International Justice Center in Second Life: A wasted effort?

So there’s a new International Justice Centre in Second Life. Another great idea geared to service the few who can use Second Life. 100% useless for most of us who cannot.And let’s not forget what Time Magazine had to say of Second Life.

I am yet to be entirely convinced that Second Life repositories of knowledge and information are somehow more desirable and worth supporting than say web based portals. As the video from the event shows, the high profile launch was sparesely attended and even featured one streaker. I guess this is activism and awareness raising for some.

I don’t want to be too negative. For those who can use SL, it’s immersive and interesting to be surrounded by content on the workings of the International Criminal Court, the world’s first international human rights tribunal, designed to investigate and try those accused of committing some of the worst violations of human rights, including genocide, mass rape and war crimes.

Of course, the point is that the country in which the International Justice Centre is located in is also a country that does not recognise the ICC. The United States of America was one of only 7 nations (joining China, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Qatar and Israel) to vote against the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in 1998.Wonder if the IJC wil stimulate any discussions in this regard.

To their credit, Global Kids has engaged in discussions on how best to use the new IJC in SL. Among the suggestions and ideas that came out of the forums:

  • Education about the International Criminal Court should be the first priority. Many people don’t know what the ICC is, or have misconceptions about it.
  • Integrate educational content into the environment. Immersive experiences can galvanize people to action.
  • Aesthetics matter.
  • Virtual demonstrations can have real world impact.
  • There’s already lots of activity on social issues, but dispersed across the grid.
  • Bringing real world events into SL is attractive to people because it enables them to attend events that they normally could not, and the backchannel conversations enhance the experience.
  • It’s difficult to demonstrate and measure real world impact of virtual builds and experiences.
  • Hold mock trials with different teams of university students
  • People want to have fun. Integrate entertaining activities to draw people, like music festivals, art shows, etc.

These are vital, urgent and significant goals and I sincerely hope that they succeed in all this. However, living in a country where human rights abuses are rife and with my own significant experience in using technology to support peacebuilding, I have my doubts about using SL (and this is the vital point) to achieve some of these goals which may well be done better, cheaper, for a wider audience, in a more accessible and sustained manner, in more languages and with more interactivity and responsiveness.

I guess it’s revealing that most of the social and political activists who propound the use of SL as a viable platform to galvanise action, even in the real world, come from the US. And perhaps I am wrong to judge them by my own reality and access to technology. My concern however is that some of these initiative tend to get more than a little carried away by their own hype and forget completely just how atypical it is to have a PC and Internet connection able to run SL.

That said, what I found the most inteteresting in the video of the IJC launch above was not the event itself, but the art of defiance showcased in it. The sculpture with cameras for example reminded me of every single time I’ve visited Britain where even the Queens corgis seem to have CCTV cameras up their royal posterior. It is after all the country with the most amount of CCTV’s though it doesn’t seem to be doing much good. It’s great that people with a desire for social and political transformation are using all the tools possible in virtual domains like SL to raise awareness on real and vital issues such as Darfur, Myanmar and China and even the gross human rights violations by the US itself.

In Avatars and Politics: Using Second Life for political activism? I point to articles that are essential reading for anyone who is interested in the larger implications of initaitives such as the IJC.

I have no doubt that web and Internet activism influence real world change. Indeed, it is increasingly the case that the web and Internet are the only domains and last refuge of those who are at risk and persecuted.  But experiments with SL in countries like Sri Lanka have been a failure, simply because we do not have the necessary connectivity to use it to even a fraction of its potential.

And that’s a real pity.

Also read:

Second Life for Humanitarian Aid and Peacebuilding?
Strong Angel Island videos – From the Strong Angel III sim for Second Life
A Second Life for Journalism?
Second Life – Business, ODR, Language and Peace
Online Violence : Take 2

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