No Blow Hat

Viennese winds can be harsh, particularly if you’re a child. Having had their previously favourite hat blown off their head numerous times, I was asked to please make another hat, that doesn’t do that. Behold, the No Blow Hat, so elastic, it clings onto your head without pressure (and, as a side effect, fits most heads no matter their size).

You’ll need: some sports-weight yarn in as many colours as you want. 3.5 mm needles (double point or hat round needle).


  • ktbl — knit through back loup
  • p — purl
  • k — knit
  • m — make (I do that here by picking up the yarn between two stitches and knitting it through the back loop. This effectively twists the yarn and makes the potential hole smaller)
  • k2tog — knit 2 together


  • Cast on 84 stitches (I use long-tail cast-on); join in the round (be careful not to twist)
  • 7 rows (ktbl, p1) to end 
  • (k7, m1) to end — 96 stitches
  • *row 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 21 and 23: knit
  • row 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12: (k3, p3) to end
  • row 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24: (p3, k3) to end*
  • repeat stitches between * twice
  • For the colour effect above, you want to change the yarn every 12 rows.
  • Optional: repeat rows 1-12 once more.
  • (k10, k2tog) to end
  • knit
  • (k9, k2tog) to end
  • knit
  • (k8, k2tog) to end
  • knit
  • (k7, k2tog) to end
  • knit
  • (k6, k2tog) to end
  • knit
  • (k5, k2tog) to end
  • (k4, k2tog) to end
  • (k3, k2tog) to end
  • (k2, k2tog) to end
  • (k1, k2tog) to end
  • pull yarn through remaining stitches, pull tight and weave in ends.


Bobble Hat

Green Hat version of the Bobble Hat Pattern

I started creating patterns again. So here comes one that is surprisingly easy, but comes with a bunch of interesting different shapes and effects. Still not good at making pictures, though.

You’ll need: about 75g of bulky yarn for main colour (MC); about 20g of bulky yarn for contrasting colour (CC), 4.5mm needles (either double point (dpns) or round), tapestry needle


  • CC – contrasting colour
  • MC – main colour
  • ktbl – (knit through back loop); k2tbl (knit 2 through back loops)
  • k – knit
  • p – purl
  • sskslip slip knit (left leaning decrease)
  • k2tog – knit 2 together (right leaning decrease)
  • x (number) – repetitions


  • Cast on 90 stitches with CC, join in round (being careful not to twist)
  • (k2tbl p2) x 22, k2tbl for 15 rows
  • switch to MC
  • knit 4 rows
  • *(k9 p5 k4) x5, for 6 rows
  • knit 6 rows
  • (p5 k13) x5, for 6 rows*
  • knit 6 rows
  • repeat between * once more
  • knit 2 rows
  • (k1 ssk k12 k2tog k1) x5
  • knit
  • (k1 ssk k10 k2tog k1) x5
  • knit
  • (k1 ssk k8 k2tog k1) x5
  • knit
  • (k1 ssk k6 k2tog k1) x5
  • knit
  • (k1 ssk k4 k2tog k1) x5
  • knit
  • (k1 ssk k2 k2tog k1) x5
  • knit
  • (k1 ssk k2tog k1) x5
  • knit
  • (k1 ssk k1) x5
  • pull yarn through all remaining loops and pull tight
  • weave in ends.

The contrasting part is folded towards the inside as to support warming the ears and creating a neat edge to the hat. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy the resulting pattern as much as they do:

Current Penalty Code Cheat Sheet (March 2016 codes) for Penalty Trackers

While I had the wherewithal to create a new penalty code cheat sheet when the new verbal codes came out… over a year ago and to share it with my league, I’ve kind of forgot to make it available for anyone else, also because I thought that would only matter to me and someone else would surely do it as well and imposter Bla Bla Bla. I got over it. So, have thepenalty codes cheat sheet with the updated codes from March 2016. I will probably soon have to make another one.

Presentation and Journal Paper: Evaluating Experiences of Autistic Children with Technologies.

Last year in Barcelona, I have given a talk about how I plan to evaluate the experiences of autistic children with technologies. You can find the slides for the talk here. They also allow a unique glimpse into a preliminary state of what was later becoming my paper at the International Journal of Child Computer Interaction, which incidentally is available for free until April 7th using this link. Note, for example how in the main graphic there has been a change in the top intersection where ‘interests’ as the defining characteristic of the relationship between child and technology has been replaced by ‘interaction’. Interests have — following an insightful discussion with Narcis Pares in Barcelona — been moved to the design process instead.

Subjectivity in Mathematics – Implications of Richard Buckminster Fuller’s Energetic Geometry

This is an essay I have written as part of a Philosophy of Science course with Blay Whitby in Summer 2016.


I compare Euclidean and Energetic Geometry to show how there is a set of mathematical languages, which are subjected to interpretation. This theoretical exercise provides deeper insights into the agendas and world views mathematical concepts carry and deconstruct the presumed ‘neutral’ or ‘objective’ stance that is largely attributed to them.

The Point of Euclidean Geometry

There is a large desire in human society to order the world it exist in, because “[b]eing able to see connections confirms our hope that our world is under- standable and not just a bunch of senseless accidents” [Meyer, 2006, p.5]. Consequently, around 300 BCE Euclid attempted to structure space by formally defining Elements [Euclid and Joyce, 1996].
There is just one problem. “(…) [T]here seems to be nothing in nature that is absolutely straight enough to be a “true” line segment” [Meyer, 2006, p.7]. Hence, Euclid’s geometry has to produce a symbolic system that is tightly cou- pled to rigorous rules of precision. Otherwise the geometry cannot function as an abstraction beyond a visual depiction (ibid.). This means that the underlying axioms of which formulae are deduced have to be both strict and generally applicable at the same time.
It is all the more surprising then that Euclidean geometry does not give strong definitions for its pre-axiomatic building blocks such as the point and subsequently also lines and planes [Meyer, 2006, p.22]. Rather, they remain undefined. Considering that Euclid’s geometry demands rigour and proof through axioms, it appears inconsistent that when it comes to the core parts of these axioms, Euclid relies on ’common’ knowledge of what constitutes a point. Through this, Euclid offers a subjective gateway into geometry. It becomes then situ- ated within the tools that are used to work with them (e.g., pen and paper vs. computational construction) and depends on context, that, for the sake of comparability gets abstracted away to defend the objectivity of a system, whose grammatical base has not been properly specified.
Following this, Euclidean geometry constructs meaning through the formulae and abstractions of the world, which is limited by the axiomatic space it provides. We will see how this defines discursive limits and how representations of the world contain ideological and subjective points of view.

Fuller’s Critique

During the first half of the 20th century, Richard Buckminster Fuller – alongside being a well-received architect – publicly criticised the construction of the Euclidean right angle. Fuller points out, that it relies on the opportunities and limitations provided by the instrument used. Next to the already often cited ones (ruler, compass and pen), Fuller adds another important agent into this set: the flat surface on which a right angle is constructed on [Fuller, 1999a, p.175]. This pre-axiomatic critique of Euclidean geometry can also be seen as a critical approach to the prevalent world view at the time as it shows itself by the methods and spaces spanned open by geometry as a way to measure the world.
To Fuller, mathematics as a discipline and geometry as a part of that discipline is full of ”inconsumerable ratios and a barrel full of clumsy constants” [Fuller, 1999a, p.178]. Constants such as π or e are difficult to conceive. This shows how not only the instruments, but also the creations they produce are lost in the resulting complexity. ”Whatever happens in the depths of matter, disappears behind ever larger apparatuses, which we cannot look inside and even if we could, we would not see anything and even if we saw, we wouldn’t understand it, since the quantal world doesn’t bother to shape itself in our form of sensual experience. In one word: the constructive mediatedness of our perception is in theoretical and practical aspects so overwhelming, that it becomes understandable, that some physicists don’t really know what their matter actually is.” [Mutschler, 1998, p.33, translated from German]. To Fuller, this is not acceptable. His ontology requires a world that has an image that is as easily perceivable as the world itself (Heidegger might agree, see Heidegger [1926/1967]).
Euclidean geometry and mathematical constants put a layer on the world, which does its elegance no justice [Fuller, 1999a, p.178]. Its abstractions fail to simplify the direct world, but rather construct purely nonphysical constructs such as straight lines [Fuller, 1999a, p.173]. Those who practise Euclidean geometry agree (cf. Meyer [2006, p.5]). The three dimensional space became more and more of a problem. ”The leitmotif of the 19th century, which con- nected maths, physics and philosophy, the >space problem< emerged: How can the natural space be described mathematically." [Mehrtens, 1990, p.44, translated from German]. Energetic Geometry

With the feeling ”(…) that the whole universe must be the starting point for his enquiry (…)” [Morrell, 1986, p.613], Richard Buckminster Fuller understood mathematics as a generalised form of learning which – in his opinion – should be oriented on patterns found in nature (ibid.). While I personally am not inclined to distinguish between nurture and nature, this perspectives make sense within the then contemporary major scientific paradigm.
Because Euclidean geometry is insufficient for Fuller, he developed an alter- native geometry, which he claims to be intuitive and supporting human creativity. This is especially important to him. It is interesting though, how – despite the thousands of years of the history of humankind full of innovation and archi- tecture – he claims to have developed a more fitting system that is supposed to be better for exactly what has been already achieved with an old out-dated one: the creatively built and inspiring environment in which he thinks.
To Fuller, every physical force (such as warmth, electricity and magnetism) can be described in energetic terms. A geometry delivering a more intuitive image of the world, should, hence, follow this, which is why he calls his approach Energetic Geometry. He starts with new basics, in order to follow a more strict construction of his postulates [Fuller, 1999a, p.178]. For this, he first defines his tools with the goal of an explicit mention of the inscription of tools in the the- ory they are being used by. This does neglect, that the implicit assumptions of Euclidean Geometry are not effectively circumvented, but rather made explicit.
”[T]he apparently simple and unproblematic idea of a »point« had to be rethought, and »the phenomena accommodated by the packaged word point will always prove to be a focal center of differentiating events.« For Fuller, geometry did
not describe a timeless space of pure Cartesian form, but rather a universe where lines »cannot go through the same point at the same time.«” [Nye, 2009, p.88]. Fuller tries to abstract from the undefined grounds of Euclidean geometry and defines his core elements as events and vectors connecting those. This equivalency to points and lines is being presented by Fuller himself in Fuller [1999b]. Geometrical deliberations are especially suitable for equivalent theories due to their strictly axiomatic build up. ”(…) Equivalence of axiomatic theories is given ipso facto, since every mathematical system of axioms can be described differently achieving the same. Whether something is an axiom or a theorem depends on its place in a network of mathematical relations, which can be differently arranged while accomplishing the same thing.” [Mutschler, 1998, p.29, translated from German]. Energetic geometry, hence, provides a different way of expressing the same things as Euclidean geometry.

Geometry as Construct

While Fuller is by far not the first who voices issues with Euclidean geometry (see, e.g. the concept of spherical geometry Katz and Imhausen [2007, S.4]), he does provide a unique ’solution’ to the spatial problem. He does not base his work on the right angle, but rather on the rigid construct of triangular bodies and derivations thereof. Polyhedra are especially fascinating to him and also provide a way to illustrate how geometry is constructed by the language and the implicit ideologies roaming through it. Buckminster Fuller describes polyhedra as such:

(…) Every vector (line) leads from one center of a sphere to an- other and therefore represents the operational effect of melting two forces. Every vector (line) consists of two halves, each of them be- longing to one of the spheres and each half of the line represents the radius of each tangential sphere, which all are in a right angle to the identical tangent point and construct a continuous straight line: Through that it is defined that a unit (represented by the inter nuclear vector-module) necessarily holds double the value, which means: unity is inherently two, since it represents the unity of at least two centers of energy. [Fuller, 1999b, S.183, translated from German]

In comparison, the definition of a polyhedron from a Euclidean perspective:

A polyhedron is a three-dimensional solid bounded by a finite number of polygons called faces. Points where three or more faces meet are called vertices. Line segments where exactly two faces meet at an angle are called edges. The vertices and edges of a polyhedron make a graph called the graph of the polyhedron. [Meyer, 2006, S.418]

It should be mentioned, thought, that rigid polyhedra are rare to find and often constructed by humans. “There were only a few polyhedra to be found in nature or the man-made world at that time in history: rooms of buildings, which are basically rectangular parallelopipeds; the pyramids of Egypt; and perhaps a few other examples.” [Meyer, 2006, S.432]. Therefore, polyhedra are more of a thought experiment in other versions of geometry.
Interestingly enough, although Fuller attacks the straight line with a passion only two years earlier [Fuller, 1999a], he now re-establishes it. He also just renames points and calls them centres of spheres. Hence, it is not necessarily the mathematical consistency, he attacks in Euclidean geometry. His agenda is a different one.
The difference between the two definitions can be seen especially in the lines (or vectors). Fuller’s centres of energy are loaded with meaning while Euclidean geometry tries desperately to keep all meaning out, which necessarily fails. The basis from which we construct, analyse and depict the world around us, is, hence constructed in and off itself only providing another tool to express what we perceive.
Another example for a different dialect within geometry is Hilbert’s. ”(…) [Y]ou can extract the graphic model of Euclidean geometry from the abstraction of Hilbert geometry.” [Mutschler, 1998, p.35, translated from German]. Since one geometrical system can be translated in another, we can understand it as a language system. In that context, we can see mathematics as one language and different versions of it as dialects.
However, then geometry cannot be what it claims it is: an accurate depiction of the perceivable world. ”If it depends on the phrasing of a theory on whether a space is Euclidean or not, whether reality consists of particles or fields, then we cannot naively understand the theoretical concepts as portrayal of a world being for itself.” [Mutschler, 1998, S. 35, translated from German]. Fuller’s energetic geometry, hence, shows how mathematical systems are subject to interpretation and are con- structed through their perception every time. The societal agreement on how to ’properly’ construct the meaning given by Euclidean geometry is fairly rigorous in the western world; that doesn’t necessitate only one way to understand it, though.


Euclid and David E Joyce. Euclid’s Elements. Clark University, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, 1996.

Richard Buckminster Fuller. Dymaxion Comprehensive System – Einführung Energetischer Geometrie (1944). In Richard Buckminster Fuller, Joachim Krausse, and Claude Lichtenstein, editors, Your Private Sky: R. Buckminster Fuller: The Art of Design Science, pages 172–181. Springer, 1999a.

Richard Buckminster Fuller. Energetische Geometrie (1946) /Dichteste Packung von Kugeln). In Richard Buckminster Fuller, Joachim Krausse, and Claude Lichtenstein, editors, Your Private Sky: R. Buckminster Fuller: The Art of Design Science, pages 182–183. Springer, 1999b.

Martin Heidegger. Sein und Zeit. Max Niemeyer Verlag Tübingen, 1926/1967.

Victor J Katz and Annette Imhausen. The Mathematics of Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, India and Islam: A Source Book. Princeton University Press, 2007.

Herbert Mehrtens. Moderne – Sprache – Mathematik: Eine Geschichte des Streits um die Grundlagen der Disziplin und des Subjekts formaler Systeme. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt, 1990.

Walter A Meyer. Geometry and its Applications. Access Online via Elsevier, 2006.

William R. Morrell. Some Perspectives of Fuller’s Mathematics – An Undergraduate’s Assessment by William R. Morrell, Yale College, Class of 1986. In Robert W. Gray, editor, Synergetics Dictionary Online, pages 613–618. Online: SynergeticsDictionary/status.html, 1986.

Hans-Dieter Mutschler. Die Welt als Konstruktion. In Kurt Komarek and Gottfried Magerl, editors, Virtualität und Realität. Bild und Wirklichkeit in den Naturwissenschaften, pages 25–42. Wien; Köln; Weimar : Böhlau, 1998.

David E. Nye. Energy in the Thought and Design of R. Buckminster Fuller. In Hsiao-yun Chu and Roberto G Trujillo, editors, New Views on R. Buckminster Fuller, pages 86–98. Stanford University Press, 2009.

EROC 2017 Workshop ‘Announcers – Your greatest promotional weapon’

At EROC 2017, the European Roller Derby Organizational Conference, at the end of January in Berlin, I had the great pleasure to attend a workshop talking more generally about announcing. It was held by sMACklemore, an independent announcer, who did little events as tournament head announcer such as the Men’s World Cup in Calgary 2016 and is also one of the hosts of the ‘Talk Derby to Me’ podcast series. With kind permission, I share my notes of the session here. There are three parts to it: Why Announcing?, Important Stuff for Announcers and Important Stuff for Leagues. But since both interested leagues and announcers should know about the other side as well, here you have it as one big giant post. Sometimes you’ll see a Leagues in the Announcers section, which means, this was related to something important for announcers, but Leagues should consider that in their bout preparation.

Why Announcing?

What people hear is more easily retained than what they see. The background medium of announcing (think of radio working in a similar way) makes a game memorable.

Just winning games is not enough to grow your league and the professionalism.

Important Stuff for Announcers

What do you even do?

  • Inform the audience
  • Educate the crowd
  • Promote upcoming events
  • Entertain the crowd
  • Promote sponsors
  • Make people want to come back for more games
  • Sell merchandise (by mentioning it; Leagues: a ready list for announcers is handy)
  • Give out contact details of the league, Facebook etc.
  • Sell the sport, the drama and the enthusiasm

Keep in mind:
The first few jams you explain EVERYTHING. There is a really good chance, that there are quite a few people in the audience who have absolutely no idea what is going on. Having them in on the fun within a couple of jams is essential. However, don’t bother talking too much before the game starts. Nobody will listen to it really anyway, but if you test the PA, do so potentially engagingly without expecting too much.

It’s really important to create an emotional connection with your audience. You want to make derby desirable to grow your fanbase. And that means, as an announcer, you need to be passionate as well. Hence, (Leagues) it’s important that there is an emotional connection between announcers & league, that is fostered and upheld.

The sport is highly complex and fast paced. And there is a whole lot of visual, auditory, and, let’s face it, olfactory input. This means, that a background explanation is essential for the audience to make sense of all that.

When the crowd is pumped up and loud, let them be invested in themselves. People should leave on a high at every game.
You can excite people by upping tempo, tone and speed. Particular words are not essential to carry over excitement.
You don’t need to be super knowledgable about the sport to start announcing, but you need to be able to get excited about it.

Important Stuff for Leagues

Invest in your announcers! Usually they don’t want to have much, but at least give them food and water. If you can, consider reimbursing travel costs and if required, host them!

How to recruit announcers?

  • local, community radio stations
  • Media/broadcasting students at local colleges or universities
  • Local podcasters
  • Public speakers (teachers, lecturers)
  • Auction houses
  • Other sporting commentators
  • Local celebrities

How to develop announcers in your league?

Bring announcers to away games as well. Especially in international games, that encourages fans to join you on your trip as they can be ensured that they will understand something in their language.

Include them in trainings and scrimmages, where you potentially also offer them a small audience, e.g., friends and family, for practice. Provide a mentor, even if you don’t have any other announcers. It can be any member of the league (well, maybe not a completely new one who’s still figuring things out for themselves). And let them grow! Give them opportunities for feedback from peers, by inviting other announcers and encourage self learning. Invite them in footage watching sessions where they can listen to the game.

How to grow that sweet sweet emotional connection with your league?
Involve them as members of the league. This includes committee work, but also visibility: promote them on your social media. Show that you trust in them and want to invest in their skills by sending them to other leagues, tournaments and/or learning camps (such as EROC, Rollercon or EuroDerbyCon). Alternatively, you can always invite others and host your own. This is only beneficial for your now growing army of announcers.

Hi, I’m Tinker Bull, Bench Coach of the Vienna Beasts, the B-Team of Vienna Roller Derby. Under the name Extermikate, I’m also a roller derby official (skating and non-skating).

Fancy Sweatbands

This pattern was mostly an experiment with a multicoloured Wollmeise yarn I had still lying around. But hey, why not have a fancy sweatband!


You need about 25g of fingering yarn and 2.5 mm double-pointed needles.
Multicoloured yarn adds the nice colour-effect.



  • k — knit
  • p — purl
  • k2tbl — knit 2 stitches through back loop
  • m1 — make 1 — add a stitch by lifting and twisting the strand between the two stitches on row below
  • k2tog — knit two stitches together

Pattern Note — Woven Chevrons:

  • right leaning row: knit 2, slip 3 stitches with yarn in front until end of the row minus one stitch — beginning of round now moved one stitch to the right
  • left leaning row: knit 2, slip 3 stitches with yarn in front until end of the row, knit 1 — beginning of round now moved one stitch to the left
  • Woven Chevrons right: 6 right leaning rows followed by 5 left leaning rows
  • Woven Chevrons left: 6 left leaning rows followed by 5 right leaning rows



  1. Cast on 72 stitches with your preferred cast on method and join in round. Be careful not to twist.
  2. (k2tbl, p2) — repeat over the round for 10 rounds
  3. (k2tog, k34) x2
  4. Woven Chevrons right
  5. knit for 6 rounds
  6. Woven Chevrons left
  7. (k1, m1, k34) x2
  8. (k2tbl, p2) — repeat over the round for 9 rounds
  9. Bind of loosely in ribbing pattern
  10. Weave in ends and block lightly.


On Reviewing and Receiving Reviews

Evaluation is not just a matter of threading a judgement through a procedure, but also of characterizing the quality of something. — Stefan Hirschauer: Editorial Judgements

Double-blind peer review is one of the pillars of the scientific apparatus. Many manuscripts are evaluated by their peers before they are being published in order to ensure quality standards and constantly redefine the scope of a field.

I mostly enjoy reviewing — no matter the quality of the paper –, since I can contribute to an idea and improve a manuscript. However, sometimes, there is this sneaky paper, where you can see that someone has been left alone by their peers. Those manuscripts have obviously not received any love or critical feedback and are rough 2nd or 3rd drafts of writing. I love discussing the content, but if I’m overwhelmed by the amount of grammar, style and structure issues I need to mention I feel like someone used the review process for proof reading and editing feedback more than actually expecting to get published. Doing this type of work for friends and colleagues is ok and I offer it willingly, but having the job dumped on me feels weird. Now, I could always reject reviewing a paper, but then I feel like I’m just deflecting the job to some other poor soul who has to go through the motions regardless. One solution there would be that publication venues offer mentors who are willing to proof read papers of more junior writers and give them structural feedback. Most academic writing is published in English, which privileges native speakers. For grammar and style issues — mostly from non-native speakers –, we should think about having an optional editing stage before or after reviewing — and communicating that to reviewers. These things cost money and time, yes, but then publishers make tons of money from work they don’t pay for anyway, so why not invest into that, so that we all can enjoy reviewing papers more and getting enthusiastic about ideas.

There is another side to reviews as well: the receiving side. I mostly enjoy receiving reviews — no matter the result –, since they always help to improve an idea as well as the manuscript and, ultimately, that’s what I want: the best version of a manuscript possible. Some reviews are unhelpful, yes, some reviews didn’t quite understand what you were writing about, yes, but in the end it tells you, that you have to be more concise in your writing. However, sometimes we receive reviews that are unkind and unappreciative towards the work you describe in your manuscript. Sometimes we receive reviews that tell us we chose not only the wrong venue (fair enough), but also that we have no place in the chosen field. This seems awfully ignorant of the fact that almost no publications come from authors who are not embedded in public or private research institutions in which they have to work with others who are also part of their field. The anonymity of authors and reviewers alike during the review process is essential to counteract the most obvious favouritism. However, often authors are already obvious to reviewers during the process or become obvious when a manuscript is published. Reviewers remain anonymous other than when they choose to identify themselves to the authors after publication and even that is frowned upon. I argue that anonymous reviewers behave somewhat like anonymous commenters on the internet: they are ultimately harsher. Reviewers are not accountable for what they write and, hence, sometimes don’t filter their criticism with the appropriate appreciation for the work in front of them. Making it standard that reviewers are disclosed after the review process is finished and a decision has been made, encourages them to stay more focused on their evaluation task and creates a more helpful and supportive review system that we all can profit more from.

Person-First or Identity-First?

When I started my PhD, I was occupied for several months with almost exclusively the question on whether I would say “autistic people” or “people with autism.” Before I say more, you should know that I do not identify as autistic myself – albeit disabled – but grew up with an autistic sibling.

I stumbled across the question of language in the way that most researchers probably do, in that I had never really thought about it, since ‘it does not concern me personally, right?’. Through that I kind of offended a friend of mine who has a kid with autism and explained to me that there is a difference in person-first or, as they called it, ‘label-first’ language. Not wanting to offend anyone, I dove into the debate. And it’s an intense one.

The main argument for person-first language is that by othering and labeling individuals through adjectives, they become second to their label and are not seen as individual. Others have elaborated on this more, but that seems to be the gist of it. If you say ‘a person with autism’ it becomes more about the person than about the autism. But then, does it?

According to Jim Sinclair, this way an autistic person is also seen as separate from their autism, which is contrary to their experience. Why can they be called clever and handsome, but not autistic? Why is it not a person with smartness or a person with beauty?

Ultimately then, it does not seem to matter how we talk about a condition grammatically, but rather, which semantics are attached to it. For those who are into that, there is some research on how the grammatical construct does not necessarily alter semantic meaning.

However, those who connect the construct with a certain meaning care very much about how we talk about autism and autistic individuals. You might have noticed by now that I am mostly using identity-first language and those who know me also know that I strongly advocate for using it. This is not only because I find Sinclair’s argument slightly more convincing, but also because a large survey in the UK indicated that autistic individuals tend to prefer it as well. Sue Fletcher-Watson recently analysed the results of the survey and shows how professionals dealing with autism according to the numbers care emphatically more about which language is used and strongly prefer person-first constructs whereas autistic people just indicate a slight preference. The conclusion then is that mixing grammatical constructs might be the least offensive way for everyone involved. I disagree.

I perfectly understand the need to work with the autism community at large, which includes autistic individuals, their families, their carers and professionals. But what is language if not a political statement. If there is a debate on how language is used and a large portion of the people we try to address is telling me ‘please call me autistic’, then who am I to judge them wrong? I need to listen to them and I need to listen to them more than to professionals who do have more power in this conversation already. Using identity-first language to me is a political act that acknowledges the preferences of those who are marginalised all too often.

This is my conclusion, but this is not the only way to do it. I don’t think there is a ‘correct’ way to talk about autistic individuals. First of all, I also change my language if I talk about an individual who prefers e.g., person first language (see above when talking about my friend’s kid). Second of all, I don’t think it helps anyone if people just try and do what is ‘politically correct’ without thinking about the circumstances that does make something correct or incorrect. That is why I might ask you why you are making a certain choice. I want to learn more about the different arguments surrounding the language and re-evaluate my own use. For me, it is most important that I make an informed choice in how I speak, especially when speaking about something that is outside of my personal experience, such as being a non-autistic researchers talking about autistic children.

Ultimately, and I think that is where everyone in the debate agrees on, consider the preference an individual has when talking about them specifically. Only that way we can start establishing a person-first attitude regardless of the grammatical constructs we use.


For two years now I have been a PhD student with the OutsideTheBox project, in which we co-design technologies with autistic children. Our prototypes are supposed to make sense in the children’s lives and enable them to share the positive experiences they make with the technologies. My PhD work focuses on the experiences the children have with their technologies.
To that effect, I’m developing an evaluation tool that allows for critical reflection and purposefully includes the direct perspectives from autistic children. It is based on Actor-Network Theory and Critical Discourse Analysis.


illustration drawn by Julia Makhaeva