"The limits between life and the virtual: the real shape of autistic avatars" a documentary by the NHK

In July this year, I worked as a photographer and personal assistant to professor Eiko Ikegami (sociology and history professor at the New School for Social Research in New York City) on a documentary the NHK (the Japanese broadcasting company, the Japanese equivalent to the British BBC) was filming about her work on people in the autism spectrum that use Second Life (the online virtual world) as a platform for support and socialization.

This documentary involved interviewing some people in the autism spectrum across the United States. The main idea behind the documentary was the fact that people with "autism" are, contrary to most people's beliefs (in this case, particularly in Japanese society), individuals who can develop relatively normally once they get the support they need and the rest of us can better understand how they perceive the world surrounding them (which is quite different from how the rest of us do... of course, this also calls into question our conceptualization of "normal"). Furthermore, these individuals often are in situations in which life is even more complicated because their "being in the spectrum" is often added to other issues in American society: be that being LGBTI, belonging to a racial minority, living in places of extreme poverty in the US, etc.

The documentary was finally aired on Japanese television (on NHK-E) a few days ago (two episodes, about 30 minutes each). I was very impressed with the spin that the NHK production gave it and the professionalism with which the topic was deal with. Whilst it is normally impossible for people to watch it outside of Japan, I found a couple of Youtube links where you, dear reader, can watch the show. The documentary is obviously in Japanese, but the interviews are all in English, so at least you can get an idea of what this project was all about. Personally, I was very moved by this project and I was very glad to have participated in its production somehow.

NHK's Heart-Net documentary website: http://www.nhk.or.jp/heart-net/tv/calendar/program/index.html?id=201709262000

First episode: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8k87oS3Cgzg

Second episode: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fFdQFIRx8w