“One of those rare websites that succeeds in giving you a glimpse into someone else’s perspective. I love this project.” —Troy Lachance
“This gives a little glimpse of what it might be like to have autism. It allowed me to have a bit more understanding and empathy for those who suffer from the disorder. It was really moving.” —Kris Kiger
Overview: Carly is a young woman living with autism, and is the co-author of the book Carly’s Voice: Breaking Through Autism. To help promote her book, john st. wanted to bring people as close as possible to the feeling of living in Carly’s world. Since autism inhibits “normal” social interaction, the project took the form of an interactive video over the course of which the user gradually loses control, an experience that mimics the loss of control and focus Carly describes in her book. The level of interactivity we are accustomed to in websites is also consciously inhibited, and the site gives us a first-person point of view into Carly’s experience.
• It took six months to complete Carly’s Cafe.
• john st. worked with OPC, Relish and Pirate on the development.
• The site has been visited 234,419 times, with the average visit lasting 7:27. The non-interactive version of the video has received 557,198 views.
Comments by producer Marie Richer:
Describe any special interactive features “When you enter the cafe, you can use your cursor to shift your point of view between five different perspectives of the scene. You are situated in Carly’s first-person view, and you have a sense of control over your environment. Then, intense distractions start to take over the experience: the coffee grinder, the sound of someone taking a sip, a slamming door. When a distraction occurs, you lose control of the interaction and can no longer shift your perspective. Every time a distraction ends, you regain control of the perspective. Distractions occur with increasing frequency until you reach the climax of the film, when control is completely lost.”
What was the response? “After the project launch, Carly received thousands of messages from people, including parents of autistic children, who felt they understood the condition better. By sharing the inner life of a young woman living with autism, we also reduced the stigma associated with the condition and countered the dehumanization faced by people living with autism. The site was shared at the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.”
What was the most challenging aspect of the project? “First, choosing the correct level of interactivity to strike a balance between control and subsequent loss of control without detracting from the overall emotion of the piece. We wanted to make sure the interaction did not overwhelm the narrative, visual effects, sound design and acting, but rather served as a complement to the overall piece. “The second challenge was to decide how literally we should interpret the text that the project was based on. Not everything described in Carly’s writing could be directly represented through film—how do you show an overwhelming smell? The only limit we placed on our interpretation was to make everything feel true to Carly’s experience. This was the most challenging and rewarding project I’ve ever worked on.”