Thursday, October 29, 2009

Living a Double Life - Organizing in Second Life

One of the niche treats that we haven't yet shared from Netroots Nation 2009 in Pittsburgh was a panel we attended on Second Life, an online alternative universe where members create a 3d digital version of themselves, called an avatar, to live in a virtual world, that appears and operates much like our actual one. For the record I have never participated myself and probably never will, but the creative possibilities of Second Life are quite fascinating. By creating this realistic virtual world, Second Life allows people to express themselves in a world very similar to our own that they never could do in the real one. This gets played out in the creation of the avatar, for example, where one can build their appearance however they see fit, whether as an exact representation of themselves, a foil of themselves, or a dream character who they could never be in real life.

Personally I think it's nerdishly cool but pretty absurd and bizarre. Like Twitter, Second Life can be (and often is) used for personal superficial reasons, but also can be vehicles to build communities that address important social issues. Some waste time on twitter as a popularity contest, to build as many followers as possible and share every mundane insignificant detail of your life with the rest of the world, while others use it as a tool to build relationships and spread important information across the world. Anyone on twitter in the weeks after the Iran election will remember the green avatars, switching your hometown to Tehran, flooding the #IranElection and other various hashtags to make more traffic for Iranian officials to sort through while trying to locate protesters. Similarly, Second Life can be used to create an avatar that succumbs to all the excesses of life without the earthly consequences or one can use the Second Life character to make statements and connections surrounding important issues affecting the real world.

The people in these videos clearly fall into the latter category. In a variety of ways, their Avatars have taken creative but otherwise impossible actions in Second Life to confront important real world issues. They have taken advantage of the social networking possibilities Second Life offers and, in their own unique way, are taking a digital stand on actual issues...

--Connecting Second Life With Real World Small Organizations

--Second LIfe as an Immersive Educational Opportunity

--Second Life an Opportunity for Satyrical Commentary

--Building Communities with Interactive Experiences

For more videos from Netroots Nation 2009, go to

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