Virtual life, virtual protests, virtual insanity?

Just when I finally figured out how to get off Orientation Island in Second Life (strictly research purposes only, of course), I’ve now found out that the virtual world is starting to ever more replicate the real world.

President Bush now has a handful of online avatars that don’t like him either. That can’t help the approval rating!

On January 29, 2006, it seems that a small cadre of Second Life users “marched” on “Washington”, and were successful in crashing a part of Second Life and getting interviewed by BBC News. Oh, and getting blog attention from people like me.

My quandry is this: if my real life is as hectic as it’s going to get (something I say every Monday), how in the world am I going to keep up with my avatar’s life in a second reality?

Even more important, should I care?

Some real life human beings, like the Wonkette, don’t think this is doing more good than harm:

Give it up for liberals: they managed to find the one way left to make traditional protests even more ineffectual and embarrassing. Have ‘em on the internet!

Of course, that’s what the naysayers always write before the big wave of change comes in to smash them down; however, will a second reality be the next logical step on the Internet? Will PICnet open PICnet Second Life before it opens PICnet Hawaii (I hope not!)?

Technology will always provide new mediums and channels to move messages. Some will be more effective than others, and provide easier access and distribution methods than the ones before them. Some will only be applicable to target niche groups. Only time will tell if Second Life and other virtual reality systems will be a real platform for social change.

For the meantime though, I think extensions of technology that better enable real world experiences will continue to be adopted at a much higher pace than virtual experiences.

People like Katrin Verclas of MobileActive have got it right: facilitate interactions through technology people are already accustomed.

Nonprofit news, strategy, and tactics sent straight to your inbox
Sign up for the Soapbox Engage newsletter

This entry was posted on Saturday, February 3rd, 2007 at 1:39 pm and is filed under nptech. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

5 Responses to “Virtual life, virtual protests, virtual insanity?”

  1. katrin says:

    Thanks, Ruan :-) Appreciatye the plug, my friend. And check this out:

  2. katrin says:

    Make that RYAN. Long day…

  3. Beth says:

    Ryan: The point of virtual worlds isn’t to be all vritual. It is like, other social networking, to facilitate/leverage real world experiences. With that say, I think the virtual worlds are still very early adopter stage – what technology life cycles called the “innovator state.” SL, in particular, and as you well know – has a huge learning curve, still a lot of glitches, and subject to the hype.

    Nonetheless, you might want to take look at what the foremost thinker in participatory culture –Henry Jenkins at MIT — has to say on about Second Life — and he is spent a great deal of time researching it …

    “The numbers matter if we are asking whether Second Life represents “the future of the web” but personally, I have never believed that SL is going to be a mass movement in any meaningful sense of the term. As I stated last time, I do not buy the whole nonsense that immersive worlds represent web 3.0 and will in any way displace the existing information structures that exist in the web, any more than I think audio-visual communications is going to replace written communications anytime soon. If nothing else, the ability to scan through text quickly gives it an efficiency that will not be replaced by more “technically advanced” solutions which are more time consuming to produce and to consume. I am pretty sure that the value of the web/net lies in asynchronous communications and that real time interactions — whether we are talking 3d or skype — will always represent a special class of uses which competes not with the web but with other teleconferencing technologies. Most of us will find uses for virtual worlds one of these days; most of us will not “live” there nor will we conduct most of our business there.”

    The whole piece is here:

    Don’t know if you’re coming up to Boston for Beyond Broadcast Conference, but Jenkins is the keynote speaker and I hope to live blog it …

  4. Ryan Ozimek


    Thanks for your points here, and the link to Jenkins’ opining as well. Reading through his points, though not having time during the Super Bowl to read his full piece, I still wonder if Second Life is really going to be as easily an extension of real-life social networks.

    I guess it can for those that currently are quick on the learning curve and already have adopted the online social networking systems out there, but I wonder if Second Life will provide as an easy a human migration path as something like Internet on your cell phone.

    Ok, apples with oranges comparison, I know. My point is that Second Life seems to require so much of a person not just technically but also socially. Successful social networks today (think LinkedIn) seem to work very well specifically because they’re asynchronous.

    I won’t be in Boston for the Beyond Broadcast Conference, but I look forward to your blog posts!


  5. Beth says:


    Those are good questions! SL definitely has issues in terms of ease of use – from interface to spatial skills to cognitive overload of trying to match avatar to human.

    SL does have an ascyhronous aspect to it, but it is a real time tool.

    I just came from the Community of Practice island – where a bunch of online facilitators/e-learning people from asia, europe, and austraila just did an exercise on online collaboration in SL. I think the most promising areas are for educational online experience where deep engagement and simulation is needed. There is a growing body of examples of using SL for that – from bioterriosm drills, architecture/building, social skills play for autism, etc. Within the educator, online practice, and business communities in there – there is a lot of social networking taking place during workshops and gatherings where people are using SL for online learning.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.