Peace in the metaverse

Netroots meeting in Second Life This weekend while hundreds of thousands are marching in the nation’s capital to end the long national nightmare known as the Iraq War, some of us will be virtually marching for peace.

The SL Netroots group in Second Life is sponsoring events and activities to coincide with the national March on Washington to End the War. Events may be spread around, but our space on Progressive Island will be the central place to find out what’s going on.

In support of the national march for peace in Washington, DC on January 27th, 2007, members of the SL Netroots are organizing in the following events.

Confirmed events:
* Posters for Peace. Gallery exhibition with free posters, on Progressive Island.

* Party at Solidad Sugarbeet’s Conscious Lounge with DJ Doubledown Tardino. Time & day: TBD.

RootsCamp / J27 events for peace in Second Life

Come to our weekly meeting this Thursday at 3pm EST (noon SLT) to help make this effort a success! We need lots of support and want to see a lot of people come to Progressive Island on Saturday so please help spread the word.

J27

8 thoughts on “Peace in the metaverse

  1. As someone who participated in RootsCamp last year, I’m not sure why you would think that.

    Ten years ago, a lot of folks thought online advocacy was a goofy idea, too.

  2. Well, I’ve been digesting the whole RootsCamp thing and, with a bit of distance, I’m honestly not sure that this is a politically effective way to organize. Please don’t take this the wrong way (but rather in the spirit of contrarian criticism), but I really think the whole Second Life set-up is self-referential and exclusionary. Online organizing is a good and important thing, but Second Life requires not just access to a computer, but access to a top of the line machine with excellent graphics card, broadband, and the time to set up and avatar, learn the ropes, etc. Why not just use e-mail or a text-based chat room?

    In short, I don’t get it. I find it neat as a game, but I honestly think it’s just that. And I don’t see the point of organizing from within a computer game.

    Can’t you reach more people through less time-consuming, net-centered means that larger constituencies have access to? I’m not sure the sense of “thereness” that comes with an avatar, virtual world, etc, is worth the trade-off in terms of time, investment, etc. And please let’s not forget that the whole “world” belongs to a private corporation there to make a profit. Ultimately they can pull the plug or do whatever they want with SL. Not a good long-term solution to me.

    As an extreme example, take the recent Second Life demos against the SL presence of the French National Front:

    http://nwn.blogs.com/nwn/2007/01/stronger_than_h.html

    Riots, stormings of the virtual baracades, etc. Although fascism should be opposed anywhere and everywhere, no-one who took part is, in fact, storming a baracade… though I’m sure many thought that they did. Perhaps the time spent designing anti-fascist SL paraphernalia can be better spent opposing fascists in French working class neighbourhoods?

    In short, I think the whole set-up is a bit of a bubble for techno-elites. Serious organizing, actually reaching people – i.e. non-middle class people – can and should use the net, but SL to me gives a false sense of efficacy. I respectfully suggest First Life:

    http://www.getafirstlife.com/

  3. In short, I think the whole set-up is a bit of a bubble for techno-elites.

    This is the same type of short sighted complaint leveled against early Internet pioneers. Especially people who saw the value of hyper interconnectedness in relation to movement building.

    For a moment try thinking ahead a bit. Imagine a future where the interfaces to your computers are more advanced. The product cycle of computers will bring down the price of hardware we now consider high end. Someone needs to be on the frontier of technology for activism. That way when more people join in a virtual 3D world group experience the techniques for virtual organizing will be understood. If politically progressive people do not experiment with cutting edge tech capitalist sure as hell will. Which group would you rather have as master of technology?

    Pioneers aren’t excluding people from new technology by using it. Fact is many early adopters tech activists are working very hard to EMPOWER more people not less.

    Another perspective is the power of influential pioneers on groups. For example: Bloggers who have been writing on their blogs for awhile can reach a lot of people. More people than when they started. Adoption of blogging is swift. People create tons of new blogs every day. Blogs influence the powerful – politicians, heads of corporations, community leaders, etc. etc. With the viral nature of Second Life being very similar to blogs, people who use it, will one day if not already, influence social change in a radical way. To see a potential example of this just look at the effect of blogs on US presidential elections. Virtual worlds will one day augment and maybe replace the web browser and the World Wide Web as we know it.

    Wouldn’t you want to give that kind of power to everyone? Shouldn’t we ferment grassroots power and democracy any way possible? Technology is NOT a replacement for traditional ways of doing things. Its a new tool to get things done. Technologist augment traditional movement building.

  4. I do understand where you’re coming from here, and I appreciate your point that the technology isn’t static. I guess I’m trying to flesh out what’s been bugging me about the SL political context. So, two points:

    1) There’s a bit of disturbing vanguardism going on here that’s always plagued the left. Yes, sure, these things will catch on and, yes, in some sense a political presence in virtual worlds is good. But this isn’t exactly grassroots stuff. The whole point, right now, is that people using SL to organize represent a technological vanguard who are themselves defining what they think is important, technologically. As things currently stand, as opposed to the hypothetical direction the technology is going in, statements about the importance of things like SL are statements by a certain group of people about what *should* be important. What I’m saying here is that we need to pull back from statements about the inevitability of virtual worlds becoming a dominant form of communication for more than certain techno-savvy members of the middle class. Sure, you may be right, but such statements, as currently made, imply criteria about relevance that not everyone beyond the current bubble would agree with.

    2) My second point is an aesthetic one, so even vaguer. Perhaps, down the road, there will be a fully open source virtual world in the control of no particular corporation. Perhaps not. But the fact that current manifestations of all this (such as SL) are private, for-profit platforms gets lost in utopian pronouncements about the glories of the virtual. SL is, primarily, about aesthetics. If not then why not just do this sort of thing on, say, IRC? And there’s something a bit pernicious about such an emphasis on a detached, non-existent/virtual world that implies that the “place” is an end in and of itself. I’m probably not being too clear here, but I still don’t see what’s so empowering about such an emphasis on the aesthetics of world creation, avatars and such. This is a completely different issue to blogging which, blog layout aside (and who doesn’t love playing with .css?), is about new ways of distributing and exchanging information, not about aesthetics.

    People have been trying to sell utopian articulations of “virtual worlds” since all those premature references to virtual reality in the early 1990s (remember those 3D goggles in the U2 videos?). I guess I just think there’s something creepy about constantly selling this kind of transcendence. The whole thing becomes an end in itself (a commercial end), in a way that’s antithetical to grassroots politics.

  5. It sounds to me like you’re arguing against something other than what I announced above. Where is the vanguardism or utopianism in an effort to organize the existing community of SL users to do something positive?

    If you resent SL hype, that’s fine. But hold it against the hypers, not those of us who are just trying to do something worthwhile and not proclaiming any mighty worldchanging effects.

    The web is also owned by tons of corporations, but we still use it as a platform for valid and effective political activity.

    Pull your head out of 1995!

  6. Hey, what’s wrong with 1995? That’s the year in which my CD collection peaked.

    I read Brian as suggesting something other than simply organizing the existing SL community (i.e. that SL is the wave of the future, and that people organizing SL are in some sense preparing for that future), hence my hyperbolic suggestion of vanguardism (and I still want to know what Lenin would make of all this… perhaps a Lenin avatar is needed?).

    As for organizing the existing SL community, I still can’t but find this terribly self-referential. Sure, middle class people need to be organized, but at its worst (e.g. the anti-Le Pen faux riot) there’s a false sense that events on a par with those in the real world are actually taking place.

    I think people need to be more aware of the limitations of the medium, not just what’s cool and snazzy about it.

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