GimpGirl Community’s 15th Anniversary Celebration

In February we celebrate GimpGirl Community’s 15th anniversary. We’ve come a long way since it was founded in 1998, however our mission remains the same — to support the lives of women with disabilities. We could not do this without the support of our members.

To mark this celebration we would like to ask you to submit your thoughts to us on what GimpGirl has meant to you. It could be a memory, a poem, a piece of creative writing or art work. We will showcase them on our website, Flickr, Second Life, Facebook and Twitter. We are also planning a celebration (details to come) where we will showcase some pieces and show art work in our Second Life gallery and on Flickr. We ask that these be submitted by 28th of February.

You can email your entry to us using the contact form on our website or add pictures to our Flickr group. You can also comment on this post with your memories. What is your first memory of GimpGirl? What is your favorite memory since being part of the community? We look forward to reading them!

GimpGirl Turns 14

Today marks the 14th anniversary of GimpGirl Community! We have taken many forms in the last 14 years, but our mission has always remained the same: to bring together women with disabilities in the spirit of mutual support and positivity. That single mission brings together individuals with many different disabilities from a variety of countries and backgrounds to share our commonalities.

Our community’s administrators and facilitators have always been women with disabilities who volunteer their time because they believe that our community should be strengthened from within by people who understand the lived experience of being a woman with a disability.

We have also grown through the support of many others. Indeed, it is through volunteerism, in-kind donations of services, creative management of available resources and the use of open source and free to use online tools that we have survived and flourished.

Do you have any stories, anecdotes or favorite memories of your time with GimpGirl? We would love to hear from you on your experience of the last 14 years!

Engaging with the Community

Since the launch of our new website earlier this month, many of you might be wondering how to engage with our awesome community of women with disabilities outside of this website. Take a moment to look to the right of this post (on our website), where you will find a collection of icons (under “Follow Us!”) for various social media and online tools that GimpGirl uses. Each of these icons link to our specific group or page. They are a great way to find us around the Internet!

On Facebook, we have an amazing, active forum for posting links, sharing stories and ideas, and discussing various relevant topics. Outside of our weekly meetings on Second Life and our Chat Room (IRC), our Facebook group is probably the best way to connect with other women with disabilities.

What if you just want to keep track of blog posts or events? Twitter is our largest group, and is a great way to keep track of links to relevant news topics and GimpGirl’s events. You can view our Google calendar to see upcoming events, as well as subscribe to the calendar to see the event times in your time zone and sign up for notifications when events are getting close. If you use an RSS blog reader, you can add our RSS feed. If not, you can also follow our various groups and communities on FriendFeed.

Our Flickr community is a must-see, with member pictures, event snapshots, and various works of art. On LinkedIn, you can network with other women with disabilities on employment and other professional matters. If you would like to buy various items with our logo on them, visit our Zazzle store (hosted by NoPityCity).

So, what are you waiting for? Connect with us and join the conversation!

Women and Virtual Spaces

This article was originally posted on Yahoo! Accessibility.

What kind of virtual world do women inhabit, and what are the implications of their increasingly diverse online activities? This is a difficult question to answer, because there is no singular “virtual world.” The Internet is a tool for people to create communities of their own, not one unitary community. While there are a lot of very big and open common spaces, it is also entirely possible to create a fairly insular community online where the participants work together to create whatever kind of virtual space they want to (Youngs). This is particularly beneficial for marginalized groups, such as women and people with disabilities (Herring et al.), who can create spaces in which a shared experience can lead to building identity and a sense of empowerment from being able to work through barriers with others who understand.

In many (maybe even most) virtual spaces, there is still quite a bit of hostility towards women and women’s issues. Discussion of women’s issues seems to draw trolling behavior (Herring et al.). When gender equality is discussed in many online spaces, it is met with disbelief and resistance, particularly in the context of developed, industrialized nations. There seems to be a general response of, “What are you whining about? You ‘feminist types’ have ruined everything.” Doubly so when you consider disability issues on top of that, as our whole group is often judged by people who don’t know us to be a leech on society, rather than considered as valuable individuals who are full members of society. This hostility, often termed ableism, is never easy to see, let alone overcome, particularly for those who are not entirely sure where they stand.

However, many women have managed to carve out relatively safe spaces in which to build community and discuss issues that are important to them, using a combination of traditional community-building practices learned from offline spaces and thoughtful use of new online opportunities and moderation tools. The implications of the spaces that are being built by women and allies are at once amazing and needed, but also highlight progress that needs to be made. Online communities have taken spaces for woman-identified people from the relatively small, hidden, local community-dependent places of the 1960s and 1970s (which Tracey L. M. Kennedy calls “consciousness-raising groups”) to a medium that reaches out internationally to where people are in order to find truly like-minded individuals to form a community with (or “feminist virtual consciousness-raising”) (Youngs). Finally, all of those issues that women have really wanted to discuss with other people for so many years are being discussed in a relatively welcoming environment.

Potential Complications

However, the ability to find people who do very much agree with you has also sometimes led to online communities and blogs being solipsistic, extremely insular and exclusionary – creating an “echo chamber” effect. Miller and Shepherd describe this as a sort of “intensification of the self” wherein identities become highly internally mediated and focused on their chosen goal or acceptance by a group. They can become something like a cult of personality wherein you are not welcome if you have different ideas, even if your desires and goals are very similar. This practice is somewhat understandable considering many people crave commonality in which to “share stories” and explore self-expression, but it may not lead to real change in the world in any direct sense (Miller and ShepherdKennedyYoungs). Also, inclusion is not easy for anyone. The Internet allows for a great deal of diversity, which can be overwhelming. It takes a great deal of consciousness, outreach and intention to be welcoming to a broad range of people, even just within the women’s community.

Conclusion

This concept of forming women-centered virtual spaces has even been formalized by organizations like BlogHer, which brings together women who blog about a wide variety of topics together at conferences every year to network, built projects, and work towards common goals. They also have a website where blog feeds of all members are integrated with networking and community tools.  Our own organization, GimpGirl, allows for women with disabilities to connect for mutual support and networking. There are also several organizations that support women in traditionally male-dominated technology fields, such as The Anita Borg Institute which focuses on connecting women in computer science through their numerous initiatives such as a yearly conference and discussion lists.

Thankfully, these virtual spaces also provide many opportunities for inclusion and outreach if the effort is made, as well as an amazing opportunity for surprisingly intimate dialogue and content friendly to women (KennedyTobias). You can network with an endless variety of people that have similar or parallel goals, and work together with them to reach larger audiences.

Know of other women-centered communities or have something to say? Feel free to comment below!

 

Sources:

Herring, Susan et al. Searching for Safety Online: Managing “Trolling” in a Feminist Forum. The Information Society, 18:371-384. 2002.

The Internet, Disability and Artistic Expression

This article was originally posted on Yahoo! Accessibility.

Feminist Art Movement

The world of art, particularly art displayed in larger professional art galleries, has long been the domain of white men. Well-known artists throughout history are almost all white men, and depictions of women are often passive and sensual rather than involved in her surroundings. The images are of women as seen through the eyes of men, rather than how they see themselves (Whitehead, 1999; Brand, 2006).

The Guerrilla Girls, a group of women who work to get women and minorities represented as artists, called the Metropolitan out for their biased representation where 97% of the work displayed was done by men, and 83% of the nude work displayed was of naked women – asking “Do Women Need to Be Naked To Get into The Met?” (Brand, 2006). Out of frustration for the lack of representation of personal experience, women started the feminist art movement in the 1970s both to get their artistic expressions seen, and also as a form of activist response to mainstream art.

Art Online

With the ever-growing popularity of the Internet, women are able to connect with other people who understand their frustrations, as well as put their own artistic expression in very public spaces. Self-expression made public can convey a great deal of meaning for the artist – especially for marginalized groups. Art is often about feeling (even more so for women, who often experience art with both sides of their brain), and for many marginalized groups, those feelings go unnoticed (BBC, 2009).

The Internet provides a medium for art that previously would previously have never seen the light of day. Artists can have their own website to represent their work, as can physical art galleries that house pieces of art that can be later viewed in person. Additionally, performance artist groups can share videos of their work, both vastly increasing who they can reach and providing a way of growing interest in their theater performances. Writers can create blogs and self-publish their work online. They can also spread the word about published pieces and talk to members of the target audience. Community can be built around art in broader ways that transcend what was previously experienced by localized art communities.

Women with Disabilities

Female artists with disabilities are no exception. As a marginalized group, they struggle with representation in the larger art world. However, in the later half of the 20th century, the disability rights movement also fostered the creation of an entire genre of art (Disability Art) that explores the experience of living with a disability (Barnes, 2008). Many modern female artists with disabilities cite both the disability rights and feminist movements as dominant inspirations in their work.

Here is just a small list of amazing women (mostly from the U.S.) who at least in part benefit from the use the Internet to spread the impact of their work: Petra Kuppers, performance artist and founder of The Olimpias project; Ju Gosling, multimedia storyteller and performance artist; Cheryl Marie Wade, writer and performer; Laura Hershey, writer and poet; Anne Finger, author; Victoria Ann Lewis, performer and writer; Riva Lehrer, painter and writer; Sunaura (Sunny) Taylor, painter; Veronica Elsea, composer and musician; Carrie Sandahl, performer and head of the UIC Program on Disability Art, Culture, and Humanities; and many of the AXIS Dance Company dancers. This is nowhere near an exhaustive list. Know of others (especially outside the U.S)? Comment below and share them!

There are also several websites and organizations that support the work of artists with disabilities online (such as VSANational Institute of Art and DisabilitiesNational Arts and Disability CenterDisability Art and Culture Project, and one page mentions like The Amazing Art of Disabled Artists, among others). Know of other organizations or collections (especially outside the U.S)? Again, comment below and share them with others!

GimpGirl Community supports female artists with disabilities through our virtual art gallery (see pictures below). On our Second Life parcel, a co-created space, we have an art gallery to showcase the artwork of our members, who are often marginalized as women, disabled, poor, minority, etc. Their works convey a great deal of feeling – physical pain, heartache, frustration, joy, power, friendship, and knowing.

For many of the artists, these pictures had never been seen by anyone outside of their family or roommates. When they put them in our gallery, other women who experience similar feelings had immediate connections with what the feeling was. The artist was there, being real and vulnerable and connecting with other people who understood. It is an incredibly powerful thing, to feel that connection over something you never thought you would share with anyone. Technology allows people to come together in this way, supporting expression, healing and connection.

Sources:

Barnes, C. (2008). Behinderung und Dritte Welt (Journal for Disability and International Development). 19 Jargang, Ausgabe 1. 4 -13.

Brand, P. (2006). Feminist Art Epistemologies: Understanding Feminist Art. Hypatia, 21:3.

Privacy, Women with Disabilities and Online Space

This article was originally posted on Yahoo! Accessibility.

There is frequently discussion about privacy concerns online, but little discussion about the implications of how it impacts individual lives in both positive and problematic ways. As community organizers who work with and in vulnerable communities, privacy is a constant topic of conversation. To prepare for Privacy Camp, we discussed how privacy applies to our community and how it benefits our work in supporting the lives of women with disabilities. We outline the main points from the key questions raised below:

Why do women with disabilities need to have a private space?

Women with disabilities have unique issues–something we’ve written about before–and require a space that is private and “just us” in order to address them.  Women are socialized to be caregivers, and often do not speak up for their own needs in mixed spaces, even when around men who value gender equality. We think it’s important to have spaces private to certain identity groups where members can build commonality without outside pressures to help allow people to have pride in their identity in the rest of the world.

For example, one of these sensitive issues is abuse. We believe the lifetime abuse rate of our particular members is probably above 80%, though figuring out exact statistics in our community is difficult because we depend on self-reporting and never pressure people to disclose. Statistically speaking, a majority of the perpetrators of that abuse are male. We are not saying that all males are abusers in any way. Many of us have male partners or husbands that are an integral part of our lives. However, we need a safe, private place separate from potential pressures in order to process abuse and other sensitive issues. If a woman with a disability finds herself a victim of physical, sexual, or psychological abuse, having a safe, private space to share experiences with others who have had similar experiences can be empowering, and help break the cycle of violence.

Having a unique, private space also builds pride, identity and solidarity in being women. Women with disabilities (and likely any minority group) gain something by being open with other women with disabilities. In the public and more mixed-sex faces of GimpGirl, we’re able to amplify these positive feelings by highlighting achievements of women with disabilities and interface with our allies. Women often feel more empowered to make choices around their own bodies and feel beautiful and proud when they have a positive, accepting place to discuss sexual issues which may be uncomfortable to talk about in mixed-sex environments like menstruation and female masturbation (even for women who do not necessarily have sex with men).

So how do we create this kind of private & safe space using very public online tools?

We use accessible or adapted online tools to bring people together from around the world. Many of these tools, such as Facebook, have built-in privacy features, such as creating group spaces that require approval of a moderator to join, in order to control who is allowed at any particular meeting. Synchronous platforms, such as Second Life and IRC (Internet Relay Chat), also have tools to eject and ban visitors. One of the drawbacks of the anonymity of online spaces is that it is impossible to know exactly who we are allowing into our safe space even though we put a great deal of effort in to screening participants. However, moderator tools provided by the platforms help us take action against people who violate our code of conduct (which we clearly state must be followed at all meetings and on the website). We also worked with our community to write our code of conduct, so that there was a larger investment in following it, and will continue to update it as the community sees fit in order to guide behavior. All regular participants are aware of the rules because they help write and update them, so they act as additional enforcement of the boundaries.

What options allow people for masking their identity and protecting their privacy, even within our safe space?

So let’s start with what we DON’T allow people to mask. We have clear rules that are stated at every meeting and on our website of who is and isn’t welcome to meetings and on various platforms. We additionally either require every new member fill out an application form discussing their interest in women with disabilities, or we research their online identity (depending on the platform). This helps make sure people fit our basic rules–that they can personally identify with both women’s issues and disability issues in order to attend “closed” meetings.

However, we do not insist people tell us their real names or their diagnoses, where they live specifically, or any other information. We feel that that is something they can choose to disclose to us as they feel comfortable and as context allows. This is a trust issue. As long as they trust us enough to follow our rules and engage with us, we trust that they will open up at their own pace. Many people who are struggling do not want to divulge all of their information to random strangers on the Internet, particularly because people hear about horrible things that happen to people who give out personal information online. There is a certain amount of mutual trust that has to be built in a group such as ours.

Does allowing people to keep certain information private allow them to be more open?

Yes. Many people feel more comfortable talking online because they know that it is unlikely they will meet any of these people in their face-to-face life. In some communities where the tone is different, that encourages bullying, trolling and aggressiveness. In our community, where we work very hard to set a tone of mutual support through example, our code of conduct, and thoughtful facilitation, anonymity and the right to privacy has led to increased trust and openness.

When people are actively in extremely stressful situations and feeling vulnerable while facing major changes (such as adjusting to a disability), it can be really hard to talk about the intimate details of their lives to people who know them in person. Women with disabilities often feel that people around them cannot relate to these issues, and some feel that they would be ‘burdening’ them with their problems if they shared them. It may also be difficult to gain an objective viewpoint from those close to the situation, such as family and friends. Additionally, women with disabilities, especially those who require assistance with daily living, are compelled to share much of the intimate details of our lives with others (medical service providers, family members, caregivers) whether we’d like to or not.

A place where we retain control over disclosing the details of our lives can be really important to feeling dignity, empowerment, and agency around our personal information. Providing a level of anonymity and making allowances for privacy can enable women in our space to go much deeper into issues and share experiences, giving individuals the opportunity to gain peer support and advice to move forward and giving them the confidence to make positive progress in their lives.

Join in the conversation!

GimpGirl Community is hosting an event on March 19 at Privacy Camp in Toronto and online in Second Life and IRC. If you’re interested in discussing the issues we raise in this blog post further, please join us in the conversation.  More details to follow at http://www.gimpgirl.com.

We believe these tools and ideas are transferable to other communities that work with sensitive issues, and have given talks on how to transfer some of these ideas (see IEEE-IBM 2009 Presentation [click “more” for abstract]).

Social Media Makes Us “Less Human”?

This article was originally on Yahoo! Accessibility.

There has been a lot of interest on the Internet recently over MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) professor Sherry Turkle’s new book Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other and her assertions about how technology, including social media, makes us “less human”: “we are changed as technology offers us substitutes for connecting with each other face-to-face” (Turkle 2011). So, what exactly is “human”? The Wikipedia entry for the term “human” points out that “…self-awareness, rationality, and sapience, are considered to be defining features…” As humans, sharing that essential human nature of commonality of our experience with people who understand our reality is necessary to maintain mental health. We are social creatures, after all. So, is it the essential nature of social media and technology that make us more disconnected, or is it how people choose to use these technologies?

Before the existence of social media

Instead of commenting on the general argument, we’d like to talk about a specific issue. What about people who were already disconnected from face-to-face contact? There is a large population of people who were highly socially isolated before the existence of social media, due to disability or other factors. Even if they had the physical ability to go out and meet people face-to-face, and even assuming that they were accepted into general society as an equal human being (which is a huge assumption for people with disabilities), would there even be people with similar experiences in their community for them to relate to? If you are a city dweller, you may run into other people with disabilities or be able to go to specific disability-related cultural events in order to meet people who can understand your experience. What if you live in a smaller town or an isolated area, where there are very limited or nonexistent opportunities for you to meet other people?

And let’s go back to that assumption of society treating someone with a disability as an equal human being. Many people with disabilities rarely experience being treated as “human,” with all of the associated normal struggles and strengths. Particularly if you are someone who has a visible disability, the standard face-to-face interaction with others in public is too often tainted with infantilization and a general sense that you are being seen as something distinctly “other.” How do we find commonality with others in that?

“Normalizing” potential of social media

What if, for some of us, the “normalizing” potential of social media allows us to be seen for who we really are underneath our meaty exterior? Wouldn’t that, in fact, make us more human rather than less? For those of us who are isolated for whatever reason, doesn’t the ability to find people we can relate to on a very personal level also make us more human? We are not saying that social media is the answer to everything. It isn’t. If you use it without an eye to balance, outreach, and human connection, you will probably feel fairly isolated. We are saying that people can choose to use any social situation, technology-mediated or not, in different ways. Sure, if you choose to isolate yourself from those around you, you are going to be isolated. But you can also choose to open up entirely new worlds. You can use social media to get involved in groups and nonprofits. You can make friends online that carry over into face-to-face relationships (which many of us have done for many years). You can find people with things in common with you who might be impossible to find where you are.

Every week at GimpGirl Community we come together online via synchronous methods (like Second Life and IRC) and asynchronous platforms (like LiveJournal and Facebook) to share commonality with others. We share strategies for dealing with frustrating medical systems, and tips for how to better utilize adaptive equipment. We talk about better ways to have sex, or find locals we might share commonality with. We vent frustrations that no one without similar experiences would understand. We help other members going through abuse, or trying to find ways to get out of bad situations. Some who join us probably leave the same as when they entered our little corner of the ‘net, but most leave saying they feel surprisingly more human than when they came.

 

Sources:

Turkle, Sherry. (2011). Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. Basic Books.

Accessibility and Online Communities

This article was originally posted on Yahoo! Accessibility.

Online Communities

What are social networks? Most people are familiar with websites like MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter, but there are many others. These are places where communities are created by sharing photos, links, videos, and text-based status updates.

Although social networking sites have constant updates, there are still fundamentally a static experience. People who look for real-time interaction often explore virtual worlds. These are animated three-dimensional environments created with Computer-generated Imagery (CGI) and other rendering software. Users interact with the world and other users through their avatars, graphical representations of themselves that they can create and modify. Virtual worlds can be accessed through a web browser, or more commonly, a program is downloaded to the user’s computer that allows access.

Virtual Worlds

You may be familiar with World of Warcraft, which is a popular Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG); virtual world where users play a game together. There is a growing list of virtual worlds out there. Second Life is currently the largest virtual world that is not specifically a role-playing game. It is a varied virtual community, in which real-world companies (like IBM) and even universities (like Harvard) participate.

Universal Design

Universal Design extends the notion of accessibility to include design that is useful to people with and without disabilities. It was introduced by a team whose leader, Ron Mace, is a disabled architect. While the ideal physical world is accessible to everyone; universal design also applies to the Internet and online communities.

“Universal design seeks to encourage attractive, marketable products that are more usable by everyone. It is design for the built environment and consumer products for a very broad definition of user.”

– Ron Mace

Virtual worlds, i.e. Second Life, have made specific efforts to improve accessibility for people with certain kinds of disabilities. For example, users with low vision can use a “guide dog” to identify nearby avatars and objects, screen readers read text chat aloud, or screen magnifiers make the text large enough to read.

Second life virtual guide dog

People with mobility issues can find it difficult to navigate through a virtual world using only a mouse. More recent versions of virtual world software have incorporated alternate navigation controls, such as the ability to use keyboard commands. Environments are also becoming more compatible with voice recognition software, which is used by many people who have difficulty typing.

On a broader scale, people with disabilities in virtual worlds have used virtual worlds to show what accessibility should look like in real life communities. For example, installing wheelchair ramps in Second Life is an important first step to providing a welcoming environment for wheelchair using avatars, and to build awareness around the need for physical accessibility of buildings in real life.

Our friends over at Virtual Helping Hands coordinate  Helen Keller Day, a popular annual event  dedicated to “exploring how and why to employ, educate, entertain, and engage everyone through virtual worlds.” It  brings together people with disabilities, businesses, nonprofits, and other organizations to discuss access as it relates to Second Life. There is much good work being done to address these concerns, but more work is needed to create truly accessible spaces.

Creating Access

The use of Universal Design to make virtual worlds more accessible to people with disabilities can also help other people. This is especially true for those with communication problems caused by language barriers, older computers, and even slow typing skills. Universal Design also helps people who are unable to process a fast-moving visual environment; such as those with seizure disorders, chronic headaches, or other visual processing issues.

This is where social networking communities and virtual worlds can come together. Integrating social media into virtual worlds and building strong cross-platform communities that distribute information is essential. While not every site or community will be accessible to everyone, good community leaders have to meet their audience on different platforms and be flexible; providing options for people to participate in their communities. People learn to use technology in ways which they can understand and comfortable with.

Even in a graphic-heavy virtual world like Second Life, some groups have found ways to include people who can’t or choose not to enter the environment. For example, some groups make use of an IRC relay during meetings, which transmits text chat from Second Life into an accessible text-based chat room.

Who Benefits?

Why is access to online communities so important? There is a huge population of people seeking personal support to overcome roadblocks in their life. They may not have access to these support resources offline.

The GimpGirl Community often sees women with disabilities, fresh out of a rehab hospital after a spinal cord injury, looking to connect with others to explore this whole new world of having a disability; an experience that causes most people to completely rework their personal identities.

Sometimes these women share the cause of their injury and sometimes they don’t, depending on what they are comfortable with. One young woman eventually trusted us enough to disclose that she  was injured because her boyfriend lost control of the car while trying to beat her. Sadly, this  didn’t surprise us, as “[p]hysical assault by someone known to the victim is a leading cause of injury to women. Nearly two million women are assaulted each year in the United States, and more than half of women will be physically assaulted during their lifetime. …” according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Her family had abandoned her after choosing to stay with her boyfriend, even though she had been trying to leave him since the accident. Her relationship with this violent young man literally left her with no support through this major upheaval in her life. Many women’s shelters are not accessible, though this is slowly changing. The relatively anonymity of online communities allowed her to share her experience with others who knew what she was going through; people who had not been burned by her personal decisions. It helped her gain strength and develop strategies for the long battle she faced.

Her story, unfortunately, is an all too common one. Many women come to us facing abuse, food insecurity, and homelessness. They need emotional support and commonality, along with help researching what community services are available to help them.

Others who benefit are students in learning environments, and people seeking information or support. This makes universal design of access to information and community good for everyone, not just people with disabilities.

GimpGirl Community Moves to New Second Life Home, in Collaboration with the Experiential Design and Gaming Environment Lab at Ryerson University

 


GimpGirl Community Moves to New Second Life Home, in Collaboration with the Experiential Design and Gaming Environment Lab at Ryerson University

September 15, 2010 – The GimpGirl Community, an international online support network for women with disabilities, is launching its new home within the virtual world of Second Life, in collaboration with the Experiential Design and Gaming Environment (EDGE) Lab at Ryerson University, based in Toronto, Canada.

GimpGirl Community was established in 1998 as a support network and resource center for women with disabilities. One of the first of its kind, it has brought together women with disabilities, allies, and supporters from around the world, using various Internet-based platforms. GimpGirl Community is active on several sites, including Flickr, LiveJournal, the social networking platforms of Facebook and Twitter, and its own website forums, among others.

Since February 2008, GimpGirl has maintained land within the virtual world of Second Life, previously sponsored by 3D Embodiment. This in-world environment includes space for weekly support group meetings, events and presentations, and areas to showcase art and items for sale created by community members, along with residential areas.

The EDGE lab is a transdisciplinary research lab exploring virtual and mixed-reality applications at the intersection of developing technologically embedded social and cultural practices, and shifting economic landscapes. The lab is supported with funding from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and the Ministry for Research and Innovation of the Province of Ontario.

This new partnership will allow us to expand and more fully utilize our presence on Second Life and beyond,” said Jennifer Cole, program director of the GimpGirl Community. “Our goal is to create and maintain spaces online where women with disabilities can express themselves, support each other, and and engage their creativity.”

The new partnership with the EDGE Lab will allow GimpGirl Community access to the lab’s research and development infrastructure for the exploration of virtual and mixed-reality projects. The partnership will also increase traffic to the GimpGirl Community presence in Second Life, and ultimately support all of the community platforms used by the GimpGirl Community. This will allow for continued and exciting improvements in how the GimpGirl Community can reach out and support the lives of women with disabilities it connects with every day.

A “moving party” will take place within Second Life on September 19th, 2010 from 12 PM to 3 PM (PDT), which will include live music, as well as a DJ and dance party, a tour, and a guided storytelling hour. The event will also be accessible outside of Second Life via the GimpGirl Community website chat room and audio stream, and related projects and discussions will take place across the various GimpGirl Community outposts on the web.

For more information, visit http://www.gimpgirl.com.

Contact:
GimpGirl Community
info@gimpgirl.com

Dr. Jason Nolan
Director
Experiential Design and Gaming Environments (EDGE) Lab
Ryerson University
jnolan@ryerson.ca
http://ryerson.ca/~edgelab

SLCC 2010

Come join GimpGirl Community at the Second Life Community Convention in person or online! Katherine Mancuso (SL: Muse Carmona) will be representing GimpGirl Community in the following SLCC 2010 events:

GimpGirl: Weaving a Virtual Support Network for Women With Disabilities
Saturday, 6:30 to 7:30am Pacific – Thoreau
UStream Channel: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/slcc6

GimpGirl’s mission is to connect women with disabilities through social technologies to support each other’s lives. We believe the lessons we have learned about how universal design and accessibility apply to facilitating conversations about healthcare and support across platforms are translatable to other community building, education, and collaboration efforts in Second Life.

Virtual Worlds Standards: Why You Should Care
David Levine (SL: Zha Ewry), Katherine Mancuso (SL: Muse Carmona), Jeanne Spellman (SL: Jeanne Solo)
Sunday, 8:00 to 9:00am Pacific – St. James
UStream Channel: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/slcc2/

As virtual worlds evolve, standards will be part of the dialogue shaping the growth of their technical architectures and social ecosystems. Topics will include: standards for Second Life-Like worlds, compatibility with existing Internet technologies, accessibility for persons with disabilities, and standards for meshes and graphics.

Utilizing Virtual Worlds for Real Life Good
Joyce Bettencourt (SL: Rhiannon Chatnoir), Henry Allen (SL: Jaywick Forcella), Kathey Fatica (SL: Katydid Something), Katherine Mancuso (SL: Muse Carmona), Janyth Ussery (SL: Saxet Uralia)
Sunday, 11:30am to 12:30pm Pacific – St. James
UStream Channel: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/slcc2/

Can a virtual world manifest real life good? This presentation will be an overview and panel discussion of best practices and learned experiences of five people working formally and informally on social good, nonprofit and philanthropic projects within Second Life. Topics such as using virtual simulation for support and awareness, fundraising, community outreach, and event planning along with the opportunity to askquestions, and pick the collective brains of the panelists.

All events can be viewed from Second Life at the SLCC sim (SLurl: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/SLCC%201/233/24/25 ) in the room listed, or on the Ustream address in each event listing above!