One of the main reasons we created the International Justice Center in Second Life was to explore the challenge posed by MacArthur President Jonathan Fanton last year, who asked, "Might not there be a group in Second Life that could come together to educate itself about the ICC and organize a campaign to persuade public and leaders that we should be part of this court?"
In other words, could Second Life be used as a vehicle for promoting public education about the court and catalyzing civic action in support of the ICC?
[Cross-posted to Holymeatballs]
The first goal of public education is relatively easy to conceive. Create a public virtual space where avatars can come to learn about the ICC, the cases before it, how it operates, and background on the crimes it adjudicates. This could be done through a virtual build that had textual, audio, video and other interactive content that educated about the ICC. In addition, in-world lectures and classes could teach about different aspects of the court. I think we are well on our way to accomplishing this goal based on our past and upcoming activities at the International Justice Center.
It’s the second goal of civic action that is more complicated. How do you use a virtual world to stimulate action in the real world?
On the web, what civic action often means is:
- Contact Your Representative: Using web tools to help you send an email, call or write a letter to your congressperson, or head of state or other public official.
- Donate: Using e-commerce tools to get you to donate to a cause or charity.
- Join: Getting people to become members of a cause or organization.
- Connect: Bring people together with others who support the cause, either in their community or anywhere in the world. I.e. Meetups, web forums, chapter meetings, etc.
- Outreach: Using viral media and messaging to get the person to spread the message to their friends, family and colleagues.
The question is, do virtual worlds do any of these tasks any better than the web?
I would say that 1 and 2 are non-starters. The web is just much better at these tasks, although there are lots of neat SL-to-email and vCommerce tools being created all the time. You can get people to "join" your cause through in-world groups in SL, which is not the same as being a dues-paying member, but still demonstrates some level of commitment.
So that leaves Connect and Outreach, which are perhaps the most promising for virtual worlds given their sense of presence and multi-user interactive aspects. Virtual worlds can offer opportunities for regular meetings of members and interested individuals to stay up-to-date on recent developments, get inspired by each other, strategize, and promote a sense of group identity. I feel a sense of commitment and connection to the Nonprofit Commons group in SL, mostly because I regularly attend their meetings every Friday, and socialize with several members on the side.
Second Life offers many tools for public outreach — from freebie objects and clothing, notecard givers, machinima, to free concerts and other forms of entertainment. A machinima video created in SL can reach hundreds and thousands of people around the world when posted to the web. A popular freebie bracelet might be worn by thousands of avatars, promoting your cause or message anytime anyone sees it.
So it seems to me that the way forward for the Justice Center over the next few months then is to explore how to create a regular meeting space and utilize virtual outreach tools to effectively spread the word about the ICC. Anyone want to make an anti-griefing Justice Shield for me?