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Hagerty Library, 302, 3300 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104


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HPOL Colloquium: Blindness and the History of Optical Character Recognition

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

3:30 PM-5:00 PM

Mara Mills, PhD (NYU), will discuss her current book project, "Print Disability and New Reading Formats"the first broad history of electronic reading technologies for blind and print-disabled people, and their co-evolution with mainstream reading practices. Beyond the introduction of new formats such as audiobooks and electronic books, print access efforts in the twentieth century gave rise to numerous technical innovations that transferred to other branches of electroacoustics and computing. Innovations in long-playing records, pitch-shifting with magnetic tape, scanning, optical character recognition (OCR), and synthetic speech ultimately retooled reading for both humans and machines.


Mills proposes an "exclusion-adaptation" model for technology development, to supplement existing theories of social shaping and user-generated innovation such as appropriation and domestication.  Mills suggests that non-users—specifically, "the excluded"—play roles other than critique or resistance, and can in fact transform technical systems through their access interventions or through the production of popular alternatives.

Contact Information

Lauren Farmer, Program Coordinator