Abstract: Traditional face-to-face social interactions can be challenging for individuals with autism, leading some to perceive and categorize these individuals as less social than their peers. For example, autism can be accompanied by difficulty making eye contact, interpreting some nonverbal cues, and performing coherent verbal utterances. While these challenges can be interpreted as an inability or lack of desire for social interactions, researchers have begun to explore how to expand the definition of sociality for those with autism. My research explores how technology can support alternative means of sociality, particularly for children with autism engaged in social play. In this advancement talk, I will present two research studies: SensoryPaint and Autcraft. SensoryPaint is a multimodal sensory environment built to enable whole-body interaction with the Kinect. Evaluation of SensoryPaint was conducted in two stages: a lab-based study and a deployment study. Results from this study show how these systems can promote socialization. My second research project explores Autcraft, a Minecraft community for children with autism and their allies. I will present results from on-going ethnographic work exploring the community’s Minecraft server and other community affiliated social media. Results from this study highlight ways in which community members use technology to create a safe environment for children with autism to explore alternative forms of social expression. Findings suggest an expansion of how sociality has traditionally been conceptualized for individuals with autism and how technology plays a key role in facilitating this new sociality.
Social media, including virtual worlds, has the potential to support children with autism in making friendships, learning pro-social behavior, and engaging in collaborative play with their peers. However, currently, little is known about how children with autism interact socially in online spaces. Furthermore, there is much more to learn about how technology can support these collaborative interactions. In this study, I propose investigating how a virtual world can be intentionally run alongside other complementary social media (e.g., website, forum, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+) specifically for children with autism. The contribution of this work is to create design guidelines for creating social media systems (including virtual worlds) to support social interactions of children with autism.
Kathryn E. Ringland, Christine T. Wolf, LouAnne E. Boyd, Mark Baldwin, and Gillian R. Hayes. 2016. Would You Be Mine: Appropriating Minecraft as an Assistive Technology for Youth with Autism. In ASSETS 2016. [Acceptance Rate: 25%]. Best Paper. [PDF]
Ringland, K.E., Wolf, C.T., Hayes, G.R. (2015, May 15). “The Benefits of Online Play: An Investigation of Virtual Worlds for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder”. International Meeting for Autism Research Salt Lake City, Utah.
Individuals with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders often experience sensory perception impairments, which can lead to challenges such as sensitivity to loud noises or irritation from specific textures on their skin. Atypical movement, such as rocking, can be exhibited as compensation for this sensory perception impairment.
Currently, therapists use dance therapy to stimulate the various senses in children with autism to help reduce atypical movement and to increase engagement in the activity. DanceCraft is a system developed to further the aims of dance therapy by increasing the children’s body awareness. We will be exploring how the software engenders different interactions styles to help inform the design of future systems focused on using body based movements to support dance therapy.
Lovely write up about the DanceCraft study by the Informatics department here at UCI: http://www.informatics.uci.edu/informatics-ph-d-student-introduces-dancecraft-to-oc-autistic-children/ ... Read More
The purpose of this research is to determine how children with Autism Spectrum Disorder use the virtual world Minecraft to communicate. While there are no direct benefits from participation in the study, it may explain how children with Autism Spectrum Disorder socialize and how to best assist them with technological interventions for communication. Interviews will take place within Minecraft, in person, or via Skype, depending on your preference. Interviews should take approximately 1 hour.
Please email me at kringlan [at] uci [dot] edu to arrange an interview!
Last week, I co-led a lecture on GamerGate. This was meant to give our class (Computer Games and Society) a small taste of the GamerGate controversy. First time giving a large-lecture hall talk! It was nerve-wracking, but exciting. I’ll leave it here for you to enjoy.
I made the trek across campus today to meet with Professor Andrew Palermo in UC Irvine’s Dance Department. I briefly pitched him our idea and explained what we could do with the Kinect. We talked about the dance classes he teaches at the local autism center. His classes consist of one part neurotypical dance class, one part partner dancing tailored to kids with autism, and one part dance routine. The dance routine is a composition of steps created by each person in the class. After our discussion, I am more excited than ever to move forward with our Dance Craft application for Kinect.
For our prototype that we will be demonstrating for the Autism AppJam, we will be creating an application that will encourage creative movement in the player/user. We will be focusing on something that can be used at home, outside of the dance class, to bring the creative motion out of the classroom and into the daily lives of the children. The great thing about this software is that set up and use will be fairly inexpensive for the typical. All that is needed is a computer to run the program, a Kinect, and a monitor/television.
I will leave you with a video of the inspiration behind Professor Palermo’s dance classes- a choreography called beyond.words:
My intention with these blog posts is to have a sort of informal record of my time spent in Autcraft. They will be my beginnings, in a way, of creating my overall narrative of my experience. I will be creating much more formal documentation in the form of conference papers and journal articles, but here I want to create a space that is more open to dialogue and discussion. I also want the community to know that I am completely open and willing to share my thoughts and findings as much as I want to hear the thoughts of those in the community. My hope is to be able to tell the story of Autcraft and to be able to, through technology, expand on what it has given the autism community if I can.
My first week in the Autcraft community has been an extremely humbling experience. As I made my first timid steps into the unknown, I was greeted with open arms. A good number of people have given me encouragement, offered to help, welcomed me and offered friendship, and thanked me. I feel like I should be the one thanking every single member of the Autcraft community for allowing me to be among them.
I feel like I have accomplished a lot in the few hours I have played over the last week: I’ve built a modest office, explored many different areas, gone mining, died in lava, played Hide and Seek with other players, marveled at all the amazing things other players have built, played Paint Ball with other players, and died falling from a giant pink pony. All and all, a very busy, but successful week.
I have been struck by the many different ways in which players communicate in Autcraft. There is text chat, but there is so much more. Players also communicate via their characters (how they look and through their movements), via their constructions, via signs littered throughout the world, and more. I am sure those that have a limited understanding of autism would be very surprised to hear that these players are communicating at all. And while I am still in the very early stages of my research, I can assure anyone reading this that these players are communicating- in a varied and rich format.
I will close with that for this week. Please stay tuned and feel free to email me at kringlan [at] uci [dot] edu with any questions about my work. Thanks and keep on building!