A mind's playground...and then some

It's been a long few weeks of meetings: we discussed blogs, set up goals for a team project in SL, and dealt with the changes many of us had been through. That's why getting together again for some "down time" last Sunday was a great idea. We spent some quality time around a beach fire, watched John make a clam right before our eyes, we each received a winged horse and ....somewhere along those moments of togetherness, I was reminded once more that SL is really a mind's playground.


We terraform, build houses, make objects...we even make friends and, more importantly, we grow as human beings. I see people working through their misunderstandings and I can't help but notice that any one of us can quit at any point. Yes, you can argue that it's easier to break ties and leave friends you've made on SL, but it truly depends on how much of yourself you choose to dedicate to SL and the relationships you build there. In both real life and second life, the harder thing is to stay, go through those rough times and strengthen yourself and the bonds with the others. As long as we are in Brigadoon, we give each other the hope that we can learn, and we can cross the bridges of communication. This is not Hotel California (from the Eagles song..." You can check out any time you like/ But you can never leave"). On the contrary, you are free to leave Brigadoon any time you wish, but leaving will not teach you anything you had not learned before.

Serious stuff out of the way, I really enjoyed the virtual trampoline. :) I only saw one in real life close to 6 years ago and was too afraid to jump on it. I didn't have as many second thoughts in SL, but I still had to figure out how to use it, where to step, and most importantly, what kind of moves I wanted to make once I was in the air (hehe). Kept me entertained for about 10 minutes as I was figuring out how it was scripted....and throughout the entire time, my heart was actually racing...hmmm wonder if this qualifies as cardio.... :-P


Posted by Silver Girl on February 5, 2005 at 01:07 AM in Silver's posts | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Introducing the many “me”….

Greetings all,

Me1Like many people, I have a host of names that I use in different contexts online. On Braintalk, I am SilverGirl and in SL, I’m Amalthea Blanc. The less exciting persona of mine goes by the name Rodica Buzescu in real life.   :)

I first worked with John Lester on a Harvard Medical School course that attempted to bring internet technology into a student-centered class on Neuroscience (ICON). It was during that time that I  heard about his idea of using the SL virtual environment to help people with AS. I had tried out Second Life a few months before and it was the only “game” that I continued to use consistently. What amazed me were both the complexity of human interactions that develop inworld and the level of intensity of dialogues I’ve had. So, from my perspective, using SL to foster social interactions harnessed the essential characteristics of this environment and, more importantly, it would improve on people’s real life. It couldn’t go wrong!

Most people think of Second Life as a completely blank slate (which it is), to accomplish the things that are hard or impossible in real life. I am not talking simply about flying or making a house by the sea, but of more complex things…creating your own art, your own clothes, etc. If you’re like me and have no skills in those fields, SL allows you to finally bring to life (granted, to virtual life) all those things that exist in your mind. The tools for creating objects are relatively easy to use and basically,…if you can dream it up, you can make it come true in SL.

I kept asking John how the implementation of his idea developed over time. Much like Coos’ vision, I suppose it had to me the appeal of watching people populate another planet and learning to survive. How would the society develop and grow? Would the experience there be so deep and so powerful to finally impact people’s real life in a positive manner? From reading posts on Braintalk, I could tell that outside the medical field, helping people help themselves is probably the most efficient way to produce a lasting change and to make a difference in the lives of those who suffer for one reason or another. I never asked John, but as soon as I heard about his idea, I would have loved to be a part of that community and help out in whatever way I could. I had always been interested in ways to help people improve their lives, whether it was via medical treatments or via novel ideas like John’s.

In a month or two from the start of the project, John gave me access to the private Brigadoon board on Braintalk and then to the island in SL. I was pretty much a new element in that community at that time. The transition was a bit difficult, mostly because there was some miscommunication and also because when John introduced me to the community, I had no precise “purpose”. I had several conversations with people on the forum who told me that new and undefined elements were the hardest to accept into their world for an AS patients. There was also the feeling that I was some sort of researcher joining in for the sake of studying, so I had to explain to people that I simply cared about finding ways to improve people’s lives and that Brigadoon was not going to be some sort of academic project.

So why did John want me to join the Brigadoon islanders? :) To be honest, I don’t know. He wasn’t very clear about it and I didn’t ask. All I knew was that I cared about what he was trying to do there...and I believed it would be successful in changing the lives of people with AS. I’m not sure if John's idea of having me help out was very defined back then. Second Life itself and then Brigadoon were unmarked territories from many points of view. I sensed that he needed some sort of support for himself, even if it was me assisting with arranging meetings, being his "memory" about things happening in SL or by helping him brainstorm new ideas.

That was my take on things at the time. Now, after I think I managed to become integrated in the community, I am beginning to appreciate John’s art of helping people help themselves. He has a great intuition for what steps to take in order to ensure that the Brigadoon community finally reaches the final goal proposed – helping Brigadoon members have better social interactions with non-AS people. That can only be done if non-AS people (like me!) help out to make necessary transition between relationships in a totally different virtual environment and real life.

To date, I am really unsure if I have helped in the Brigadoon project at all. I got to know some people very well and I truly began to care about what happens to them in real life. Most of them are dealing with a whole host of health problems, not just AS, but in SL at least, they are free to be themselves. I think I probably learned more from this experience than I managed to bring to them and I can only hope that someday I will be able to imagine amazing new ways to reach people and help them improve their lives.

I think that’s about it for my introduction. :) I’ll close by thanking the people in Brigadoon for believing that my motives for being there were honest and for giving me a chance to become part of their community.

Until next time, when I'll have other exciting things/philosophies to share. :)

P.S. By the way, Amalthea looks pretty much like me...except in real life I don't have wings or wear dresses like that one...:)

Posted by Silver Girl on January 15, 2005 at 06:54 PM in Silver's posts | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack