Link to Publications

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 Assistant Professor in the Department of Science, Technology, and Society at Virginia Tech, where I focus on issues in philosophy of technology.

I have a number of additional hats as:

Current Research

My current research focuses on the representation of disabled bodies 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 narratives about technology.

Four images atop and below a blue stripe with the name and author. The pictures feature a chimpanzee with a stick tool, a spider sitting in a web, a beaver dam, and the side of a raven black bird's head.

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.

a book cover, blue with a starfield and the words Spaces for the Future in white, edited by Joseph C. Pitt and Ashley Shew

I am co-editor (with Joseph C. PittSpaces 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.

In addition, during 2020, I should have two additional edited volumes published: the first is called Reimagining Philosophy and Technology, Reinventiving 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 get to share them soon.

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:

  • 2016:
    • 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
  • 2017:
    • 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 2020.
  • 2018:
  • 2019:

Things I Anticipate 2020:

  • IEEE Technology & Society will be publishing a paper of mine called “Ableism, Technoableism, and Future AI”
  • The Choices & Challenges Forum associated with my grant, Technology & Disability: Counternarratives takes place on Friday, March 27, 2020 at the Inn at Virginia Tech. So excited for this event!
  • I will be a presenter at University of Pittsburgh on April 16, 2020 for a Symposium on Technology and Disability, organized by Jason Shoemaker and Emily Ackerman.
  • I will attend/present at the following conferences and workshops: OAH in DC in early April, STS Critical Pedagogy Workshop in Harrisonburg (VA) in July, SHOT in New Orleans in October, ASBH in Baltimore in October.

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.