Protest in Second Life: the current Gaza conflict

Over on DIP’s Dispatches from the Information Age, SL resident Eureka Dejavu has posted some pics of a protest held over recent days. The focus of the protest is the current flare up of hostilities between Hamas and Israeli defence forces. Specifically, the protest is against the current Israeli actions in the Gaza strip. This has caused some angst in some quarters, with accusations of one-sideness.

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Although I deplore in the extreme Hamas’ actions to date, I’d be surprised if the protesters were there primarily to support Hamas. Isn’t the distress focused primarily on the loss of innocent human lives in the midst of it all?

Yes, Hamas use appalling tactics of placing themselves in civilian areas, but that doesn’t negate the right of those concerned for those civilians to be outraged at their death? As Eureka summarises in her post, that’s exactly the perspective encouraged at the protest.

For mine, this view expressed in the post says it all:

The gathering is an example of the rich, textured opportunity that 3D immersive spaces like Second Life offer for people to express their concerns about present day issues

Click here for the full photo set (from which the above picutre comes) and judge for yourself. As always, comments are welcome – was this a one-sided protest, a rightful platform to express sorrow at current events, or both?

Australian politics and virtual worlds – no momentum

It’s coming up to a year since the change of Federal government in Australia. In Second Life, there was an election night party.

At the time there was lots of excited talk about the ALP’s broadband policy and the promise it may bring – there is progress on that front but it’s fraught with problems. Then there’s the internet censorship issue bubbling along. All in all, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy hasn’t shone in his role to date. There’s a real perception that we’ve got a government with 20th Century views on some distinctly 21st Century challenges.

In the year since that Second Life election party, there’s been zero interest by either political party in virtual worlds. There’s certainly been significant forays by both sides into social networking via YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. The US presidential primaries this year saw Second Life play a role, and Barack Obama’s supporters kept that going through the campaign itself. Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull have obvously been watching the US Democrats’ online campaigning efforts, but there’s no inkling of a virtual world foray at this stage.

We’ve previously queried our pollies on their thoughts with no response – it appears that the current Minister is no more cognisant of the opportunities and challenges than his predecessor.

Linden Lab’s CEO to testify before Congress

At 9.30am on the 1st April US Eastern Time, Linden Lab CEO Philip Rosedale will testify before the US Congress. I don’t have any further details at this stage aside from determining that it’s the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. More specifically it’s the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet Hearing. The topic of the hearing is ‘Online Virtual Worlds: Applications and Avatars in a User-Generated Medium’

If you’re super keen you can view the live webcast. It’s likely to be a fairly mundane event although with any political process there’s the potential for fireworks. Ageplay, gambling and financial services are obvious areas but we’ll have to wait and see how wide the focus becomes.

Update: a text summary of the hearing can be found here on Virtually Blind.

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The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

Note: Philip Rosedale stepping down from the CEO position at Linden Lab is a dominant story in the news at present, which we’ve covered here.

1. BBC News – Virtual world for virtually Irish. “The world likes to drown the shamrock at this time of year, and for the first time plastic paddies can really get in on the act. Tourism Ireland is hosting a virtual St Patrick’s Day parade on Sunday in the internet world of Second Life (SL).”

2. Al Bawaba – eGames Targets Tourism & Education. “With e-Learning on the rise, the search is still very much on for the most effective way of delivering online courses, and encouraging interaction between participants at a distance. Second Life (www.secondlife.com), is the newest, hottest thing in the online teaching world suggests David Wortley, Director, Serious Games Institute, Coventry University and presenter at Knowledge Oasis Muscat’s (KOM) annual eGames Conference (31 March – 1 April, Muscat Hall, KOM). Wortley will deliver two presentations at the eGames Conference that will consider the opportunities offered by Second Life to education, tourism, heritage and culture.”

3. The Daily Telegraph (UK) – Virtual vogue: Second Life wardrobes. “Who pays real money for unreal clothes? Enough people to make digital dressing-up big business. But is virtual fashion just another teenage craze or is it the end of clothes shopping as we know it?”

4. The Times Online (UK) – Has the internet killed jobs fairs? “THE recruitment fair seems to have gone the way of the dodo, the zeppelin and the space hopper. Its moment seems to have passed. Caroline Weeks, head of delivery recruitment at BT Global Services, rather misses the old recruitment fairs where companies used their collective power to lure candidates to meet them face-to-face.”

5. Science Daily – Real And Virtual Pendulums Swing As One In Mixed Reality State. “Using a virtual pendulum and its real-world counterpart, scientists at the University of Illinois have created the first mixed reality state in a physical system. Through bidirectional instantaneous coupling, each pendulum “sensed” the other, their motions became correlated, and the two began swinging as one.”

6. The Brown Daily Herald – Donahue ’11 cashes in as virtual arms dealer. “Before setting foot on Brown’s campus, Evan Donahue ’11 made thousands of dollars creating weapons to summon damned souls and create rifts in space-time fabric to suck in adversaries. The weapons systems were for the virtual world of Second Life, a popular online role-playing game. But the money – more than $20,000 – was very real.”

7. The Bangkok Post – Socializing goes big in 2008. “Enhanced collaboration and Web 2.0 tools, such as social networking, will continue to be integral components across Asian businesses in 2008, say industry analysts. Claus Mortensen, principal for emerging technology research, digital marketplace and new media at IDC, predicts that more companies in Asia will create and maintain corporate profiles on social network sites.”

8. The Huffington Post – All Politics is Virtual. “Will the next election season’s big caucus battle look like a videogame? Web strategist Michael Whitney recently revealed the contents of a Hilary Clinton campaign survey on the Huffington Post, and among the usual questions about political leanings and election contributions was this seemingly odd query: Which of the following have you visited or played online?”

9. Wired – AI-Based Virtual Child Plays in Second Life. “This is how it always begins in the movies. Some well-meaning scientist-geeks create an artificial intelligence, and set it loose to see how it learns and behaves. Next thing we know, he’s taken over the nuke launchers and threatens humanity unless someone brings him an ice cream cone. In this case, the AI was built at Rensselaer Polytechnic, and gets to play in the Second Life MMORPG.”

10. The Australian Financial Review (subscription only) – Aussies lose interest in Second Life. “Australian usage of much-hyped free virtual world Second Life has not returned to highs experienced in mid-2007, according to data released by the system’s US-based publisher Linden Lab.”

Will virtual worlds get a guernsey at Rudd’s summit?

In recent weeks there’s been significant coverage of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s summit (two examples here and here). Some commentators see it as an opportunity to get some ideas on the table bt it’s fair to say most see it as a talk-fest unlikely to generate any lasting policy initiatives. I wouldn’t be quite as cynical as that, but I have my doubts on how much can be achieved with a thousand people in a room for two days. The ego quotient alone will pose a challenge.

Given the focus is Australia’s future in 2020 you’d hope there’s at least a studied mention of the impact virtual worlds are likely to have in the future. The potential downsides of heavy virtual world use on its own should draw some interest let alone all the great opportunities to be had in the virtual sphere that could benefit Australia in coming years. Some of the more obvious challenges for government in regard to virtual worlds include:

1. Australia’s lagging broadband infrastructure;
2. Consumer protection in virtual world transactions;
3. Clarity on taxation and financial regulation;
4. Appropriately trained addiction and counselling services;
5. Expansion of research and development funding for business, non-profit, education and health in the virtual world sphere.

Who would you like to send to the summit to wave the flag? What questions / issues would you like to see raised?

(I’ve already declined an invitation – I’m washing my hair that night ).

The Mike Huckabee Center for the Liberation and Housing of Spermatazoan-Americans

We reported recently on some excellent political satire occurring in Second Life focused on Hilary Clinton. Republican Mike Huckabee gets his turn with the opening of the “The Mike Huckabee Center for the Liberation and Housing of Spermatazoan-Americans”.

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I was a bit slow in realising what the Huckabee Center was about – it was only when I saw this area that I realised:

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Built by “Gen.JC Christian”, his blog gives a pictorial tour and an explanation of the build.

The growing attention on the US Presidential Election is only going to ensure that virtual world satire goes from strength to strength. Once each party has their candidate I’m expecting some even more cutting 3D commentary.

Check it out in-world

Political satire at a whole new level

With ten months still to go until the US Presidential election, Second Life is definitely hotting up as a platform for campaigning. As you’d expect, where there’s political activity there are satirists waiting in the wings to lighten the load for those of use bombarded by the whole election process. Christophe Hugo is one such person.

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When I arrived at his faux WhiteHouse he was sitting there in his Hilary Clinton avatar. I approached Christophe and he immediately enveloped me in a cage, demanding I wouldn’t be let go until I voted for Hilary. Here’s the same fate befalling another visitor:

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He was too busy for an extensive interview but I did manage to ask whether Christophe’s efforts were coming from a particular political ideology. His response: “I am a French Marxist (of the Groucho Marx movement)”.

That sums it up really -if you enjoy political humour with a dash of slapstick then this is an area you may want to visit. There’s even a Barack Obama / Hilary Clinton boxing ring where it’s obvious who lost out:

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And finally, there’s the Whitehouse itself – it’s not the best replica I’ve seen but it fits the overall presence well:

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Thanks to New World Notes for the heads-up.

Check it out in-world

US Presidential politics comes to World of Warcraft

Gamepolitics.com has covered a march undertaken by 200 or so avatars in World of Warcraft to support US Presidential election candidate Ron Paul, who’s on the Republican side of the fence.

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Second Life is a regular venue for political discourse but it’s fair to say World of Warcraft isn’t a natural fit as there’s no ability to create individual content to augment political activism. That hasn’t stopped people from making their views clear via this march and it’ll be fascinating to see if there’s growth of such events in WoW in the lead up to November’s elections. What’s stopping some PvP events occurring along political lines? Election campaigns can be brutal on both the combatants and the electorate so this would be an obvious next step.

A new government’s genesis viewed from Second Life

ABC Island played host to an election night party, with lots of chat about unfolding events in the real world. The ‘Australians’ group in SL was also buzzing with a running commentary.

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It’d be an understatement to say those gathered on ABC island and the group chat were pro-Kevin Rudd:

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Numerous comments were expressed in regard to the ALP’s broadband policy and its impacts on the SL experience. There was plain old partying.

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As one party-goer said, “I just wanted to be with some Aussies at this historical moment”. There’s been no involvement by Australian political parties in Second Life to date – my prediction is that by next election there’ll be a marked presence by at least one party in the virtual world sphere.

F.I.R.E. – Second Life’s first native political party?

Last week I noticed a press release from Second Life political party, F.I.R.E. (it stands for Freedom, Improvement, Respect and Enjoyment). They’ve surveyed SL residents on their perceptions and clim to have a future agenda on a number of issues (see full press release below).

There’s understandably some scepticism and confusion around F.I.R.E.’s aims, particularly in an environment with no governmental structures, but at the very least it will provide an alternative to the RL politicians setting up presences without significant engagement with the SL community.

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As far as F.I.R.E. being the first political party, I’m aware there have been many lobby groups and even some sim-based ‘governments’, but I’d still argue this is the first SL-wide formal party. It may be perceived by some as a loopy party for its insistence on not adopting a set ideology, but a party it still is. What are your thoughts – can you see a grass-roots political party with a very broad ideology working in SL?

The full press release:

“October 31, 2007. SL POLITICS ON F.I.R.E. Recent studies conducted by Second Life’s first political party – F.I.R.E. – reveal that SL is lacking in the areas of freedom and respect. On the plus side, research also indicates that SL is improving fast enough and that there is a sufficient amount of ‘fun’ here in the virtual world.

SL POLITICS ON F.I.R.E.
Recent studies conducted by Second Life’s first political party – F.I.R.E. – reveal that SL is lacking in the areas of freedom and respect. On the plus side, research also indicates that SL is improving fast enough and that there is a sufficient amount of ‘fun’ here in the virtual world.

F.I.R.E. believes that sacraficing “freedom & respect” in favor of “improvement & enjoyment” will not benefit SL and needs to be halted immediately. F.I.R.E. represents virtual interests. F.I.R.E. is an independent SL-based political party for the promotion and protection of Freedom, Improvement, Respect & Enjoyment. Since early May 2007 F.I.R.E. has been getting organized. We are currently developing the party platform. On the agenda for the coming months are issues such as “cyberwar draft”, “powershifts”, “100 dollar laptops” and “squatting rights in SL”.

More on the research F.I.R.E. conducted.

The Board asked the members of F.I.R.E. about their thoughts pertaining to the four basic areas of Freedom, Improvement, Respect and Enjoyment in SL. Here are the results:
49% of the members of FIRE say that there is enough Freedom in SL.*
67% of the members of FIRE say that there is enough Improvement in SL.**
41% of the members of FIRE say that there is enough Respect in SL.***
84% of the members of FIRE say that there is enough Enjoyment in SL.****

* Note on Freedom: High costs of SLiving and the prohibition of gambling are seen as the main problems with freedom.
** Note on Improvement: Most people named themselves and others as the main providers of improvement. Linden Lab came in at second.
*** Note on Respect: Almost everyone named ‘griefing’ as the sign of disrespect. ‘Rascism/fascism’ was the second most mentioned. Some stated that “There is as much respect in SL as in RL.”
**** Note on Enjoyment: To reiterate; most people named themselves and those around them as the main providers. Cost were mentioned as a problem: “How could I ever afford to play on a descent 18-holes golf course?.”

This survey will be repeated in 2008.

Past statements of F.I.R.E.

* GAMBLING:
Gambling should not have been banned. If things were really getting out of hand, then gambling should have been brought under control and not simply banned. Banning is a sign of weakness and benefits nobody. Under certain improved conditions gambling should once again be enjoyed legally.
* VAT:
The communication concerning the VAT for EU citizens has been handled poorly to say the least. The information provided is lacking in both quality and quantity. The tone in which this message is delivered is horrible. The short notice before the implementation of this measure is ridiculous. Most importantly, it is unjust to spring this VAT measure on EU citizens and it will simply amount to a substantial increase in SL prices. LL knew or should have known VAT was and is to be paid. EU citizens have rightfully trusted LL to take care of their legal obligations surrounding VAT from the start and they should pay this tax out of money that they have already acquired.”

Check out F.I.R.E. in-world

Update: SLNN have an interview with Datus Clary.

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