Title of Abstract: Atypical Virtual Worlds: Technology, Culture, and (Dis)Ability in the 21st Century
Name of Mentor: Krista Van Vleet
Mentor’s Organization or Department: Department of Anthropology, Bowdoin College
Research Abstract: My project explores the ways in which diversely abled adults engage with technologies and virtual spheres, more specifically, how they engage with social media, play video games, and ultimately engage with virtual worlds. I seek to understand how technology provides a multitude of ways of communicating and existing, some of which are particularly appealing to neuroatypical people. In short, I found that virtual worlds provide a space where the societal norms that ‘dis-able’ neuroatypical people (and that we constantly reproduce in our everyday interactions) do not exist. If someone prefers talking to people over text, on Discord, on an online forum, or through a video game, deeming this as ‘not a real conversation or reality’ is a naive lack of understanding of ways of communication. Until we start to validate these ways of communicating and realities as credible and legitimate, we diminish the credibility and legitimacy of neuroatypical lives.