Socialising within Differentiated Spaces: Between Autism, Technology and Space

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Ng, Lye Ee (2019) Socialising within Differentiated Spaces: Between Autism, Technology and Space. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


The Lab is an established Australian after-school network of technology clubs for young people who self-identify as having autism. Conducted at three different Lab sites across Melbourne (Australia), this research explored how these young people socialise and develop meaningful interpersonal relationships within technologically-mediated spaces—conceptualised as ‘differentiated spaces’. The research was underpinned by scholarship in Critical Disability Studies, posthumanism and neurodiversity, and involved a total of 24 participants aged between 10 and 16. Informed by a transformative paradigm, the research methodology deployed three qualitative methods— participatory observation, video ethnography and online participatory ethnography. These methods were implemented in a consultative and flexible manner, to ensure that participants had opportunities to participate in research within a safe and relaxed environment. The research found that The Lab’s participants socialise, communicate and interact in their own unique ways, beyond the perceived limitations of dis/ability. This was largely enabled by the flexible configuration of the differentiated spaces at The Lab wherein participants were observed to interact and develop meaningful friendships in unstructured physical and online ‘Third Places’ of the programme. The study, in conclusion, advocates for a new way of understanding sociality in the digital era through the concept of ‘posthuman sociality’. This concept is capable of interrogating socially diverse identities that are reflexively interconnected with the environments one occupies. Posthuman sociality has assisted in forming an understanding of how young people at The Lab achieve a unique sense of self through the ways in which they navigate online and offline spaces to connect with others.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education
Historical > FOR Classification > 2001 Communication and Media Studies
Current > Division/Research > College of Arts and Education
Keywords socialisation; autism; technology; spaces; Melbourne; The Lab; technology club; young people
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