Thursday, June 14, 2007

New Media and Dynamic Nonviolence

Cell phones ousted Joseph Estrada. and True Majority use the internet implement campaigns, engage audiences (watch the OREO movie), and set agendas. The internet reshaped political activism.

A virtual world like Second Life is to nonviolence like was to silent movies. As Mr Warner said, it seems a novel idea, but who wants to hear actors talk? Our predictions of technology's implications often fall far short. What can a virtual world that's just a few steps removed from Dungeons and Dragons or the Society for Creative Anachronism contribute?

New networks, new audiences
Activists seek other like-minded souls and virtual worlds offer another venue, another cohort, and another means of interacting. In Second Life, there is interest group for nonviolent communication, a class on democracies, forums encouraging dialogs between Israelis and Palestinians, and five campaign headquarters. (Gravel's is actually funded by his real life campaign as an extension of his future vision.) They have links to position statements and voter registration, and are certainly engaging.

Stay Awhile
If the idea is to keep one at a web site for a long time, then that certainly happens here. You're virtually walking (or flying) through the headquarters rather than just clicking here and there. Code Pink offers free protest signs with a pumping fist.
There are free t-shirts for your avatar, and a pillar with links to other progressive "locations" in Second Life.

Another way to be one with the struggle

Not everyone is a spokesperson, a Bayard Rustin, or a potential arrestee. Second Life offers another way for people to be involved through artistic expression, building a site, engaging in chats or organizing debates. Virtual national or international meetings can be cheaper and more interactive than conference calls or email exchanges (once the technology is more reliable). In Obama's headquarters, volunteers for were looking at Second Life for ideas on how to bring Kiva to life for even more people. I never would have known about them, had I not been perusing a virtual world. (OK, the next day, a great piece aired on ABC, and 1000 more people lent $100,000. But what if I hadn't seen it?) Now they have a location of their own.

Can we try all 198 methods?
One of the keys to dynamic nonviolent action is practice and although there are wonderfully innovative games that are great teaching tools, virtual worlds affords activists opportunities to role play specific scenarios in specific contexts. Industry is using the virtual world for training and mentoring, why not activists? And who knows? Maybe in the future, we'll use virtual worlds to act out our conflicts, rather than inflicting collateral damage on our own planet? I would just hope that no one has to report to the disintegration chamber.

The point is, we have a new tool. We've actually always had new tools developing all the time. And as with any new tool, we step back, ask ourselves what our objectives are and look at the tools available to us, choosing strategically. Virtual worlds are another method well worth exploring.

1 comment:

Interim Grab said...

I found it really interesting that the London Police were posting the photo and bio of the young British girl who was kidnapped in Portugal on Second Life. The virtual world is quite powerful and untapped in terms of potential.
You have a great amount of resources and inforamtion on your page. It is very powerful.