In the ever-changing digital terrain, technology has broken down psycho-social barriers, providing communities, such as neurodiverse individuals, with avenues for self-expression that were previously inaccessible. Noah Fischbach '24, professional writing and journalism, embarked on a firsthand exploration of the evolving digital landscape and the human interpretation of "the other" during his Summer Scholars research project.
“My project stems from the analysis of how technology and humanity intersect. That’s a very basic understanding of it,” said Fischbach. “This project has allowed me to explore how technology affects the neurodivergent community and also represents ways in which we reframe our ways of knowledge and how we claim knowledge.”
Fischbach’s research journey began with an extensive exploration of foundational literature. He started by delving into Donna Haraway's portrayal of the cyborg, tracing the evolution of the concept. Along the way, he encountered diverse perspectives on the cyborg, including critiques and reinterpretations, as well as intriguing discoveries such as the cryptic technoscience manifesto.
He then turned his attention to the works of French philosopher Michel Foucault, particularly his concept of power knowledge. This aspect was crucial for the paper, as it provided a lens through which to examine the relationship between technology and community. The final pillar of Fischbach’s theoretical foundation was Henry Jenkins and his concept of participatory culture. This framework illuminated the ways in which we produce and share content in the digital realm, highlighting the shift toward mass-produced content and widespread sharing – a phenomenon that reshapes the landscape of media and communication.
“My project is autoethnography, a research method that focuses intensely on personal experience, and is based on my experiences within a neurodiverse-centered Discord server,” said Fischbach. “I have a really wonderful and unique community full of people who struggle every day, but also find ways in which to overcome that struggle to support one another. To ultimately form this web of positive power and use technologies o liberate communities rather than subjugate individuals.”
During his Summer Scholars research project, Fischbach worked closely with his faculty mentor, Sergey Rybas, Ph.D., associate professor, English.
“Noah worked hard this summer. His autoethnographic project offers important insights into many affordances that modern social media can present to neurodiverse people and diverse populations in general,” Rybas said.
“Inspired by Donna Haraway's ‘Cyborg Manifesto,’ the paper questions conventional roles, labels, power positions, abilities, and needs of users within one social media platform, Discord. Discussing his own experiences as a member of a neurodiverse community on the platform, Noah identifies distinct opportunities for those who are traditionally silenced, ostracized, or marginalized.”
Ultimately, Noah’s project calls for and celebrates equity, opportunity, and diversity of those who create today’s world, on-screen and off,” Rybas said. “It’s been my honor advising this promising researcher as part of Capital’s Summer Scholars program.”
Through Summer Scholars, Capital supports undergraduate students in their research pursuits. The 10-week experience connects students with a faculty mentor, plus awards a stipend. All Summer Scholars present their work to the Capital community at the end of the summer and at the Symposium on Undergraduate Scholarship the year following completion of the Summer Scholars experience.
“Summer Scholars allows you to focus on what fascinates you. It is a way to do a deep dive into your chosen research topic, with the freedom to explore and have fun,” said Fischbach. “It’s honestly been a once-in-a-lifetime kind of opportunity.”
To learn more about the Summer Scholars Program, visit https://www.capital.edu/academics/experiential-learning/undergraduate-research/summer-scholars-program/.
To learn more about English at Capital, visit https://www.capital.edu/academics/english/.