Neurodiversity and Communication Ethics: How images of autism trouble communication ethics in the globital age

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Human communication and communication ethics are configured through a culture of ‘normalcy’ which marginalises those with neurodivergent modalities of communication including autistic people. One ethical response to this marginalisation and othering of autistic people is what Nick Walker terms ‘neuroqueering’. Walker contends that neuroqueering involves creating artefacts that foreground neurodiversity including showing and using neurodivergent forms of communication which challenges or points reinterpretations of neurotypical communication and culture. This article asks how and in what ways do digital artefacts, such as videos of and by autistic people made and shared through the affordances of the globital age, neuroqueer the cultural history of troubled and troubling images of autistic people? To what extent do these images trouble neurotypical assumptions about the ethics of images and enrich and deepen understanding of communication ethics more broadly?

Building on research that has addressed the ways in which autism is represented in popular culture, in literature and in film, this research examines autistic cultural assemblages8 afforded by the globital age. Empirically, I focus on analysing an assemblage of on-line videos by and about autistic people: self-advocacy You Tube videos made by and with autistic people, a campaign video made by the UK’s National Autistic Society, and films as ‘translations’ of a nonverbal autistic world. These, I argue, offer ethical arguments for understanding the sensorial, perceptual, cognitive and communicative diversity of human meaning making including recognising the significance of communication by and with the material world and non-human persons.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-129
JournalCultural Studies Review
Issue number2
Early online date28 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 28 Nov 2018


  • autism
  • neurodiversity
  • neuroqueer
  • ethics
  • social media
  • ASD
  • autobiography
  • communication
  • memory


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