Autism in affinity spaces: Interest-driven social media practices during the transition to adulthood

Year of award: 2022


  • Prof Nelya Koteyko

    Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom

Project summary

Autism research increasingly highlights social networking sites/SNS as the means of establishing connections for adolescent users. However, by focusing on psychosocial outcomes rather than practices in their situated contexts this literature does not address how SNS engagement is driven both by users and algorithms; nor does it aim to understand autistic users' communicative strategies. The project will close this gap through a novel theoretical approach that brings in perspectives from sociocultural linguistics to provide description and understanding of how young people participate in affinity spaces created around SNS users' common interests. Combining techniques from corpus-assisted discourse analysis and visual participatory methods I will develop a methodology that re-orients the focus from speech pathology to the agentive and creative adaptation of discursive and technological resources. This is a needed leap in research on social practices of young autistic people that have grown up with SNS presence. Focusing on both public and private SNS accounts, the project will carry out a longitudinal analysis of observed user actions, user-generated posts, interview and workshop data to identify contextual features facilitating interest-driven communication and interaction. The results will lead to support initiatives that are inclusive of young people's focused interests and communicative abilities.