This afternoon, former Speaker of the House and head of the group American Solutions for Winning the Future, Newt Gingrich spoke briefly and answered questions from an audience of 50-some avatars in Second Life. Located appropriately enough on the steps of the virtual Capitol Hill (teleport SLURL), Gingrich spoke about a number of issues, including the environment, relations with China, social conservatism, and the upcoming elections. He seemed quite interested in the idea of a "3D web" and seemed fairly well-informed and jazzed about Second Life.
UPDATE 9/27, 8:30PM: Steve Nelson posts a link to an MP3 recording of Gingrich’s speech. Thanks, Steve!
A bit more after the jump…
When pressed about any future in-world engagements, he noted that he
was most interested in Second Life being used to bring together
Republic and Democratic candidates. "I’m concerned that we are going too
far on partisanship," explained Gingrich. "We are maximizing the Red /
Blue Divide. I would rather have a dialogue with Democrats (Hilary,
Obama, Edwards) than an inside party debate." I have to admit, I think
this is a fabulous idea.
Newt talked about creating a "Second Legislation" sim where legislators
from the national and state levels could come together to share views
on important subjects and bills, without the need for expensive
travel. This was pretty far-fetched, but definitely interesting.
It was a packed sim at 50-some avatars, including five friends of mine
protesting. It seemed to me to be a good balance between conservative
supporters of Gingrich who were able to hear his talk uninterrupted,
and protesters who were able to "shout" their message via text
chat. Newt got to have his say, and the opposition was able to be
present and vocal as well. A real life event would not be quite so
On the one hand, I found his views about finding common ground among Dems and Reps and Blue and Red states compelling. And I am always interested in policymakers using technology to connect better with citizens and each other.
But as a political activist of a certain age, I remember well when Newt was at the height of his powers and how polarizing and vindictive he was in the House. His sanctimonious and hypocritical attacks against Clinton for his infidelities while he himself had a long history of cheating on his spouse still galls me.
I am as a Quaker always open to the possibility of redemption and growth. But given his history, position and reputation, is Newt Gingrich well positioned to be much of a "uniter"? I don’t think any amount of eloquent rhetoric, Web 2.0 or virtual world technologies are going to make that possible.
4 thoughts on “Is the new Newt the great uniter? (Thoughts on Gingrich’s first foray into Second Life)”
I was not impressed with his rhetoric….he seemed well-coached to be a candidate but did not seem to cherish real conversation, instead using the platform as a pulpit for his agenda. The questions seemed very off-balance (better than most Republican events but far from the town hall “dialogue” feel he kept preaching on).
The protesters were well respected by some and treated poorly by others, and I was frustrated that I had to come in as a “protester” and that only 5 such avatars were allowed after careful negotiation. There was plenty of room in the neighboring sim but no others were allowed in; it took me 15 minutes of IMs and failed teleports to get there to begin with. Right after the event we were booted to the sky, not allowed to participate in the discussions below for the first few minutes as the virtual fence was lifted.
The whole virtual fence for protesters does not strike me as particularly democratic or encouraging of true dialogue. Why keep people away? I wouldn’t have shouted or held up signs if given a seat at the table along with the many media representatives and republican leaders there….I saw very few people who were allowed to speak their mind at the event. Many IMed me, including organizers, to say that they felt it was a sham too….it didn’t ring true for us.
Thanks for your perspective, In K.
As an “invited press” I didn’t have the same experience. There’s no reason why the adjoining sim couldn’t be opened up for peaceful protest, so that another 45 or so avatars could participate.
In Kenzo, while I appreciate your comments on the Solutions Day event, I’d like to take this opportunity as one of the event managers to fill in some of the details and to clarify.
No one was ejected from the event. When we opened the sim boundaries immediately after the presentation concluded, the resulting switch is what caused avatars to be relocated into the sky. This was a Linden issue and not a deliberate act on the part of event organizers.
You did not request an invitation to the event ahead of time, and it was only when we were 3 minutes away from going live that we received numerous IM’s from you and Ruby to teleport your avatar directly into the area where the protestors were gathering. The production of this event required the careful coordination of several behind-the-scenes technicians, staff, and event organizers working remotely from different locations to make it happen. Given the complicated nature of the Linden grid, we were all trouble-shooting the audio stream when your persistent requests were received.
I, personally, was juggling at least a dozen IM’s while communicating with you, and your request for access was dealt with in the order in which it was received. I doubt if anyone had a greater desire, at that moment, for faster technology and a more efficient set of communication tools than we did. Despite lag and other technical issues at the beginning of the event, we did our best and got you in.
I don’t understand your comment about not being allowed to participate in the discussions afterward. As soon as the event concluded, I saw your avatar skate through the seating at the base of the steps carrying a large white sign, and then you disappeared. Several people remained afterward to chat and mingle for at least 2 hours following the event, and I was there twice to clean up the sim. I did not see your avatar there, and from what I could see, it looked like you tp’d out minutes after the event concluded.
The virtual boundary was set up to accomodate the presenter, the audience, and the protestors so that everyone could have a productive and positive experience. We’ve done no less in terms of providing for the demonstrations that you have participated in at SL Capitol Hill prior to yesterday’s event.
Earlier that morning, I had a nice chat with one of the protestors, and I moved several trees in order to allow greater visibility for the demonstrators so that your signs were clearly visible to Dr. Gingrich in SL and to his Solutions Day workshop audience in Atlanta. The SL Capitol Hill organizers also extended invitations to avatars who had demonstrated at SL Capitol Hill before, but who requested seating in the audience. You could have arranged for a seat in the audience, but you waited until the event began, and then asked to tp into the demonstration area.
Speaker Gingrich’s presentation lasted approximately 20 minutes, and it was followed by 20 minutes of Q&A. The protestors had the same opportunity as the audience members to ask questions, and yet, you (In Kenzo) chose not to engage in a true dialogue. There was, however, a lot of shouting from protestors in the chat window. If you “saw very few people who were allowed to speak,” then you weren’t listening, because there was a lot of substantive discussion that took place. I’m sure that I wasn’t the only person who wondered why questions were not coming from the demonstrators when everyone had an equal opportunity to participate in a direct dialogue with Speaker Gingrich.
I would also like to respond to your statement that after “careful negotiation,” only 5 avatars were allowed to protest. Nonsense. Event organizers, including myself, met with individuals who had expressed an interest in protesting. We worked with them to allow that to happen in an effective and productive way. There was no “careful negotiation” regarding the number of protestors as much as there was considerably more effort on the part of event organizers to include a demonstration.
To my knowledge, only 3 protestors approached us ahead of time to make arrangements. We had at least 39 confirmed invitations up to the moment we started the event, and we were flooded with IM requests minutes before and for several minutes after the event began. We had to work within the sim limit of 60 avatars and figure out ahead of time how many guests we could accomodate in each group (protestors, audience members, SL Capitol Hill staff, technical staff, security avs, and press). It was simply a matter of planning and anticipating how many avatars we could accomodate overall. Btw, the demonstration parcel took up most of the remaining area in the sim, and it was deliberately set up to provide visbility and close proximity to the speaker.
Events on SL Capitol Hill are sent out as notices to the SL Capitol Hill group, as well as to the discussion group, Political Hill. I would suggest that you join one of those groups as a means of receiving announcements and making arrangements ahead of time so that you don’t have to deal with another last-minute scramble to gain access.
True dialogue did happen, but perhaps you were too busy exchanging IM’s and labeling the event as a sham to have noticed.
Rik, great blog post, and I agree with your comments. As a follow-up to your comment about opening the adjoining sim during the presentation, there was a good and practical reason why we chose to keep the sim closed during the Solutions Day event.
We did not have the resources (meaning real human beings) to manage another activity going on at the same time. We were maxed out as it was, and there was no one available to assist if an issue did arise that required our assistance. When you only have so many real people to help with an event, it comes down to resources and how far you can stretch those resources. Our first responsibility was to deliver a successful event. It could have been a totally private event, but we chose to include demonstrators. And, that’s as much as we were able to provide.