The "Second Place" Problem: Assistive Technology in Sports and (Re) Constructing Normal.
Objections to the use of assistive technologies (such as prostheses) in elite sports are generally raised when the technology in question is perceived to afford the user a potentially "unfair advantage," when it is perceived as a threat to the purity of the sport, and/or when it is perceived as a precursor to a slippery slope toward undesirable changes in the sport. These objections rely on being able to quantify standards of "normal" within a sport so that changes attributed to the use of assistive technology can be judged as causing a significant deviation from some baseline standard. This holds athletes using assistive technologies accountable to standards that restrict their opportunities to achieve greatness, while athletes who do not use assistive technologies are able to push beyond the boundaries of these standards without moral scrutiny. This paper explores how constructions of fairness and "normality" impact athletes who use assistive technology to compete in a sporting venue traditionally populated with "able-bodied" competitors. It argues that the dynamic and obfuscated construction of "normal" standards in elite sports should move away from using body performance as the measuring stick of "normal," toward alternate forms of constructing norms such as defining, quantifying, and regulating the mechanical actions that constitute the critical components of a sport. Though framed within the context of elite sports, this paper can be interpreted more broadly to consider problems with defining "normal" bodies in a society in which technologies are constantly changing our abilities and expectations of what normal means.
Baker, D. A. (2016). The "Second Place" Problem: Assistive Technology in Sports and (Re) Constructing Normal.. Science and Engineering Ethics, 22(1), pp. 93-110.
The definitive version is available at https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-015-9629-1
Keywords and Phrases
Assistive technology; Athletics; Fairness; Human enhancement; Normality; Prosthetic
International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)
Article - Journal
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