Introduction to The Politics of Deafness, continued
Chapter 5 marks a radical shift in perspective, borrowing heavily from the genres of science fiction and cyberpunk to explore the biopolitics of the body in the postmodern. Venturing from deafness and the surveillance of deaf bodies into the cyberpunk world of disembodied dataspheric terrains of consensual networks may seem wildly digressive. Yet this perspective radically demonstrates dramatic changes in the epistemology of the social bond, as well as making visible the ironic exploitations of the Deaf that have taken place under the auspices of modernity. The conflation of language with speech (and vice versa) by the Hearing underpins both mental and material technologies. The connection between Deaf bodies and the parameters of modem communications technologies is both a presumption and an appropriation long forgotten, but it is an intimate link nonetheless.

Deafness is about language and communication. The curious linkages between the enormous investments in certain mental and material technologies, including major systems of the telecommunications industry, provide a critical knife (perhaps a neo-Occam's razor) to dissect limitations in the foundational presumptions of such industries and of the language technologies that support them.

Such an analysis rests in part on the sense of what constitutes a language at all. The gestural codes used by Deaf peoples have been alternately accepted and vigorously repressed. As rapid shifts in intellectual disciplines have accompanied as well as partially driven the emergence of modernity, new theories of language that mirror our view of the universe and that view's new interpretive physics have been required. Languages that do not rely on a serial and sequential presentation of data, as all spoken languages do, question cherished epistemologies. Those coping with an information-rich environment may reinvoke visual and spatial grammars to create graphic displays of information that will borrow heavily from sign language metaphors.

Chapter 5 is also inspired in part by the speed with which the corporate business sector and the global communications industries have adopted the metaphorical framework of the SF cyberpunk genre. Cyberpunk exploded in 1984 following publication of William Gibson's Neuromancer, which suddenly made available a metaphorical treasure trove for portraying the sheer volume and complexities of relational fields of data already available-and exponentially expanding.

As we struggle to convincingly evoke relational representations of such vast amounts and varieties of information, we are finding that both our mental and material presumptions of sound as the sole signal modality of cognition and language are limiting us. The serial sequence of phonemes that constitutes--is--spoken language begat serial sequences of mechanically generated and electrical pulses along copper wire. Digital protocols are direct descendants of technologies both mental and material. Both technologies build and depend on that same presumptive conflation of speech and language. Not deafness per se but the visual terrain of grammars and semiotics in a signed modality threatens that previously unquestioned assumption.

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