My research interests are informed by my lived experiences as a Deaf student in constant contact with different kinds of hearing aids and assistive technologies growing up. From an old FM unit to teeth-conduction aids, I grew to realize that the ways these technologies encouraged me to interact with the world stemmed from different kinds of social, cultural, and political values. Who gets to decide which kinds of values are represented in assistive technology design processes? How do users respond to and devise alternatives to developers’ intentions? How does the history of assistive technology interact with broader social, cultural, and technologies histories, and what do our current narratives about this history say about contemporary values and the future of accessible design?
My dissertation tackles these questions in the context of 20th century Japan. It tracks the ways in which coalitions of scientists, deaf educators, and communications firms have worked over the 20th century to attempt to delineate the terms under which Deaf communities may interact with music. I examine four key moments in this history: the development of hearing aids after World War II, the use of “alternative” assistive technologies like vibro-tactile pianos in Deaf school classrooms, the appearance of sign language musical media, and the proliferation of Deaf classical music in mainstream broadcasting. These case studies set the stage for broader cultural and technological practices, such as the development of Japanese musical hardware in the 1950s, cybernetics in the 1960s, and contemporary digital platforms.