Reuniting Speech-Impaired People with Their Voices: Sound Technologies for Disability and Why They Matter for Organisation Studies
Keywords:sound technology, speech syinthesis, voice cloning, disability studies, media studies, organisation studies
This paper intends to provide an analysis of sound and voice technologies for speech-impaired people regarded as sites of knowledge production about disability. The study will focus on the case of Google’s project to reunite speech-impaired users with their voices using voice cloning technology, an evolution of speech synthesis that allows the reconstruction of the sonic and timbral characteristics of a person’s voice. Addressing both the narratives and representations – which reveal a medical model of disability as an external flaw to be cured through technology – and the material practices and operations enacted by those technologies – which highlight epistemologies of human variation, embodiment and accessibility built into the software –, the paper shows that disability as a social construct is co-constituted in the interaction of these levels. In this regard, the following research proposes a socio-technical model of disability theorisation that combines techno-scientific knowledge, cultural values, images of the user, material operations and organisational practices. From this perspective, the paper argues that the study of disabilities would benefit from the contribution of organisation studies and media studies in order to reveal the ‘constructedness’ of disability and able-bodiedness, and the role of media technologies, institutions, and representations in producing and upholding – as well as potentially challenging – such constructions.
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