Reuniting speech-impaired people with their voices: Sound technologies for disability and why they matter for organization studies
Keywords:sound technology, speech synthesis, voice cloning, disability studies, media studies, organization studies
This paper proposes an analysis of sound and voice technologies for speech-impaired people as sites of knowledge production about disability. It 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 which allows for the reconstruction of the sonic and timbric characteristics of an individual 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 argues that disability as a social construct is co-constituted between those levels. In this regard it proposes a socio-technical model of disability theorization which unites techno-scientific knowledge, cultural values, images of the user, material operations and organizational practices. From this perspective the paper argues that the study of disabilities would benefit from the contribution of organization 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.
Alper, M. (2017), Giving Voice: Mobile Communication, Disability, and Inequality. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Anderson, C. (2008), “The end of theory: The data deluge makes the scientific method obsolete”, in Wired, 23 June 2008, http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/magazine/16-07/pb_theory (accessed on 19/05/2020).
Barnes, C. (2004), “Disability, disability studies and the academy”, in Swain, J., French, S., Barnes, C. and Thomas, C. (eds), Disabling Barriers, Enabling Environments, pp. 28–33, London: Sage.
Brunsson, N., Rasche, A., Seidl, D. (2012). The Dynamics of Standardization: Three Perspectives on Standards in Organization Studies. Organization Studies, 33(5–6), 613-632.
Butler, J. (1990), Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, New York and London: Routledge.
Campbell, F.K. (2005), “Legislating disability: negative ontologies and the government of legal identities”, in Tremain, S. (ed.), Foucault and the Government of Disability, pp. 108–130, Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press.
Chen, Y., Casagrande, N., Zhang, Y., Brenner, M., (2019), “Using WaveNet technology to reunite speech-impaired users with their original voices”, Google DeepMind blog, https://deepmind.com/blog/article/Using-WaveNet-technology-to-reunite-speech-impaired-users-with-their-original-voices (accessed on 30/06/2021).
Connor, S. (2000), Dumbstruck: A Cultural History of Ventriloquism, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Czarniawska, B. (2015), A Theory of Organizing, Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing.
Derrida, J. (1967/2010), Voice and phenomenon: Introduction to the problem of the sign in Husserl's phenomenology, trans. L. Lawlor, Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.
Ellcessor, E., Hagood, M., Kirkpatrick, B. (2017), “Introduction: Toward a Disability Media Studies”, in
Ellcessor, E., Kirkpatrick, B. (eds.), Disability Media Studies, New York: New York University Press.
Ellis, K., Kent, M. (2011), Disability and New Media, New York: Routledge.
Ernst, W. (2016), Sonic Time Machines: Explicit Sound, Sirenic Voices and Implicit Sonicity, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
Flynn, J. (2021), “Helping Actor Val Kilmer Reclaim His Voice”, https://www.sonantic.io/blog/helping-actor-val-kilmer-reclaim-his-voice (accessed on 10/08/2021).
Garland Thomson, R. (2001), “Seeing the Disabled: Visual Rhetorics of Disability in Popular Photography”, in P.K. Longmore and L. Umansky (eds.), The New Disability History: American Perspectives, pp. 355–74, New York: New York University Press.
Goggin, G. (2009), “Disability and the ethics of listening”, Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, 23:4, 489-502.
Goggin, G., Newell, C. (2003), Digital Disability: The Social Construction of Disability in New Media,
Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Hagood, M. (2017), “Disability and Biomediation: Tinnitus as Phanotm Disability”, in Ellcessor, E.,
Kirkpatrick, B. (eds.), Disability Media Studies, New York: New York University Press.
Hamraie, A. (2017), Building Access. Universal Design and the Politics of Disability, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Haraway, D. (1991), Simians, Cyborgs and Women: the Reinvention of Nature, London: Free Association Books.
Hirschman, A.O. (1970), Exit Voice and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Kafer, A. (2013), Feminist, Queer, Crip, Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Law, J., Hassard, J. (eds.) (1999), Actor Network Theory and After, Oxford: Blackwell.
Marr, B. (2019), “Artificial Intelligence Can Now Copy Your Voice: What Does That Mean For Humans?”,
Forbes, 6 May, https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2019/05/06/artificial-intelligence-can-now-copy-your-voice-what-does-that-mean-for-humans/ (accessed 20/07/2021).
Mills, M. (2011), “Deafening: Noise and the Engineering of Communication in the Telephone System”, Grey Room 43, 118–43.
Mills, M. (2012), “Do signals have politics? Inscribing abilities in cochlear implants”, in T. Pinch, K.
Bijsterveld (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Sound Studies, New York: Oxford University Press.
Mills, M. (2020), “Testing Hearing with Speech”, in V. Tkaczyk, M. Mills, A. Hui, Testing Hearing: The Making of Modern Aurailty, pp. 23-48, New York: Oxford University Press.
Mills, M., Sterne, J. (2017), “Afterword II: Dismediation – Three Proposals, Six Tactics”, in Ellcessor, E.,
Kirkpatrick, B. (eds.), Disability Media Studies, New York: New York University Press, pp. 365-378.
Moser, I. (2006), “Disability and the Promises of Technology: Technology, Subjectivity and Embodiment within an Order of the Normal.” Information, Communication & Society, vol. 9, no. 3: 373–95.
Moser, I., Law, J. (2003), “’Making Voices’: New Media Technologies, Disabilities, and Articulation”, In G.
Liestøl, A. Morrison, and T. Rasmussen (eds.), Digital Media Revisited, pp. 491–520, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
MODULATE (2020), “Voice Skins and Individual Identity”, Modulate Blog, https://www.modulate.ai/blog/voice-skins-and-individual-identity (accessed on 25/07/2021).
Mumby, D.K. (2008), “Theorizing the future of critical organization studies”, in Barry, D. and Hansen, H. (eds.), The Sage Handbook of New Approaches in Management and Organization, pp. 27–28, Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
Napolitano, D. (2020a), “The cultural origins of voice cloning”, in M. Verdicchio, M. Carvalhais, L. Ribas,
A. Rangel (eds.), xCoAx 2020 Proceedings of the Eighth Conference on Computation, Communication, Aesthetics & X, available at the website: http://2020.xcoax.org/xcoax2020.pdf.
Napolitano, D. (2020b), “«Where’s the voice of the machine?» An ethnography of artificial voice socio-technical networks”, Etnografia e ricerca qualitativa, 3/2020, pp. 351-372.
Natale, S. (2021), Deceitful Media. Artificial Intelligence and Social Life after the Turing Test, New York: Oxford University Press.
Natale, S., Pasulka, D. (2019), Believing in Bits: Digital Media and the Supernatural, New York: Oxford University Press.
Oliver, M. (1996), Understanding Disability: From Theory to Practice, Basingstoke: Macmillan.
Parikka, J. (2012), What is Media Archeology?, Cambridge: Polity Press.
Pinch, T., Bijsterveld, K. (eds.) (2012), The Oxford Handbook of Sound Studies, New York: Oxford University Press.
Siebers, T. (2008), Disability Theory, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Singh, R. (2019), Profiling Humans from their Voice, Singapore: Springer.
Sterne, J. (2003a), The Audible Past. Origins of Sound Reproduction, Durham e Londra: Duke University Press.
Sterne, J. (2003b), “Bourdieu, Technique, and Technology.” Cultural Studies 17, no. 3–4: 367–389.
Sterne, J. (ed.) (2012), The Sound Studies Reader, New York: Routledge.
Sterne, J. (2021), Diminished Faculties: A Political Phenomenology of Impairment, Durham e Londra: Duke University Press, forthcoming.
Swain, J., French, S., Cameron, C. (2003), Controversial Issues in a Disabling Society, Buckingham: Open University Press.
Turow, J. (2021), Voice Catchers: How Marketers Listen in to Exploit Your Feelings, Your Privacy, and Your Wallet, New Haven: Yale University Press.
Williams, J., Mavin, S. (2012), “Disability as Constructed Difference: A Literature Review and Research Agenda for Management and Organization Studies”, International Journal of Management Reviews, vol. 14, 159-179.
Wilson, M. (2018), “The War on What’s Real”, The fast Company. 3 June 2018. https://www.fastcompany.com/90162494/the-war-on-whats-real (accessed on 15/11/2020).
Woolgar, S. (1991), “The turn to technology in social studies of science”, Science, Technology, and Human Values, 16, 1, pp. 20–50.