As I explored different web-based conversations on digital materiality, I was pleasantly surprised to come across the Materiality for Participation Workshop sponsored by the Noridc organization NordiCHI, a “forum for human-computer interaction research” according to the organizations Website (NordiCHI 2012). I came across the workshop and call for papers at the Universal Usability and Interaction Design blog, which, although very interesting, did not include a focus on access–something I had expected. What are the relationships between digital materiality and access–accessibility?
Mathew Krichenbaum notes that “science, in other words, can articulate the exact threshold between the material and the immaterial.” About our awareness of this distinction Krichenbaum cites Michael Heim’s “technology sublime,” users of digital technology “look through the interface unaware.” I wonder if people with disabilities, including myself, experience diminished or perhaps a different type of sublimity in that our bodies and digital materiality shape one another in ways that demand attention–more of a focus on the relationship between the material and immaterial. This thinking reminded me of affect theory, but, as usual, that is a thought for a different post. As I allowed my ADHD to lead my exploration of digital materiality, I bumped into “Material Skeuomorphism and the Relationship of Form to Function” by Shad Gross. When Gross discusses the spactiality of Google’s calendar as a skeuomprphism (He explains as skeuomprphism as, “holdovers from previous material construction requirements of an artifact, for example building facades in concrete that maintain stylistic aspects that were required by marble or wood.”) I was reminded of the many times I have tired to imagine the materiality of the digital tools I use, including Google calendars, because when I or my students encounter access challenges I almost always try to discuss–well, what I really mean is explain–the challenges as a ramp metaphor. This is an example of the metaphor: “When my student with dyslexia cannot read a low resolution PDF in a spotty sans serif font, it means that he cannot access the text. We need ramps to make buildings accessible, and we need to understand that poor quality PDFs are like buildings without ramps–inaccessible to some of our students.” All this to say, is my metaphor a of the physical ramp a skeuomprphism when I use it in the digital world? I don’t know.
This line of thinking takes me back to Krichenbaum and his comments on medial. Our class readings have me thinking about the discourse on mind/body separation in 17th and 18th Century Britain and how the rhetoric of digital materiality seems rooted in this discourse. I want to explore what people in the field of composition and rhetoric studies have understood as a distinction and blurring between writing as product or process and how that binary seems related to digital materiality. These thoughts are starting places for me as I reread this week’s readings. Even using the phrase “prime time” in my title for this post has me wondering how the notion of “prime time” functions in digital materiality–that is how time signifies in the material and immaterial.
You can read more about the Materiality for Participation Workshop at the following url: http://uuidsig.wordpress.com/2012/07/09/materiality-for-participation-workshop-at-nordichi-2012/