Eccescopy, part 8

There was a time, not too long ago, when putting an electronic auditory enhancement device in your ear was something you did surreptitiously. A hearing aid was something you tried to hide — ideally you didn’t want anyone to know that you needed one. For example, here is an ad for a hearing aid designed to be as invisible as possible:


This is consistent with the principle that people generally try, whenever possible, to appear “more normal”. Since auditory impairment is seen as “less normal”, a hearing aid is viewed as something to hide.

But there has been a fascinating recent trend in the other direction. When a hearing device on one’s ear is seen as a source of empowerment, as in the case of bluetooth hands-free cellphones, people don’t try to hide these devices. Rather, they try to show them off.

The ultimate current expression of this is the Aliph “Jawbone” headset:


Suddenly it’s cool and sexy to have a piece of hi-tech equipment attached to your ear. I think that the key distinction here is between “I am trying to fix a problem” and “I am giving myself a superpower”. The former makes you socially vulnerable, whereas the latter makes you socially powerful.

This is something to consider when designing an eccescopic display device.

One Response to “Eccescopy, part 8”

  1. sally says:

    I refer to this concept specifically in my talk “Hidden Cyborgs” from Cyborg Camp this past October in Portland, Oregon.

    The recording of my talk is not online yet, and thus, the slides seem simple without the audio, but I get into the concept of Marked/Unmarked Cyborg technology and the corresponding Hidden/Visible components–particularly with visual and audio:

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