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Perspective Paper: Michel Witter

Michel Witter, PhD candidate and member of Caradt’s Situated Art & Design research group, investigates the potential of sensory augmentation for bridging the communication gap between deaf and hearing people. His PERSPECTIVE paperarrow addressing the ‘What, Why and How’ of his research has been accepted for publication in Frontiers in Computer Science, as part of the journal’s Perspectives in Human-Media Interaction 2022arrow research topic.

Deaf and hearing people can encounter challenges when communicating with one another in everyday situations. Problems with verbal communication are often seen as the main cause, however, challenges also arise from sensory differences between deaf and hearing people. These differences create differing perceptions of the world, and the resulting sensory gap can foster misunderstanding. Proposals for innovative communication technologies to address this gap have been met with criticism by the deaf community. Such technologies tend to be designed to enhance deaf people’s understanding of the verbal cues that hearing people rely on, while omitting the many critical sensory signals that deaf people rely on to understand (others in) their environment – signals that hearing people are not attuned to. In this perspective paper, sensory augmentation which technologically extends a person’s sensory capabilities is proposed as a means of bridging this sensory gap: 1) by tuning into the signals deaf people more often rely on, which are commonly missed by hearing people, and vice versa; and 2) through the use of sensory augmentations which enable deaf and hearing people to sense signals that they are not normally able to sense. Before we can realize sensory augmentation’s potential to bridge the sensory gap between deaf and hearing people, we will need to work through usability and user-acceptance challenges. Addressing these challenges requires a novel approach to the design of the new technologies. We contend that this calls for a situated design approach.


First author
Michel Witter

Alwin de Rooij, Michel van Dartel and Emiel Krahmer


Avans University of Applied Sciences, Netherlands

Department of Communication and Cognition, Tilburg School of Humanities and Digital Sciences, Tilburg University, Netherlands

Caradt – Centre of Applied Research for Art, Design & Technology, Avans University of Applied Sciences, Netherlands

‘Investigating the potential of sensory augmentation to bridge the sensory gap between deaf and hearing.’

Michel Witter is a researcher within the Situated Art and Design research group and a tutor at the Communication & Multimedia Design programme at Avans University of Applied Sciences in Breda.

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‘‘Understanding how creativity and imagination emerge from interactions with our environment will lead to improved innovation processes, tools and technologies.’’

Alwin de Rooij is Associate Professor in Situated Art and Design at the Avans Centre of Applied Research for Art, Design and Technology (Caradt), and Assistant Professor in Creativity Research in the department of Communication and Cognition, Tilburg University.

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‘People are the product of their relationships with their environment. It’s important to understand how technological developments influence these relationships.’

Michel van Dartel is Research Professor Situated Art and Design at the Avans Centre of Applied Research for Art, Design and Technology (Caradt) and Director of V2_Lab for the Unstable Media.

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Research Group: Situated Art and Design

Living in cities developed around data and acting within the inscrutable structure of our techno-society demands art and design that can help understand how we relate to these rapidly changing surroundings and to reflect on that relationship. The research group Situated Art and Design responds to this exigency by fostering a situated turn in art and design through a diverse portfolio of interdisciplinary research projects in partnership with academic and cultural partners, as well as with government and industry.

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