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Amplified Publishing Category

Adaption vs Conception: Neurodivergent design possibilities in publishing

by Linus Harrison

I love being neurodivergent - most days. But I don't love living in a neurotypically designed world. As a neurodivergent person in a neurotypical space, I'm perpetually translating. Many of us, speaking in our second or third language, navigating inaccessible built environments, struggling with linear, written information experience the constant need for adaption. Shaping ourselves around everyday environments, our media, many interactions - it's exhausting.

Adaption is different to built-in design. Much as many supermarkets adopted 'autistic hours' (a great move), but they're still adapting a neurotypical/allistic* design, because supermarkets were built with certain customers in mind.

We don't have enough data on neurodiversity in publishing, but what we do know is the numbers of neurodiverse people in society are significant. In 2013, there were 8.2 million cases of anxiety and almost 4 million cases of what are termed mood disorders in the UK (including bipolar). There are more than 700,000 people on the autistic spectrum in the UK. The ADHD Foundation state that 1 in 5 people have some form of neurodiversity and 10-16% of the population have dyslexia, with 4% being strongly affected.

I grew up in a world that seemed like an inexplicable and disorienting place. It's part of my experience of being neurodivergent in a neurotypically designed world. No captain of industry had me in mind when building the structures our society and media hinge around. We've inherited these ways of working, so I've written my own guidelines to navigate a world in which I'm constantly compensating for deficits in the neurotypical design.

These figures show the gap in the market left by the standard neurotypical delivery of media, which misses how neurodivergent people and visual thinkers receive, process and integrate information.

I grew up in a world that seemed like an inexplicable and disorienting place. It's part of my experience of being neurodivergent in a neurotypically designed world. No captain of industry had me in mind when building the structures our society and media hinge around. We've inherited these ways of working, so I've written my own guidelines to navigate a world in which I'm constantly compensating for deficits in the neurotypical design. I admit, my way of working takes me on a slightly different route. I feel as if the drummer in my head is constantly out of step. Well, they're an avant-garde drummer in an experimental drum & bass/medieval/pop fusion band. It's true, inside my head rocks, but we're stuck in a 4/4 world.

In my Amplified Publishing Inclusion Fellowship research, I'm exploring where the neurodivergent built-in design is in publishing. I don't doubt that, historically, it's been neurotypically led, but with new and emerging tech, we have new tools and new ground to cover. We have new history to write.

I'm excited about what publishing would look like if designed by neurodivergent folx. As with VR, AR, MR & other new techs, the space they take up in published material is new and uncharted - a great space to create new things. With increasing emergence and expanding options to publish online through video, audio, podcasts, and the ability to utilise and develop new pathways through synchronous visual and audio media, virtual reality, augmented reality and more, we are in a space of opportunity to synchronise the future of publishing with the needs of our authentic and fully representative audiences.

I believe that with the proliferation of new technology there needs to be the proliferation of new ideas to ensure that emerging publishing technology develops and evolves alongside the the audiences they are designed to meet.

Join me on Instagram to be part of my visual exploration of this research.

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* If 'allistic' is a new word for you, in essence it means 'not autistic'. Autism is often described as a spectrum, but spectrums have more than one end. Much like there are introverted people and extroverted people and we're all somewhere on this spectrum, there are autistic people and allistic people. Where do you fit in on this spectrum? How do you identify?

Photo credit: WrongTog on Unsplash.