A scientific experiment
I hope everyone has had a wonderful summer. I've been immersing myself in the clinical literature, reading scientific studies on the sensory world and neurological basis of autism. One challenge has been organizing the data, particularly when an item correlates to multiple factors. My solution has been the Autism Chart which let's me correlate a trait across several domains or disciplines.
You'll see several columns in the chart, along with a page of references and notes. (To navigate look at the tabs on the bottom.) Of prime importance to the art installation is the one labelled Phenomenological. That's a mouthful, but it's a precise term from philosophy that means "the appearance of things." The items in this column will appear in the installation - this column describes how things look to some people on the autism spectrum.
Other columns are labelled Neurological, Functional, Psychological and Behavioral. These allow me to validate the phenomena scientifically, as I can cross-reference the elements of the installation to clinical studies that reference structures and activities in the brain. I'll also use them to generate events and narratives within the installation. As one of your fellow donors, Bill Roberts, always says, people understand things best through stories.
For the past week I've been studying how we become aware of others. In science and philosophy this characteristic is called intersubjectivity, and it underpins our ability to form relationships with each other. One of the prime factors in a diagnosis of autism is social impairment, so it is critical for me to learn the neurological origins of intersubjectivity and how its development might be altered in autistic people. I've found some fascinating research on social awareness in infants and on how primal structures in the brain regulate social interactions, and I'll post those in a wiki that will eventually replace my chart.
The best news is that my collaborators Dr. Francis McGlone and Dr. Stephen Fairclough have developed an experiment that will be embedded in the exhibition. Everyone who visits will thus have an opportunity to contribute to our scientific understanding of autism, and it is especially gratifying for me to see how art and science can work more closely.
Thanks again for your support! I'll be in touch.