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[Past Events 2014]: The History of the Optophone: Seminar by Mara Mills

  • Sonic Arts Research Centre Belfast (map)

Text-to-Tone: The History of the Optophone

This talk will survey the history of Optophones across the 20th century. These 'musical print' machines converted text into tones, enabling blind readers to access print by ear. Historical recordings from several models of Optophone will be played.


Mara Mills works at the intersection of disability studies and media studies. Her research and teaching interests include communication history (especially related to telephones and reading practices), science and technology studies, disability theory, and mobile media studies. She is completing a book (On the Phone: Deafness and Communication Engineering) on the significance of phonetics and deaf education to the emergence of "communication engineering" in early twentieth-century telephony; this concept and set of practices later gave rise to information theory, digital coding, and cybernetics. Her second book project, Print Disability and New Reading Formats, examines the reformatting of print over the course of the past century by blind and other print disabled readers, with a focus on Talking Books and electronic reading machines.

Mills is on the steering committee of the Science and Society Minor and is co-chair of the NYU Council for the Study of Disability. More information can be found at her website.

Seminar Details

1-2 PM, Friday 24 October 2014

Sonic Lab, Sonic Arts Research Centre

All are welcome.

*Please note: Following the seminar there will be an opportunity to meet with Professor Mills, who is particularly interested in meeting with staff and students who are working in the area of assistive technologies. If you are interested in this opportunity please email Dr Gascia Ouzounian at Queen's University Belfast.