With the NHK documentary crew, Eiko/Kiremimi visited three “typists” (individuals behind the autistic avatars she met in Second Life) in real life: Cora, Larre, and Malachi, whose virtual lives as avatars are cited in her book in the Japanese language, Hyper-world, by Eiko Ikegami.
The delicate black and while illustrations below graced the pages of Hyper-world, and were were produced by Lucia Deng, a student at Parsons School of Design.
Actual avatars in Second Life are colorful and imaginatively animated. Although virtual reality technology is yet in its infancy as a means of communication, people are already beginning to develop spontaneous and creative uses for their avatars, which reflect the complex relationships of self, body and mind Dr. Ikegami elaborated on in her paper titled, “Visualizing the Networked Self: Agency, Reflexivity, and the Social Life of Avatars” (2010).
Dr. Ikegami also visited Gentle Heron, founder and president of Virtual Ability Inc., one of the most active groups in Second Life for people with various disabilities. Gentle is an old friend of Eiko’s in virtual worlds.
Ariel has been the facilitator of the Brigadoon Explorers group in Second Life for several years. She describes her strategy as trying to “draw people out to talking about what is important to them, so that we can offer support.” Patient and persistent, but also funny with an extensive interest in space and science topics, Ariel is the anchor for discussions which usually run at least two hours long and can deal with very personal and/or controversial topics. Although unable to visit Ariel in person, her wise guidance and help was appreciated throughout the process.
The NHK team attended and filmed one of the group’s discussions while in New York with Dr. Ikegami.
Brigadoon Explorers meetings take place within Dreams, a sim founded in 2005 now run by Golda, whose avatar is most often a charming little mouse, and her daughter Dorie, who appears in different forms. Golda is not autistic, but attends Brigadoon Explorers meetings to gain knowledge to support her grandson.
Dorie and Golda
Originally, Dreams was created “to provide a support base for people who encounter strokes (brain attacks) in their own lives or in the lives of their loved ones.” It then expanded to include both Autism Spectrum Disorder support meetings, and ADD/ADHD meetings. The community is active, organizing building and scripting lessons, and competitions as well.
According to the group’s informational note card, “Not everyone dreams the same. Some people need a bit of isolation, others need to play off of each other. Dreams is here to provide that variety. Most of all, it is here to provide support, learning, and fun.”