Virtual Worlds, Social Media, & Social Justice
By artpax on November 14, 2008
I'm coming up for air in physical life and immersing myself in virtual life after the U.S. election. I've been a CODEPINK Women for Peace activist for over five years. This election does not signal the end of CODEPINK work; we're not politically motivated, we are peacefully motivated. <!--break-->U.S. military forces are still making war, not promoting peace, so our work isn't done. I am however breathing deeply and relaxing a good bit now that an intelligent, diplomatically inclined man (sigh) is headed for the White House. This gives me the freedom to branch out a bit in my efforts to work for peace and justice.
On December 10th people from all over the world will join together to celebrate and further advance the goals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was adopted and proclaimed by
General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) on 10
December 1948. I'm working with people from the U.S., U.K, Sweden, Italy and a host of other countries on a celebration that will last almost a week in the common countryside that is the virtual world of Second Life. I won't try to explain virtual worlds beyond saying what was once a game platform where people moved online characters that represented them in a game around a 3D graphic representaton of a world. My online representation, my avatar, is named Ana (Ana and Nancy have the same root meaning so that let's the very nerdy me identify with my avatar more deeply than a silly name might have allowed).... Anyway Ana has been an entity in the virtual world of Second Life for two and a half years. In that time she/I has started a virtual chapter of CODEPINK Women for Peace and developed real relationships with people around the world who are also working for peace and justice.
I've linked avatar hands in solidarity with hundreds of other folks in support of Burmese Monks standing up to tyrrany and protesting for democracy, protested Newt Gingrich's first major Second Life appearance that was streamed into the virtual world from where he was speaking in Atlanta, joined with lots of avatars from around the world protesting the G8 summit, and dropped virtual banners off virtual Washington monuments, as well as providing information about things CODEPINK was doing in the physical world. You can see pics of some of these actions in Ana's Flickr pics.
Many folks say this is just "play" protest, but it is just as real as protesters you may drive by on the street and think for a second or two (or hopefully more) about the cause they in which they are proclaiming support. The ultimate aim of any protestation is influence through the dispersal or broadcast of information to an audience that does not already possess that information.
The structure of the celebration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights draws on Second Life's popular usage as a "place" to share and enjoy live music. People in their homes or studios around the globe have their avatars "play" at virtual clubs and cafes in the virtual world and people from everywhere have their avatars show up to listen to the music and dance. It can be difficult to picture until you have done it, but the experience is very real for the participants. The HRF (Human Rights Festival) in SL (Second Life) is gathering together some of the most sought after performers in Second Life who will play at various locations around "the grid" which is just another name for any virtual world or all virtual worlds. (Yes, Second Life is but one of many virtual worlds in a rapidly developing interconnected grid of grids.) People (avatars) who follow those particular performers or want to take a date to a concert or cafe or club will show up at the various places where the music is being played. Non-activists will be exposed to the Human Rights Exhibits that are also in those locations. Mission accomplished.
Anyway I wanted to share my happiness that I can now more fully dedicate myself to exploring how to use the grid for the betterment of humankind now that I don't feel I have to dedicate most of my energies to counteracting the influence of the Bush-Cheney administration.
I'm very excited about the development of the virtual world as meeting space as it allows a much greater potential for global friendship and interaction than has previously been possible as well as a host of other benefits such as the saving of fuel when complex meetings that require more presence and personal commitment than a simple cnference call or video conference. Promoting virtual meetings is such a great area for women entrepreneurs, too. And then there is the whole "differently abled people are not differently abled in virtual worlds - unless they want to be" thing, and how these virtual platforms will liberate the eldery, mobility challenged individuals to walk hand in hand on beaches with old and new loves.
I'm so psyched up about all this, there are so many opportunities to explore and create!
post script: I will cross post this to a couple of my blogs as well as an entry on Blogher. I apologize for any duplication to which you may be exposed by this cross posting.
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