Project Overview

The aim of the study is to examine how autistic adults use social networking sites to maintain existing social relationships or create new ones. Understanding how autistic individuals use language, images, as well as different technological tools to communicate in social media is important for the design of environments that are inclusive of autistic user abilities and preferences. The study will help inform initiatives that use digital networking technologies to improve the quality of life of autistic adults.

Research Aims

Our overall aim is to examine how the SNS-based opportunities for interaction and relationship building but also digital surveillance are shaping autistic user experiences, and how the understanding of communicative practices in their social and technological contexts can help design autism-friendly social networking environments.

Specifically, the project will pursue the following objectives via four work packages: (1) observe online behaviour of a demographically diverse group of autistic Facebook and Twitter adult users; (2) conduct semi-structured interviews with these users to examine both individual motives and socio-technological norms shaping their SNS interactions; (3) analyse the extent and the ways autistic SNS users affiliate and align with others in Twitter posts and conversations/threads; (4) in collaboration with autistic adults, synthesize findings from these analyses, identify the enabling and inhibiting factors emerging from SNS use, and examine the opportunities for software co-design.

For more information on autism, we recommend the following websites:


National Autistic Society

To find local support for autistic adults and children, we recommend you visit:

The Autism Alliance

This project has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and is being run in cooperation with Autistica.

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