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Title: Making connections : organisation, technologies and disabled people
Author: Latham, Yvonne Louise
ISNI:       0000 0004 2744 6387
Awarding Body: Lancaster University
Current Institution: Lancaster University
Date of Award: 2010
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There are many 'voluntary sector' led attempts which use personal computers to facilitate improved participation of disabled people in social and economic life ('digital inclusion'). However, the organisation and longer-term outcomes of such projects have tended to remain under-researched. The thesis adopts a long-term focus on the challenges and workarounds that characterise successful or failed attempts by disabled people (typically using off-the- shelf applications for affordability and support reasons) to ensure meaningful connections. Much of the research on 'digital inclusion' projects of this kind tends to be conducted through questionnaires, and often suffers from a 'box-ticking' approach to issues such as 'installation' and 'ICT use' that tends to leave open questions regarding how any challenges were actually resolved (or not) in practice. Furthermore, an often extensive reliance on on- line interviews and questionnaires inevitably leaves non-users unaccounted for. Similarly, research often tends to adopt short-term approaches which overemphasise lCTs' "potential to improve disabled people's lot" (Sheldon, 2004) and thus fail to give a clear picture of what form (the hoped for) 'digital inclusion' did take in practice. Such research therefore tends to focus on end states (before/after) at the expense of questions of processes and practices. This, the thesis argues, is a critical omission since voluntary organisations which are the most common channel for digital inclusion schemes (Social Exclusion Unit, 2005) are unlikely to possess optimal equipment or support. What is often missing in this literature therefore, are accounts of how disabled people and their helpers "muddle through" the technical, support and other challenges they face. Drawing on qualitative research undertaken with a UK non-profit organisation, the thesis focuses on the ways in which disabled people are able (or not) to make use of information technology in their homes, and the challenges, workarounds that are involved in their successful or failed attempts at becoming 'connected'. The general contribution the thesis makes is to the ongoing debate within social science concerned with the role of technologies in social life. Through a focus on disabled people it offers a novel way of entering into this debate which serves to unpack the often taken for granted nature of the role the body plays (in this case, the impaired body) in the organising of 'social' and 'material' (sociomaterial) relations.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available