WA Police “Step Forward” into Second Life: detractors in hot pursuit.

The WA Police "Step Forward" Pavilion

The WA Police “Step Forward” Virtual Recruiting Pavilion was launched this week in Second Life. The plan is for the pavilion to be run during a three month trial period, after which this method of recruiting will be reviewed.

“Trudi Karu” and “Dreibergs Lannock” are the avatar names of the recruiting police who will be attending the pavilion at various times over the weeks to come. There is no information yet on how often these staff members will be available to talk to interested parties in Second Life, but it is promising that, unlike with some other government agencies and corporations who have created a virtual presence, there will be an actual person to converse with, rather than a simple 3D rendition of a web site. Unfortunately, there was no-one on staff on Saturday, a day on which many people who work would have the leisure time to get in-world and talk.

Poor video quality mars presentation.

The pavilion consists of a ground-based structure, from which you can teleport to the presentation suite – a sky box consisting of four conjoined, circular huts. The first room is a welcome area, from which you can reach each of the other dedicated rooms. Each room has a link to an appropriate web page, an image of that web page, and a multimedia screen on which to display video content. The video content arrives speedily and without skipping, but is of low visual quality – words cannot be made out – so what the actors have to say has more importance placed on it. Nonetheless, Binary Culture, the company responsible for the build, has produced an attractive and functional build.

On the other side of the story are the folks from the Retired Medically Unfit WA Police Officers Forum (RMU WA POL). While the “Step Forward” Pavilion was unattended by staff, we met up with a member of RMU WA POL at the pavilion. Western Australia appears to be the only state in Australia in which the police, due to a legal technicality, are not classified as “employees”. Due to this legality, police in W.A. are not due any pension or compensation if retired due to medical unfitness. According to RMU WA POL, some of those who have been discharged are not only denied any financial support, but are also denied emotional support and respect.

This is an example of a situation in which a build in Second Life can become equally important a venue for people with opposing or conflicting views as for the people who originally put it together. Indeed, if staffing is irregular, or as is so common in Second Life, absent, virtual presences have the potential to foster numerous views that were not originally intended.

Perhaps the WA Police’s Assistant Director for Attraction and Marketing, Trudi Angwin, may have some secong thoughts about the assertion she’s made: “the pavilion met our needs of being low maintenance, highly accessible, and functional without needing our ‘real’ staff to be logged in for long periods of time canvassing avatar inquiries.”

“Step Forward” page on the W.A. police web site.

Article from “The West” web site.

Binary Culture’s media release.

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