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About Brigadoon

Welcome.  What follows is a detailed explanation of Project Brigadoon.  If you would like to be involved in this project, please email me at braintalk@gmail.com.

All of the Authors on this blog are participants in Project Brigadoon.  This Blog is a place where they can publically share their thoughts, experiences and feelings.   About Brigadoon, Second Life, Asperger's Syndrome/Autism, or anything else.  This Blog is also a place where the general public can interact with participants in Brigadoon by posting comments.

-John Lester
President, BrainTalk Communities, Inc.
Founder, Project Brigadoon
Second Life name: John Protoype

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What is Brigadoon?

"Brigadoon" is the name of a project that I've been thinking about for a long time. The name is actually a reference to an old musical, which was a wistful fantasy about two Americans who stumble on the enchanted village of Brigadoon while hunting grouse on the Scottish moors. This village of Brigadoon was a beautiful place full of magic, but it would only occasionally materialize from the mists of time every 100 years or so.

Anyway, now that you know where I got the name from, let me explain this idea. I have always been interested in creating online worlds where people dealing with neurological problems could find each other and, most importantly, help each other help themselves. I am not a physician, and I do not give medical advice to anyone. However, I have always felt that there was a need to give patients the ability to find other people dealing with similar situations, and that the help they could give to each other in a self-help supportive environment was invaluable. Like I've said before, I'm just a landlord...I build and maintain places where people create their own communities and help each other.  That is why I created BrainTalk Communities Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to providing online communities for patients and caregivers dealing with neurological issues. I started BrainTalk back in 1993, and it is now the largest online community for neurology self-help groups in the world. (here's a bit of history if you'd like to know the origins of BrainTalk)

Aside from online bulletin boards and chatrooms, I have always been interested in more "advanced" online worlds and communities. Places that could provide more realism, in a graphical and interactive way. Virtual worlds, where people could not just communicate with each other, but where they could BUILD virtual places and homes. Where they could, in essence, build a world around themselves within which they could talk to each other and create a whole new kind of online community.

Over the years, I've explored and experimented with such virtual worlds. Online worlds such as Active Worlds and The Palace. And about 3 years ago, I was in a meeting with Mitch Kapor (the founder of Lotus) at MIT. He told me he was funding a small software development company called Linden Lab and that they were going to be creating a fantastic new online virtual world. A place that was going to be totally open to allow participants to create whatever they wanted. He said that it was going to revolutionize online communities, giving people the ability to communicate with each other and create social networks in a way that was never before possible.

That world is called Second Life. And naturally, my first thought was "hmm...I wonder...if there's some way I could use this world to help people dealing with neurological issues." Second Life is a commercial system (you pay a monthly charge to use their servers), and although it is often classified as an "online game" (like The Sims Online), it really ISN'T a game. It's an online world, with no content or goals except those created by the people who use it. I think of it as the next evolutionary step of something like the World Wide Web. You give people the tools to create, and then just sit back and watch what everyone builds. For an excellent review of Second Life, please read this article in the Houston Chronicle.

I've been exploring Second Life a lot the past year. Testing it out for myself. By default, everyone is logged in to a large communal world that is totally open to the publc. BUT...a few months ago, Linden Lab created a new policy. Individuals can now purchase an entirely private "island" in Second Life...and they can basically restrict access to this island however they wish. So the ability to create a private world within this public world is now possible. It just costs money to have Linden Lab set up and maintain this island for you.

So...I had found an amazing new technology, and I could use it to give people the opportunity to communicate and build their own virtual world. Now I just had to think of EXACTLY HOW to use this opportunity. Who might benefit the most from such a world, where people could interact socially in a much more creative way than just using email or a bulletin board or chatroom? Where people could customize their online "virtual" environment however they liked?

I thought about this for a month or so. Then one day, I was speaking with John Ratey at Harvard, the author of "A User's Guide to the Brain" and "Driven to Distraction." He is very familiar with Braintalk, and has always been interested in ways to give patients the ability to help themselves. We started talking about people dealing with Autism and Asperger's Syndrome. How many of them are very high functioning and computer literate, how they have embraced online communities as a way to communicate. How they have such difficulties communicating in the "real world," and how they find the computer to be a very liberating tool. How they have problems dealing with physical environments in the real world, and how they often have a strong desire to modify their physical environment to better help themselves deal with social interactions.

I started rambling about Second Life. About how it might be the "next big thing" in online virtual worlds. And I said something like..."wouldn't it be neat to create a space in Second Life exclusive to people dealing with Autism and Asperger's Syndrome...you could give them a private space and the tools to modify that part of the world...and you could work with them to allow these people to create their OWN customized environment. A virtual world essentially made BY them...FOR them. A place where they would be with other people dealing with very similar issues. And just see what they come up with to help each other?"

He looked at me very quietly and smiled and said something to the effect of "nobody has ever done anything like that. It could be really amazing."

We started talking about other things, but my mind kept coming back to this idea. And I thought "well, I think I need to really explore this crazy idea."

So here we are.  BrainTalk Communities Inc. is funding this project as part of it's core mission to explore online communities that help neurology patients and caregivers, and we have purchased  a private island in Second Life.  We will work with people to help them use it as a totally new way to interact socially with each other. Mind you, I have no idea if this will really work...if it will really help people dealing with Autism/Asperger's...if they might find it too complicated or overwhelming...if they can really use it to help each other. But I would like to try.

Please let me know your thoughts and ideas. Thank you.

-John

Want to know more about Brigadoon?  Please see this next post.

Posted by John Lester on January 9, 2005 at 02:57 PM in John's posts | Permalink

Comments

John,
Wow what a wonderful idea for folks to enter and explore this virtual world specific to neurological problems. This holds my interest as I am a member of the Board of Directors of the Brain Aneurysm Foundation (www.bafound.org) and their Technical Director. We already have an active and thriving part of the BrainTalk Community specific to Brain Aneurysms that is a success, and I believe the creation of and marketing of such a "world" would indeed be of value to patients and families as well as organizations, such as the BAF and others, whose main goal is support and education about a neurological condition. Please continue to move forward with this initiative and keep me informed/involved in its planning and growth! Maybe the BAF can help market this world.
Brian O'Keefe
brianokeefe@bafound.org

Posted by: Brian O'Keefe | Jan 27, 2005 4:13:45 PM

I have a daughter who is probably Asperger's...how can she join?

Posted by: Peach | Feb 26, 2005 10:38:37 AM

...but why Asperger's Syndrome? Why are you interested in people with AS and ASDs?

Are there employees or managers in the organization who have Asperger's Syndrome?

Thanks,
Eva
(aspergian mother of an aspergian son)

Posted by: Eva Barnett | Mar 3, 2005 4:22:36 PM

Brintalk = No employees. It is all by the people for the people.

One person with a wonderfull IDEA! Why can't people with DX _____ (fill in the blank) Help others with the same thing.

Well It looks like it is working very well!

Thank you for Braintalk, and thank you for Brigadoon John! They both have helped me more than any words I could put on the web!

Posted by: Coos Yellowknife | Mar 4, 2005 1:54:45 AM

Nifty idea, this Brigadoon. I'm new to BrainTalk, to blogs. I think I may have been blogging for some times now, with Yahoo lists. A therapeutic writing is what I do online, since I first got a modem back in 1995. My writing style might well fit into a blogging world better than it fits some lists I've joined and been tossed off of, for writing more intensely than the ruling clique can tolerate. But... that's just a theory that's coming to light as I read a bit of what is shown on BrainTalk. I think more will be revealed as I get a bit more familiar with this phenomenon. -Zer (newly dx'd Aspie, and celebrating my dx -- after three-score years of confusion!)

Posted by: Zer | Mar 4, 2005 5:37:19 AM

Nifty idea, this Brigadoon. I'm new to BrainTalk, to blogs. I think I may have been blogging for some times now, with Yahoo lists. A therapeutic writing is what I do online, since I first got a modem back in 1995. My writing style might well fit into a blogging world better than it fits some lists I've joined and been tossed off of, for writing more intensely than the ruling clique can tolerate. But... that's just a theory that's coming to light as I read a bit of what is shown on BrainTalk. I think more will be revealed as I get a bit more familiar with this phenomenon. -Zer (newly dx'd Aspie, and celebrating my dx -- after three-score years of confusion!)

Posted by: Zer | Mar 4, 2005 5:38:25 AM

Nifty idea, this Brigadoon. I'm new to BrainTalk, to blogs. I think I may have been blogging for some times now, with Yahoo lists. A therapeutic writing is what I do online, since I first got a modem back in 1995. My writing style might well fit into a blogging world better than it fits some lists I've joined and been tossed off of, for writing more intensely than the ruling clique can tolerate. But... that's just a theory that's coming to light as I read a bit of what is shown on BrainTalk. I think more will be revealed as I get a bit more familiar with this phenomenon. -Zer (newly dx'd Aspie, and celebrating my dx -- after three-score years of confusion!)

Posted by: Zer | Mar 4, 2005 5:39:33 AM

Yes, I'm an Aspie interested in participating in Project Brigadoon. Nifty idea, this Brigadoon. I'm new to BrainTalk, to blogs. I think I may have been blogging for some times now, with Yahoo lists. A therapeutic writing is what I do online, since I first got a modem back in 1995. My writing style might well fit into a blogging world better than it fits some lists I've joined and been tossed off of, for writing more intensely than the ruling clique can tolerate. But... that's just a theory that's coming to light as I read a bit of what is shown on BrainTalk. I think more will be revealed as I get a bit more familiar with this phenomenon. -Zer (newly dx'd Aspie, and celebrating my dx in joyful RELIEF! -- after three-score years of confusion!)

Posted by: Zer | Mar 4, 2005 7:48:21 AM

I have Aspergers syndrome and all my life I have tried to find a place where I could fit in and talk with people. This place seems like a dream come true. How do I join.

Posted by: Tom | Mar 4, 2005 1:05:33 PM

This sounds like it could be extremely beneficial and is desperately needed! My son has AS and is schooled at home. 1. How do I participate? 2. Is there an age requirement?

Posted by: Judy | Mar 5, 2005 11:26:17 AM

I think this idea for Braintalk/Brigadoon is cool. I have Aspergers Syndrome and i'm also Epileptic with partial complex seizures and some grand mals, and have depression/anxiety disorder. This is my first time on the site and i think it's a cool website i'll have to register and see how it works as long as i can talk to my friends freely and not have to worry about paying anything then i'm in. Though the Second life concept sounds interesting. I hope to hear from you soon,good luck in all you do. Signed, Greg

Posted by: Greg | Mar 5, 2005 1:10:55 PM

Awesome idea! My 8 year old is an aspie and really loves all things digital/video. This would be right up his alley. How can we join?

Posted by: mike | Mar 10, 2005 1:43:14 PM

To join you need to go to www.secondlife.com and sign up and download the game and install it. You can just use the free 7 day trial to see if it's something you're going to enjoy.

Once you are signed up and playing Second Life, click on 'find', make sure the 'people' tab is selected and type in John Prototype to find John and then hit 'instant message' in his profile and start chatting with him.

Posted by: Pirate Cotton | Mar 13, 2005 1:29:28 AM

When I sign in to Second Life I didn't see anything that said "find" or "people". Help!

Posted by: Heidi | Mar 21, 2005 9:50:56 PM

Heidi, I just noticed your question. When you are logged into SL, go to the "Edit" menu, and click on "Find." Then, click on the tab-item labelled "People." Input the SL member name.

Posted by: Sierra/Rain | Mar 23, 2005 2:57:17 PM

I have gotten on second life. I have selected find, clicked on the people tab and I have typed John prototype, but it never finds anything. What am I doing wrong?

Posted by: Tom | Mar 26, 2005 4:16:20 PM

Don't know what a URL is. I am a teacher of special needs on the middle school level. I have 2 maybe 3 Aspergers Disorder, 4 autistic of various degrees. Of course I know lots more. I like your idea and want to participate. I am also going to send this information to my son and daughter-in-law. He is a self-diagnoised AS but his two sons have been identified. The older one is said to have AS and the younger one has been identified as ADHD. I hope this chat room can help his family as well. Judy T

Posted by: Judy | Apr 7, 2005 3:09:50 PM

Hey, everyone.

Tom, make sure that when you search for People, you click off the Online box. That way if John Prototype is online or off, his name and profile will show up either way. Then from there you can click on the "Send an Instant Message" to him and he'll receive it and get back to you.

I wish you all the best.

Posted by: SL Resident | Apr 9, 2005 3:10:11 PM

Be sure when you use find that the ONLINE tickbox in UNticked or it will not find john unless he is actually ONLINE!

Posted by: GingerUK | Apr 29, 2005 9:52:14 AM

i will like totake part in this project
i have an son age 4 who has autism

Posted by: javaid ali | May 11, 2005 10:13:59 AM

Hi,
My son is 17 with aspergers.
I would like to have info on joining.
Thank You,
mlcritter

Posted by: mlcritter | May 19, 2005 9:07:13 PM

I have a 12 year old with aspergers. Would love to have him try this out!

Posted by: Nora | Jul 14, 2005 9:42:47 AM

I am interested in getting my 13 year old son involved, his dx is PDD and we as parents are still looking for some help that does not include major tranquillizers, we would like info on costs and procedure please.

Thanks
jack and julie

Posted by: jack and julie | Nov 2, 2005 7:53:02 PM

I have a 12 year old son we just began homeschooling. This looks especially cool. How do we give it a try?

Posted by: Cathy Sommers | Dec 8, 2005 11:09:48 AM

oops - duh. I forgot the "with Asperger's" part of that sentence...

Posted by: Cathy Sommers | Dec 8, 2005 11:10:53 AM

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