We started with what we know best: the special community of people on the autism spectrum and their loved ones. The intensity of affinity in people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) might be more intense, but for all of us, we are what we love. We are what connects our brains to our hearts and then to the outside world. We wanted to find a way to facilitate that power through a digital experience that could eventually let people of all stripes connect to their affinities and connect to others who shared them.
What we love doesn’t just draw us. It drives us to become who we are, and to connect to others. For ASDers in particular, the self-directed interests that are affinity help filter out, or “gate” the noise and the overstimulation of everyday interaction, stimuli that they are particularly sensitive to. We believe that technologies like Sidekicks! and Bongo Town can help filter the noise of everyday life and provide a place to share what really matters.
Social media as it currently behaves doesn’t celebrate what we love; it amplifies that we hate. All too often it exists as an echo chamber of outrage, a place we go to when we crave what Justin Rosenstein — inventor of Facebook’s “like” button — describes as “the bright dings of pseudo-pleasure.” It isn’t real. It’s loud. It’s lonely.
We want to upend that.
We want to give people anywhere on the spectrum the space to share who they are by showing what they love.
We know it isn’t easy. It’s easier to filter our drives and desires into the surface stuff we’ve been conditioned to care about. How many “friends” you have. How many toys. How many distractions.
But when you discover — or rediscover — something that draws you, or challenges you, or makes you fall in love with it, where do you go to share that?
Through the Affinity Project, we want to help people use their passions as a pathway for change. Whether it’s as small as one person’s Bongo clubhouse or as big as a map of the brain, we want to be incubators of great ideas.
We think we know how to do this.