Hi, my name is Ashley Shew, and I manage this website, which developed in the context of a course on the subject of Technology and Disability. I serve as an Associate Professor in the Department of Science, Technology, and Society at Virginia Tech, where I focus on issues in philosophy of technology.
I am on sabbatical during Spring 2021.
I have a number of additional hats as:
- a faculty affiliate of Virginia Tech’s Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought (ASPECT) program and Department of Philosophy,
- a faculty participant and executive committee member for Virginia Tech’s Integrative Graduate Education Program in Regenerative Medicine,
- co-chair for Virginia Tech’s Disability Caucus and faculty advisor to the Disability Alliance student organization,
- a board member to my region’s Center for Independent Living, the New River Valley Disability Resource Center,
- a former board member of the international Society for Philosophy and Technology, and
- the current co-Editor-in-Chief for the philosophy of technology journal associated with the Society for Philosophy and Technology, Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology.
My current research focuses on the representation of disabled people in technological imagination and coincides with research themes of my Technology and Disability course. In conjunction with this research and teaching interest, I received an NSF CAREER Award to pursue this line of inquiry over the next five years, 2018-2023, themed on “Disability, Experience, and Technological Imagination.” From this grant, I have an active research team of graduate students and undergraduates focused on disability community narratives about technology.
My first book, Animal Constructions and Technological Knowledge (2017), is published with Lexington‘s series in Postphenomenology and Philosophy of Technology. Animal Constructions and Technological Knowledge situates the use of tools by non-human animals in the context of theories about technological knowledge and argues that the material work of animals has significance for philosophy and epistemology of technology.
I am co-editor (with Joseph C. Pitt) Spaces for the Future: A Companion to Philosophy of Technology (Routledge 2017). This agenda-setting volume, filled with all new pieces in contemporary philosophy of technology, seeks to anticipate pressing and enduring issues in phil-tech research and features many fresh voices. My own work on the place of animals in philosophy of technology is featured in the volume.
During 2020, I co-authored two additional edited volumes published: the first is called Reimagining Philosophy and Technology, Reinventing Ihde, co-edited with Glen Miller and published with Springer, and the second called Feedback Loops: Pragmatism About Science and Technology, co-edited with Andrew Garnar and published by Lexington Books. Both of these volumes have been in the works for a few years, and I am excited to share them.
While I have long enjoyed incorporating topics in technology and disability in my teaching of ethics, controversies about technologies, and philosophy of technology, the topic now plays an even larger role in my life and in my research. I became multiply disabled during 2013-2014 as I was treated for an aggressive form of bone cancer called osteosarcoma. A hard-of-hearing, chemobrained amputee (and also diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2016), I am now disabled – and working on projects around new and emerging technologies, disability design, cyborgs, techno-optimism, techno-ableism, and the lived experience of disability.
I’ve had the pleasure of presenting this work in various forms over the past couple of years (with some more recent publications too); thank you to the colleagues and friends who have invited me for fun. Here are some of the the highlights:
- January & February: “We Can Rebuild You: Disabled Bodies and Technological Imagination,” presented Cal Poly and Old Dominion
- May: “Up-Standing Norms,” slides here, presented at IEEE Ethics in Vancouver.
- November: Philosophy of Science Association Meeting, where I presented on the quantification of walking, slides here
- June: Society for Philosophy and Technology, Darmstadt: 2 papers on themes in technology and disability; my slides from a presentation on phil-tech pedagogy in Technology and Disability can be found here.
- November: New Next Conference, San Francisco, “Augmented Humans Bite Back”
- On-going: “The Minded Body in Disability and Technology” (rough first version slides here), presented at both the SEPOT Workshop in September 2017 and the American Philosophical Association Eastern Division in January 2018; contributing as part of the Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Technology (ed Shannon Vallor), which should be published in 2021.
- April: Georgia Tech, Atlanta, “Cripborgs* Rebel: Narratives about Exoskeles an Prostheses.
- April: Georgia College, Millegeville, “Technoableism in Motion”
- Publication: “Transmobility: Possibilities for Cyborg (Cripborg) Bodies” with co-authors Mallory Kay Nelson and Bethany Stevens, a creative scholarly fun journal article about our cripborg bodies, published in Catalyst as part of a special issue about Crip Technoscience.
- July: presentation on a panel around design for disability at HCI International in Orlando led by Josh Halstead
Most of my current work is around my next book project, on what I term ‘technoableism.’ Technoableism is the idea that some of the ways in which we cast technologies as ’empowering’ those with disabilities sometimes actually feed into ableist narratives that actually end up confining technological choice and feed into narrow conceptions of what a good disabled life looks like. I’m interested in the different, non-dominant stories people tell about their choices and relationships to technologies.