12 Mar 2024 13:00 - 14:00 Room SG2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge



Nelya Koyteko (CDH Visiting Academic)


Cognitive differences in autism are sometimes thought to preclude socio-cultural participation. By contrast, this presentation will show how such differences can facilitate the co-creation of innovative design spaces through affiliation and collaborative sense-making processes. After providing an overview of novel social media design features suggested by participants, Nelya focuses on how co-creation became possible. She argues that the workshops offered cultural resources through which sensory and attentional differences became opportunities for mutual recognition. At the same time, technology facilitated the expression of experiences that some participants had shared but hitherto could not express.

Through a three-step process of Describe-Reflect-Make, which ranged from highly structured activities drawing on existing autistic experiences with social media to humorous critiques and creative use of design cards, the workshops set up a situation in where participants could engage in coordinated and spontaneous social practices. The use of design cards provided participants with customisable templates that can be used to convey both the unconventional experiences with social media technology and the simultaneous need to create new ethical rules that match these unique experiences. In line with the growing attention to multimodality in contemporary meaning-making, Nelya also reflects on the limitations of language in facilitating autistic sociality. Overall, her reflections on the workshops emphasise the importance of imagination in autistic participants’ contributions and, she hopes, contribute to a broader shift away from ‘reducing all experience to universal structures of cognition’ (Stenning, 2024).

About the convenor

Nelya Koteyko is Professor of Language and Communication at Queen Mary University of London. Her research focuses on the relationship between media discourse and everyday practices and identities, including stance taking and identity construction in social media. She is PI on the ESRC funded project Autistic Adults Online and recipient of Wellcome Trust Discovery Award ‘Autism in affinity spaces: Interest-driven social media practices during the transition to adulthood’ (2023-2029).

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