon the rich narratives of disabled women who have directly experienced the coercive administrative procedures of the government’s welfare to work agenda.
In this paper, we begin to fill this significant gap in the literature. Our point of analysis seeks to understand disabled women’s emotionally embodied experience of receiving information from the administrative department responsible for notifying disabled ESA recipients of welfare assessments and other mandatory requirements such as job centre appointments that form part of these reforms. We argue, that exploring disabled women’s embodied experience of the arrival of the brown envelope, the envelope containing welfare reform administrative requirements for ESA recipients, provides a critical window into understanding the nascent forms of psycho-social embodied disablism that emerges under such coercive disciplining regimes. Further, through the use of narrative methodologies, we show that the disabling effects of such administrative processes not only affect the ‘emotional wellbeing’ of the individuals concerned, but have far greater consequences for the processing of their legitimate claims to disability social entitlements.
Reeve, D. (2012) ‘Psycho-emotional disablism: The missing link?’, in N. Watson, A. Roulstone and C. Thomas (eds) Routledge Handbook of Disability Studies, London: Routledge, pp. 78-92.
This book chapter uses the phenomenological concept of social dys-appearance to highlight the embodied nature of psycho-emotional disablism and the manner in which it is mediated by impairment and impairment effects via the operation of cultural prejudices about disability.
Reeve, D. (2011) ‘Psycho-emotional disablism and the ‘dys-appearing’ body: Implications for the disability/impairment divide’, paper presented at Theorizing Normalcy and the Mundane (2nd international conference), Manchester Metropolitan University, 14-15 September (keynote).
The social model of disability has been criticised for maintaining an artificial separation of the impaired body from socially constructed disability. Whilst politically this has been very useful in helping the disabled people’s movement recognise and challenge forms of social oppression experienced by people with impairments, this dichotomy fails to recognise the ‘carnal politics of everyday life’ (Paterson and Hughes, 1999). Drawing on phenomenological concepts, these authors showed that when people with impairments experience disabling barriers such as patronising behaviour, then the impaired body is brought into focus, ‘dys-appearing’ because of its perceived ‘abnormality’.
It is clear that the experience of psycho-emotional disablism (Thomas, 2007) which arises from disablist attitudes and behaviours at the interpersonal level, is closely related to Paterson and Hughes’ account of the ‘dys-appearing’ body. Therefore, one aim of this paper is to examine what the concept of social dys-appearance can bring to an analysis of different forms of psycho-emotional disablism. I will show that this provides a useful deconstruction of internalised oppression, identifying the difference between ‘false consciousness’ and ‘double consciousness’. I then extend the analysis to the experiences of ‘passing’ and creating oneself as the ‘disabled subject’ when applying for disability benefits.
These examples show that psycho-emotional disablism is embodied, which in turn has implications for discussions about the impairment/disability divide. Rather than ignoring impairment (social model) or suggesting that impairment is socially constructed, instead I will suggest that when considering psycho-emotional disablism, it is necessary to take account of impairment as part of the analysis of disablism. Bodies do matter; impaired bodies are not all considered equally in the cultural psyche. Therefore it could be predicted that prejudice (which leads to psycho-disablism) is mediated by perceived impairment – that psycho-emotional disablism can take different forms depending on what is known/visible to the other (non) disabled person.