accessibility

#OccupationUQAM

In "Crowd, Power and Post-Democracy in the 21st Century”, Zizek (2008) argues that when the normal run of things is traumatically interrupted, the field is open for a ‘discursive’ ideological competition. In other words, when there is a crisis.

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After our class yesterday there was a l’UQAM  occupation. It ended late into the night with an unnecessarily large police presence in riot gear, endless tear gas burning throats, and violent dispersion strategies. The night occupation was an immediate reaction to the events of earlier that day at UQAM.

Today, on the campus of the Université du Québec à Montréal, facing a court order demanding that classes be held and the threat of expulsion issued by their administration, hundreds of students turned up to disrupt classes and enforce their democratically voted strike mandate.

In response, the university administration called in the Montreal police, who arrived in full riot gear with pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets and batons at the ready. Paradoxically enough, their stated role there was to ensure that classes could occur as scheduled.

The students were shortly boxed in. The bulk of the reported 22 arrests happened as riot police swept onto campus. Students then set up barricades, and police formed a line and prepared to move in.

The occupation was also a response to the larger institutional issues of the different forms of violence against students (physical, economic, etc) and the austerity myth. The violence of those in power is much more insidious and invisible than the violence of destroying university property, which creates an unbalanced imaginary in this political struggle.

When we see images in the media and read the discourse of others which try to decontextualize a serious and complicated issue, and only focus on ‘violent protestors doing damage to property’ we must remember history, context, and the nuanced ways that bodies are excluded from spaces. What are the modes of recourse against the systemic and systematic violence we are faced with? Yes, all of us! Whether we recognize it or not. Although, some of us are affected by institutional violence more than others, which is where our friend intersectionality comes in. And even then, we must self-reflect what subject position we are coming from in the ways in which we orient towards events like the occupation last night. Why do we have x or y opinion on protests/protestors? What has shaped that perspective?

We must also remember the ways in which regulatory powers favor property over human bodies. When are riot gear, teargas and rubber bullets, etc. appropriate modes of policing bodies? (remember the Jason Farman example about increased security cameras pointing to computer labs and not for the safety of students on campus.)

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Photos courtesy of Caroline Ramirez.

Blog Post 3- Who’s Watching?

“In March 2010, a 31 year old man from California was arrested for spying on a young woman through her webcam” “Since then, there have been thousands of documented cases of what is called webcam hacking”.  

This is a short film created entirely through the use of a webcam, to help demonstrate the dangers of a owning one, and how easily anyone can hack into someone’s computer to spy on people virtually, which ultimately affects them in their physical reality by disrupting the privacy of their space, both online and offline. This removes the ideology that personal computers are a safe private space for their users, rather, there is a growing paranoia that one’s own devices are being used to someone else’s advantage without their knowledge. In this case, to be spied or surveilled on by webcam hackers which raises the question of weather someone can know if they are truly safe simply by being connected to the internet and owning a webcam. This article on BBC News from June 2013 also investigates the accessibility of other people’s computers, which is remarkably easy to do with hundreds of tutorials online: Webcams taken over by hackers, charity warns

CNBC explores the tool Blackshades RAT, which allows people to access and control anyone’s computer, with little expertise and on very low costs: Inside Blackshades: Hackers are watching you on infected webcams

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Most people who own computers, especially from Apple, have a camera already installed into them, or have purchased a webcam to have more visual conversations with people on private networks such as good old MSN messenger, and Skype. Although these social networks claim to give us control over our security through the settings of our personal accounts, it is very possible if someone is not attentive to their computers or who don’t know any better, especially children, that their webcams are being accessed by a hacker. This can lead to more dangerous cases that involve the hacker and the computer’s owner having a physical interaction, outside of this virtual space.

“John, 16, who lives near London, estimates he has hacked 100 computers and viewed webcams on almost half of them” He says: “I know it is illegal. I wasn’t really looking for anything on their webcams, just their reactions. I’d open up random sites – shock sites – they’d see a scary picture or someone screaming, and you’d see they were scared. There are creepy people who post pictures of female slaves. I’m not really into that.”

One way of knowing whether your webcam is being accessed is if its light turns on, although if you have a microphone connected to your computer as well, there is no way of knowing who can tune in and listen on private conversations. BBC recommends people cover their webcams with a piece of black tape when they are not being used, and have a good anti-virus installed keeping their computer updated, making it more difficult for hackers to take control over their devices. The devious ways in which hackers can retrieve information from you through the mask of the internet, may fool many strangers they are speaking to in chat rooms as well; older sexual predators claiming to be kids is a form of virtual embodiment, as is performing as invisible and watching someone sleep while their camera is on.

By participating in today’s modern virtual spaces, such as Skype for instance, a private social network, and having a webcam which most people do, it shouldn’t be as easy as it is for one’s personal computer to be used against them by an outsider. More effective ways of knowing someone’s private space is no longer private should exist, perhaps by making more reliable and effective anti-malware software free. Otherwise anyone could be under unauthorized surveillance when they are most vulnerable and in their supposedly safe environments. Skype’s security page explains how to avoid hackers, by having a difficult password, keeping Skype up-to-date, avoiding phishing (when a third party attempts to trick you into providing information that they shouldn’t have, such as someone claiming to be a Skype employee asking for private information) and more which you can view on their security page: Skype Security

Question: Would these tools used for surveilling people through their webcams be useful for parental monitoring of children, in order for parents to have better control over their children avoiding the dangers of public chat rooms and viruses at such a young age? Due to existing social networks for children such as Club Penguin, a website my younger brother used to be very active on and made friends with people now outside of the penguin network, is meant for kids and supposedly created through their parent’s email addresses. Typically anyone can partake in this experience and would only appear as a friendly penguin to a young kid, therefore should parents have better surveillance over their children going on social websites like these? Here is a glimpse of what Club Penguin is: 

Sources:

Farman, Jason. (2012). Mobile Interface Theory Ch. 1 “Embodiment and the Mobile Interface” (16-34) London: Routledge.

“Hackers Are Watching You on Infected Webcams.” CNBC. 24 May 2014. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.

“Webcams Taken over by Hackers, Charity Warns.” BBC News. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.

“Protecting Your Online Safety, Security and Privacy.” Skype Security. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.

How ‘Defensive Architecture’ Is Ruining Our Cities

http://gizmodo.com/how-defensive-architecture-is-ruining-our-cities-1687215926/+cherylvis

Cities have always struggled with the tension between the different needs of social classes who share the space. But as The Guardian documents, a new trend of defensive — and some times overtly hostile — architecture is changing the urban landscape, and not in a good way.

Defensive architecture refers to modifications of buildings and public space, often too subtle to be noticed by the general public, designed to discourage certain groups of people from loitering. ‘Homeless spikes’, studs in the ground that prevent people from sleeping rough, are the most obvious example, but it can include things like slanting windowsills to stop people sitting, benches with armrests that make it impossible to lie down, or sprinklers that intermittently come on but aren’t really watering anything.

But as Alex Andreou explains in the feature, defensive architecture hurts more than just the homeless:

There is a wider problem, too. These measures do not and cannot distinguish the “vagrant” posterior from others considered more deserving. When we make it impossible for the dispossessed to rest their weary bodies at a bus shelter, we also make it impossible for the elderly, for the infirm, for the pregnant woman who has had a dizzy spell. By making the city less accepting of the human frame, we make it less welcoming to all humans. By making our environment more hostile, we become more hostile within it.

Against a backdrop of increasing urbanisation, Andreou raises an important point. As cities grow in size and density, we’ll need to be careful to ensure that the space is welcoming to everyone. Sticking spikes in the ground probably isn’t a great way to ensure that.

*updated with Slides* Critical Disability Analysis / Links from Laurence

COMS324-LaurenceParent-18March-SLIDES

Blogs:

CDS at Concordia m.i.a. collective:

Journals:

Videos:

Marie-Eve Veilleux at UdM:

http://vimeo.com/66161515

Deaf woman hears for the first time

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyECCMdlVFo

Ad by Samsung

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrvaSqN76h4

TED Talk by Stella Young – Inspiration porn

http://www.ted.com/talks/stella_young_i_m_not_your_inspiration_thank_you_very_much?language=en

Blog Post 2: Re-orientation Exercise

My initial description of my favorite space is entirely psychogeographic, as I consider my own individual emotions and behavior in the space. In this reflection I will try to expand on other bodies’ experiences in the space.

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Erie Beach is a small residential neighborhood in Chatham Kent, Ontario. It is near the town of Erieau, which was historically a fishing and port village receiving shipments of coal from the United States. The beach is a private space and can only be accessed by property owners. Each property owner owns a piece of the beach making it a very restricted space. Since I have been visiting this space all my life as a privileged guest, the space that is restricted to most has always felt like a safe haven of freedom and lively connections to my surroundings. Although in reflection with Gill Valentine’s idea of public/private space, the private space is not truly private as it is managed and controlled by neighbors and for this reason, many bodies may not truly be themselves in the space.

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Even though the space is technically private, residents share the beach with one and other. There is a certain unspoken set of rules in which bodies must conduct themselves within this private space adhering with Henri Lefebvre’s first triad: special practice. I did not realize this special practice and performance in my initial description of the space as it has been engrained in me as “normal”. At the beach, one cannot stop and rest on someone else’s property while strolling down the shoreline, or play music, dance, or skinny dip without getting negative attention from neighbors. This reinforces the social practice that is constantly reproduced by the majority bodies within it.

In my original portrayal of Erie Beach, the space was a warm, sunny, summer day where I felt connected with the vibrancy of the bodies around me, and at peace from the serenity of my surroundings. When I revisited the space last week it was winter. The lake was covered in snow and ice, haunted by its previous entity. The skeleton of the space was still there, but its soul and flesh had changed drastically. As a socially produced space, the bodies within it were no longer vibrant, connected and loose, but stiff, lethargic and preoccupied. In one sense, the change in bodies’ orientations made the space feel dramatically different, however it was the change in the space’s physical make up that induced the change in bodies’ orientations. Thus a perfect example of Jason Farman’s theory that space is “constructed simultaneously with our bodies” (18) co-constructing one another.

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Through my memories of being in the actual space, as I gaze at the virtual computer image of Erie Beach at summer time, my body goes through the same physical sensations as it would if I was actually there. I feel my shoulders loosen, my breath become deeper, and my ears fill with the sound of the waves. This is an extension of Jason Farman’s idea of the “sensory-inscribed body”. Even in the dead of winter, virtual imagery of a space is able to stimulate my body with same way the actual space would.

Drawing from Sarah Ahmed’s phenomenology of whiteness, I myself possess white orientation in the space along with all other residents of the space, unaware of our orientation of power and exclusivity in the space, due to our ownership, politics and ideology. Along with being an inherently white space, Erie Beach is also authentically heterosexual. Both Valentine and Ahmed draw from Lefebvre in stating that the normality of a space is a consequence of constant reproduction of a certain behavior the bodies that are in that space conduct repeatedly and must always be reinforced. Next summer when I visit Erie Beach in its prime, I am going to challenge myself to try and break the norms of what is socially acceptable.

Blog Post 2—Re-orientation Exercise

lighthouse

In my previous blog post I had talked about how the lighthouse on the waterfront in Fredericton was one of my favorite spaces. When I pictured that spot I imagined that it was summer and that was sunny out because otherwise it normally would not be open to the public. This space is restricted to all bodies depending on season and weather conditions.
Aside from the limitations imposed by the weather, the lighthouse is also a space reserved for those who can afford the food at the restaurant inside the lighthouse. The food is fairly expensive so this space is therefore intended for an upper-middle class clientele. If there are tables available on the deck then anyone is welcome to sit in those empty chairs, but if there are customers’ looking for seats their presence takes priority over those that have not ordered any food.
Because this is a public space, those who do not respect typical dining rules are not welcome. For example, those entering the space that talk extremely loudly or cause a ruckus will sense other guest’s dismay by means of dirty looks and maybe even remarks. It is through these subtle actions that the dominant class (those with pre-determined amounts of money) shapes the body, orientation, embodiment, and lived experience of others frequenting the space. There is pressure for other guests to conform to the “normal” behaviors of this space from those dominating it because they re-produce and reinforce this behavior.
Although the regulation of the space is largely social, (the space is physically accessible to anyone thanks to a ramp and stairs) there are physical effects. Because of this “hierarchy” of guests, those who do not feel they are a part of this upper class might, for example, avoid the space entirely. Age, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. are all factors by which these visitors judge whether or not they would be “qualified” to enter the space. In other words, individuals must assess whether or not they think they would be welcomed into the space (by entering unnoticed) based on who usually frequents the space.

This supposed social rejection or exclusion of certain people at the lighthouse is an example of the final third of Lefebvre’s triad: spatial practice of a society. Lefebvre explains that “in terms of social space, and of each member of a given society’s relationship to that space, this cohesion implies a guaranteed level of competence and a specific level of performance” (290). In other words, the typical lighthouse restaurant-goers conform to the behavior that is already practiced and reproduced there and end up reproducing that behavior which affects others (both usual clients and unusual guests).

Accessibility in Montreal: the Poutine Factor

from Laurence Parent, our guest speaker on 18 March—

From February 1st to 7th, Montreal is celebrating Poutine Week. What better than a delicious week full of potatoes, cheese curds and gravy to make us forget that we are in the middle of another winter?

Consulting the list of 49 restaurants participating in Poutine Week, we are once again faced with the inaccessibility of Montreal. The majority of these restaurants impose a criteria on everyone who wants to indulge in a poutine: the ability to climb one or more steps. Many of us poutine eaters do not fit this criteria. We believe that we have the right to taste poutine in equality. In Montreal, eating poutine is an important way to exercise our citizenship.

It is time to know which restaurants are wheelchair accessible. And we need your help! Our objective is simple. We would like to do an evaluation of the basic accessibility or inaccessibility of Poutine Week restaurants to demonstrate the lack of accessibility in Montreal.

To participate:

  1. Consult the list of participating restaurants here:
  2. You can also locate restaurants identified by stars on this card
  3. Choose one or a few restaurants to visit between now and ideally by February 5th.
  4. Take one or a few photos of the restaurant’s entrance. If you have time to enter to see if there is ample space for wheelchairs, even better!
  5. Send your photos with a short description of your observations to: poutinesinaccessibles@gmail.com

Let’s change Montreal… one poutine at a time!

(French below the cut)

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