Disability And The Digital. Conversations Across Sociology, Cultural Studies and Disability Studies

I would like to draw your attention to the international conversation series Disability and the Digital, which addresses the intersections of the sociology of the body, cultural studies, and disability studies that I am co-organizing with colleagues from Berlin, Hamburg and New York.

You can find more information and register for the individual sessions below.

Disability And The Digital

Conversations Across Sociology, Cultural Studies and Disability Studies


  • Vertr.-Prof. Dr. Hanna Göbel, HafenCity Universität, Hamburg
  • Dr. Mona Sloane, New York University (NYU) / University of Tübingen
  • Dr. Mara Mills, New York University (NYU)
  • Prof. Dr. Robert Stock, Institut für Kulturwissenschaft, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
  • Dr. Melike Şahinol, Orient-Institut Istanbul, Turkey

Partners / Supporters 


Today, technologies, embodiments and disabilities are deeply entangled and are creating complex intimate relationships. At the same time, these intimate entanglements are often affected by bias baked into connected devices, software, or algorithms. Yet, social discrimination extending through technology is not a new topic. Beginning in the 1970s, more and more research in feminist technoscience, science and technology studies (STS), disability studies, postcolonial studies, urban studies and sociology – particularly in sociology of body, gender, technology and space – has shown that discriminations through technologies are bodily enacted and fabricated in social practices. One shared focus was e.g. on gendered and racialized technological promises. Other perspectives pointed towards the bodily mis/uses of technology, especially in intersectional views, and in contexts of disabled bodies and other marginalized bodily belongings in society. Due to the emergence of “intelligent” and “smart” digital technologies, as well as the mounting threat of global crises – ranging from public health to climate, and inequality – questions about participation and the “competent” bodily use of technology are becoming increasingly pressing.

This current constellation has radical exclusionary effects for disability communities and their partaking in society. Especially the global crisis experience of the pandemic Covid-19, however, has also shed light on a boosted process of transformation. Recent studies once more reassure that the latest implementations of “intelligent” and “smart” digital technologies cannot recognize and differentiate the bodily complexity and queerness of social belongings.

Critiques of these newer forms of digital discrimination are, furthermore, directed at the promises of digital technology’s acceleration of inclusion, a narrative which is often perpetuated by tech companies and policy makers alike. This shows the need for discussions around the future enactments of complex embodiments with and through the use of digital technology. It points to the urgent need to center the disability community as a maker and innovator community.

This series brings together perspectives from North America, Europe, and the Middle East and will convene conversations on embodiment, bodily belongings, disability, and the digital at the intersection of sociology, cultural studies, disability studies and activism. The point of departure is to strengthen the international dialogue along the most recent developments. The aim is to generate conversations and impulses for a sustainable international community that explores the role of digital technologies in the heterogenization of society.

Event Overview

The conversations will be held virtually and in English and will bring together experts in the fields of dis/ability studies, STS, sociology, and adjacent fields, from around the globe with a specific focus on developing a dialogue with West Asia. Currently planned are up to 6 events per academic year in the academic years 2022-2023 (one session per month, e.g. first Thursday of the month), held for 60 minutes over lunch EST (12-1pm EST) / night TRT (7-8 pm) via Zoom and adhering to accessibility standards, with 2 moderators and 2-3 guests. The events will be moderated by the organizing team. Panelists are asked to prepare an opening statement of max. 7 minutes to kick-off the panel discussion. The audience can ask questions via the chat function.


Co-Opting AI: Queer April, 07, 2022, 6-7 pm CEST | 12-1 pm EST | 7-8 pm TRT

Thematic focus: The “Queering AI” session will examine how artificial intelligence systems that rely on data extraction and automated large-scale data classification and processing can solidify heteronormative and ableist socio-technical infrastructures. It will draw connections between queer studies and activism, disabilities studies, and critical technologies studies to consider how “queering AI” can serve both as critique and as creative practice that interrogates and challenges discrimination in technology.


  • Mona Sloane


  • Arjun Subramonian


  • Dr. Louise Hickman
  • Dr. Sara Morais dos Santos Bruss


When: April, 07, 2022, 6-7 pm CEST | 12-1 pm EST | 7-8 pm TRT

Please register here for the event: here.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with information about attending the meeting.

Dr. Louise Hickman is an activist and scholar of communication, and uses ethnographic, archival, and theoretical approaches to consider how access is produced for disabled people. Her current project focuses particularly on access produced by real-time stenographers and transcriptive technologies in educational settings. She uses an interdisciplinary lens drawing on feminist theory, critical disability studies, and science and technology studies to consider the historical conditions of access work, and the ways access is co-produced through human (and primarily female) labour, technological systems, and economic models and conditions.  Louise is currently a Research Associate at the Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy at the University of Cambridge.  Louise previously worked as a Senior Research Officer at the London School of Economics and Political Science Department of Media and Communications and at Ada Lovelace Institute’s JUST-AI Network on Data and AI Ethics. She continues to co-convene the JUST AI’s working group on rights, access and refusal. An academic, artist, activist, she earned her PhD in Communication from the University of California, San Diego in 2018, and held a postdoctoral position in the Feminist Labor Lab at UC San Diego.

Since 2016, Louise has also worked as an access consultant and speaker for Parkeology, a U.S. based public art program.

Dr. Sara Morais dos Santos Bruss is a cultural and media theorist, feminist and educator currently affiliated with the GenderConceptGroup at Technical University Dresden’s Digital Gender Project as a postdoc. Sara’s current research explores dimensions of technological relationality, materiality, and aesthetics. More specifically, Sara interrogates AI imaginaries and their material realities through feminist, queer and decolonial theorizing, currently focussing on speculative AI projects and the arts. Sara is on the board of diffrakt. centre for theoretical periphery in Berlin, an editor at kritisch-lesen.de and affiliated researcher with the Data Politics Lab, a collective committed to exploring political dimensions of technological governance.

Arjun Subramonian (they/them) is a brown queer neurodivergent PhD student and Cota-Robles fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Their research focuses on inclusive graph machine learning & natural language processing, drawing from mathematical theory and LGBTQIA+ perspectives. They are a core organizer of Queer in AI, a NeurIPS 2022 Affinity Workshops chair, and a NAACL 2022 DEI chair. They previously organized QWER Hacks and taught machine learning and AI ethics at under-resourced schools in Los Angeles. Arjun graduated with a B.S. in Computer Science from UCLA, where they received the School of Engineering’s Outstanding Bachelor of Science, Chancellor’s Service, and Student Welfare awards. Twitter: @arjunsubgraph.

Mona Sloane, Ph.D. is a sociologist working on design and inequality, specifically in the context of AI design and policy. She is a Senior Research Scientist at the NYU Center for Responsible AI, Faculty at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, a Fellow with NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge (IPK) and The GovLab, and the Director of the *This Is Not A Drill* program on technology, inequality and the climate emergency at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She is principal investigator on multiple research projects on AI and society, and holds an affiliation as postdoctoral scholar with the Tübingen AI Center at the University of Tübingen in Germany. Mona founded and runs the IPK Co-Opting AI series at NYU and currently serves as editor of the technology section at Public Books. She holds a PhD in Sociology from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Follow her on Twitter @mona_sloane.

Questioning Smart Urban Mobility April, 28, 2022, 6-7 pm CEST | 12-1 pm EST | 7-8 TRT

Thematic focus: This session will discuss the impact of open data, sensing devices and AI on public transport and autonomous driving with a particular focus on the possibilities and problems of so-called smart mobilities for disabled people. How does the development of “smart” and algorithmic mobilities raise questions about bodily or sensory differences as well as for spaces such as roads and sidewalks? What projects might challenge the normative bias inscribed in mobility technologies? By tackling these issues, the event addresses the ambivalences of automobile autonomy, reflecting on accessible routing and interdependence as a crucial dimension of sustainable, accessible and fair mobility for all people.


  • Robert Stock



When: April, 28, 2022, 6-7 pm CEST | 12-1 pm EST | 7-8 TRT  

Please register here for the event: here.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with information about attending the meeting.

Cynthia Bennett is a human-computer interaction researcher studying the impact of sociotechnical systems, including novel AI powered experiences, on people with disabilities. A postdoctoral researcher in Carnegie Mellon University’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute, Cynthia received a Ph.D. from the University of Washington’s Human Centered Design and Engineering Department. Current research focuses on the intersection of AI, novel accessibility solutions, and bias as well as accessible computing research labs and design studios. Cynthia’s research findings inform inclusive and ethically-designed processes and experiences.

Gerard Goggin is the Wee Kim Wee Chair in Communication Studies at Nanyang Technological Unversity and an internationally renowned scholar in communication, cultural, and media studies. His influential research on the cultural and social dynamics of digital technology includes books such as Cell Phone Culture (2006) and Global Mobile Media (2011). A key researcher in the area of accessibility, digital technology and disability, he is profoundly engaged in research on Internet and digital technology accessibility. Gerard Goggin has long-standing interests in the social, cultural, political, and policy dynamics of emerging technology – especially mobile communication and media, Internet, social media, and, most recently, Internet of Things, connected cars, automation and AI. Current research project: Designing AI to Stop Disability Bias.

Constantin Grosch is an inclusion activist, member of the district council of the city of Hameln for the Social Democratic Party, member of the board of trustees Forum Inklusion Hameln, chairman of the supervisory board VHP/Öffis in Hameln-Pyrmont. As a project manager of BarrierenBrechen at Social Heros (Sozialheld*innen) in Berlin, he is involved in centering accessibility and inclusion regarding public transport systems in Germany i.e. through accessible routing planning.

Refusal and Resistance May 19, 2022, 6-7 pm CEST | 12-1 pm EST | 7-8 pm TRT

Thematic focus: The session will depart from ableist critiques and sociological debates pointing towards the dominating functionalist view on bodily and neuro-typical competence-orientation in social research and in many socio-technical and digital constellations. It wishes to inquire about recent discussions on what it means to conceptualize refusal, bodily resistant practices and bodily unavailabilities for heterogeneously differentiated societies. The aim is to bring this into dialogue with the figure of the technocrip and crip technoscience as developed in critical disability studies and access studies.


  • Hanna Göbel 


  • Tobias Boll
  • Katta Spiel
  • Ashley Shew

Tobias Boll, is a sociologist at Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz. His research areas include the sociology of the body, gender studies, and studies of “human categorization”. In his ongoing research he investigates constructions of dis/ability in sexual education programs and assistance services for people with disabilities. Methodologically, his work combines ethnographic and discourse analytical strategies. He is currently a substitute professor for methods of empirical social research at the University of Bayreuth. 

Katta Spiel,  researches marginalised perspectives on technology. Their work informs  design and engineering in critical ways to support the development of technologies that account for the diverse realities they operate in.  Their research is situated at the intersection of Computer Science, Design and Cultural Studies. Drawing on methods from (Critical) Participatory Design and Action Research, Katta collaborates with neurodivergent and/or nonbinary peers in conducting explorations of novel potentials for designs, methodological contributions to Human-Computer Interaction and innovative technological artefacts. Currently, Katta is a FWF Hertha-Firnberg scholar at the HCI Group of TU Wien (Vienna University of Technology), where they work on the project “Exceptional Norms: Marginalised Bodies in Interaction Design”.

Ashley Shew, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Science, Technology, and Society at Virginia Tech (US). Shew works on disability narratives about technology, which include themes around cyborg/cripborg resistance; this work is part of a US National Science Foundation sponsored project on Disability, Experience, and Technological Imagination (#1750250). Her past work argues for the inclusion of non-human animal tool use in our accounts of technology and knowledge, Animal Constructions and Technological Knowledge (2017). She is co-editor of three volumes in Philosophy of Technology and current co-editor-in-chief for Techné (the journal of the Society for Philosophy and Technology). She’s currently working on a popular oriented book called Technoableism and, with her research team, open educational resources on counter narratives about technology and disability.

Access Aesthetics in Dance and Performance, June 16, 2022, 6-7 pm CEST | 12-1 pm EST | 7-8 pm TRT

Thematic focus: The session “Access Aesthetics in Dance and Performance” wishes to discuss the aesthetics of access in dance and performance. It will bring together experts of dance and performance, who work on digital technologies of access, especially in the context of the digital distribution of dance pieces and performances. The aim is to discuss access in the digital realm by means of how disability aesthetics in dance and performance challenge the collective sensorium.


  • Hanna Göbel
  • Mara Mills 


  • Nina Mühlemann, Bern

Arts & Design, Open Source & DIY Perspectives on Dis/ability, July, 07, 2022, 6-7 pm CEST | 12-1 pm EST | 7-8 pm TRT

Thematic focus: In this panel we focus on the implications of DIY, Open Source and Design aspects as a way of self empowerment for people with disabilities – especially in West Asia. Considering ambivalent sides of self-empowerment and precarious aspects, like digital divide, digital literacy, etc. we shed light on which, e.g. socio-cultural, linguistic, geo-political dimensions have to be taken into account when providing and circulating technoscientific knowledge and designing DIY worldwide. The aim is to not only highlight DIY as a valuable alternative to standardized assistive technologies but also possible conflicting aspects of DIY for people with disabilities in West Asia and thus make a transcultural contribution to Disability Studies and Crip Technoscience.


  • Melike Şahinol
  • Robert Stock 


  • Eser Epözdemir (Visual Artist, Cultural producer, Accessibility in Turkey)
  • Assoc. Prof. Azam Naghavi & Ali Abbasi (University of Isfahan)
  • Zeynep Karagöz (Pro-Maker)


When: July, 07, 2022, 6-7 pm CEST | 12-1 pm EST | 7-8 pm TRT

Please register: here. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with information about attending the meeting.

Eser Epözdemir, (b.1984, Istanbul) the artist studied Fine Arts at Valencia Polytechnic University and Painting at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, holds an MA degree in Visual Arts and Visual Communication Design from Sabancı University. She focuses on systemic change, mechanisms of functioning, inclusivity/equality/apathy, and the way things relate to each other. In addition to her artistic productions and research she worked in various areas of the art and culture industry such as publishing and radio (as the managing editor and broadcaster of the Açık Dergi (Açık Radyo 95.0) program between 2013-2015). Epözdemir is the Culture and Art Accessibility Consultant of Erişilebilir Her Şey; a start-up company that provides services for individuals with different physical characteristics. 

Dr. Azam Naghavi is an Associate Professor in the Department of Counseling, Faculty of Education and Psychology, University of Isfahan, Iran. She has finished her PhD in Psychology at Monash University, Australia, and in 2014 moved back to Iran and started her work at the University of Isfahan. Since 2015, she is appointed as the representative of internationalization of the Faculty of Education and Psychology and made efforts in expanding the University’s international relationships. she is responsible for running the Master’s degree program on Rehabilitation Counseling in the University of Isfahan. Her main research interests are empowerment of people with special needs including people with disability or chronic illness, traumatized, minority and marginalized people.

Ali Abbasi, is a young disability advocate in Isfahan, Iran. He has received his MA in Political Sciences and International Relationships from the University of Isfahan. He has a physical disability and had done considerable activities in the area of disability rights, such as being a member of youth consulting council in the City of Isfahan, director of the people with disability section in the Isfahan annual film festival, member of adaptability council. His books -Accessible tourism, Infographic of rights of people with disability, & How to treat people with disability- as well as his published papers are some other examples of his works as a disability advocate.      

Zeynep Karagöz graduated from Üsküdar American Academy for Girls and MSÜ – Architecture after attending an ordinary grade school with an extraordinary teacher. In 2001 she co-founded KOMA Architecture with Serdar Okumuş. In 2008 KOMA merged with 5 dakika and became an experience design service company. In 2014, they started making 3D printed mechanical hands for children with hand deformation who don’t have access to prosthetics in Robotel Türkiye. They also volunteered in the Maker Community. In 2017, Robotel became an NGO and the Maker projects turned into a social entrepreneurship business. They made programs on 21.Century & technology skills with Maker Çocuk & Maker Atölye. Today, Zeynep continues in Robotel as head of the Association. She also shares her expertise and experience in multidimensional & multidisciplinary projects as a speaker, consultant, trainer & mentor. She defines myself as a PROMAKER who is a civil society addict & a social entrepreneurship fan.

Crip Authorship: Disability as Method (Preview Event), September 8, 2022, 6-7 pm CEST | 12-1 pm EST | 7-8 pm TRT

Thematic Focus: This panel offers a preview of Crip Authorship: Disability as Method, an edited collection to be published by NYU Press in December 2022. The volume surveys research, writing, genre, publishing, and media in disability studies and activism. Editors Mara Mills and Rebecca Sanchez will introduce the collection, followed by presentations from three of the authors whose chapters focus on disability and the digital.


  • Mara Mills, with co-editor Rebecca Sanchez


  • Louise Hickman on AI and captioning
  • Emily Lim Rogers on virtual ethnography
  • Bri M on accessible podcasting