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Conference Proceeding

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How liberating? For whom? At what costs (economic and social)? This paper is an exploratory examination of images that people have expressed about driverless cars, particularly as seen through particular media outlets. I am also concerned with the question of where disabled people fit. As I argue, many answers are narrow and superficial. Neither policy-makers nor media outlets should reduce disabled people to consumers of a product, while paying insufficient attention to related environmental and social issues. Although it would be easy to identify problematic media images of disabled people, there are also examples of nuanced, detailed analysis.

The author teaches Peace Studies and Political Science at Chapman University, south of Los Angeles.This paper is part of an ongoing project exploring connections between Disability Studies and Peace Studies. I argue that one connection is the prominence of autonomous vehicles, the driverless car in Disability Studies and the drone weapon in Peace Studies. In both cases, detailed analysis by researchers is fruitful.

In the first section, I examine conceptions, sometimes definitions of the three essential terms of this paper: driverless cars, disability, and media. In the second section, I report quantitative results from a search of five major media outlets. In the third section, I identify five frames that characterize media 3 coverage of driverless cars: technological breakthrough, entrepreneurship, futures, disability, and public policy. In the fourth and final section, I draw implications for future exploration by scholarly researchers and by the media.


This paper was presented at the Western Social Science Association conference in San Francisco, CA, in April 2017.


The author



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