I forgot to post some of these videos earlier, partially because they make me too mad to be articulate and partially because I can’t actually watch them in full. It became a trend a few years ago to make “autism simulation” videos, where someone essentially tries to duplicate what sensory overload feels like for an autistic person. There’s no equivalent for most other disabilities but this is in part because traditional simulation activities tend to focus on physical disabilities rather than anything intellectual, developmental, or mental. At Sziget over the summer, where I first encountered Hungary’s interest in disability simulations, most of the games focused on vision impairments or using a wheelchair. These were the typical sort of activities: use a blindfold and cane and navigate an area, use a wheelchair and tr to go up ramps or around tight corners. There was a small tented area that had other types of simulation games, focusing on disabilities like autism. I don’t remember that much about what the games were, since I was trying to avoid engaging with anyone from these organizations, but one involved putting on headphones to have “distracting sounds” and trying to play a simple card game. Most autism or sensory simulations emphasize one sense over all others – often sound, since it’s easier to control in person than vision.
The three videos here are made by autistic people but each handles sound or visual input differently. I’ve been thinking a lot about the videos over the past few days, since they try to simulate disability in a different way than the Invisible Exhibition. I don’t agree with what any of them depict but I think they are able to side-step some of the ethical issues I have had with other films and they are subverting that by using self-representation to explain how each creator sees (or hears) and experiences the world. I was working on this before class today so I wasn’t planning to incorporate any of the ethical discussion from that but I feel like it might fit in here. Selma (I hope I’m spelling her name right) mentioned that she doesn’t like any representations of Roma communities in movies, and I’m guessing she feels more sensitive to this topic than other possible issues. I feel the same way about disability representation: I don’t like any depictions of disabilities in movies or documentaries, I am always hyper-aware of this (like in the Queen of Silence trailer, which immediately raised my hackles), and I will always question the ethics in disability representations. I seem to have beliefs regarding ethics that are different than many in the class, but it’s most evident when disability is in the frame.
1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmDGvquzn2k This is made by Carly Fleischmann (an autistic blogger) and her family, who were trying to mimic what it feels like for Carly to be in a busy cafe. It feels a lot like a scene in a movie because of the hyper-focus on individual objects or actions in the cafe, and the way that it can emphasize particular sounds and movements over all of the background.
2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcS2VUoe12M This was the first simulation video I ever saw, also made by an autistic person. It was the subject of a debate on Facebook between a few of my friends, who were trying to balance the fact that this isn’t how they experience the world and the video seems very superficial and inaccurate, while understanding that each person experiences sensory information differently. It uses sound differently than the first video, since this person basically turned up the volume on all of the ambient noise to make it sound very intrusive.
3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plPNhooUUuc Also from an autistic creator, this one doesn’t address sound or auditory overload – there appears to be no manipulation whatsoever to the sounds of the scenery and the emphasis here is on the visual: playing with the light and filters, moving around constantly and pointing the camera at different things on the street. This one also uses a direct contrast between how non-autistic people experience a walk down the street and how this person feels when they walk for a block.