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Title: The 'deaf subscriber' and the shaping of the British Post Office's amplified telephones, 1911-1939
Author: McGuire, Coreen Anne
ISNI:       0000 0004 6062 2928
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2016
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In the aftermath of the First World War, hearing loss gained a new prominence in public consciousness because of the mass ‘deafening’ of soldiers. For the British Post Office, this meant that the amplified telephones they had designed for the trenches could be appropriated into civilian use as their new ‘telephone service for the deaf’. This thesis traces the development of this telephone service to explore how such technology has interrelated with the social construction of hearing loss. Answering what motivations underpinned the development of the amplified telephone has necessitated studying the history of technology alongside science and technology studies and disability history. This fusion of approaches provides a creative analysis of amplified telephony to give greater insight into the impact of communication assistive technologies. This thesis demonstrates that a historical understanding of technology designed for the disabled can reveal the agency and experiences of disabled individuals to show their interactions with technology as a reciprocal relationship instead of an imposed one. My thesis offers a way to do this by combining a social constructionist approach with elements of disability history to reveal the contribution of disabled users to amplified telephony. An aspect of prosthetic production that has previously not been emphasised, this shows the rich connections between technology and creativity in the disabled context. Indeed, the development of the amplified telephone was heavily influenced by its users, as so called ‘deaf subscribers’ made their voices heard in order to influence the telephone’s form, frequency and cost. By drawing on the socio-technical approach that questions how users matter, this thesis will foreground the individual experiences of users to shed light on how the telephone was used as a prosthetic, and emphasise the forgotten contribution of users to the development of amplified telephony.
Supervisor: Gooday, Graeme J. N. ; Stark, James F. ; Hey, D. Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available