As Wired Blog and several new sources have reported, the US Army is starting a Second Life presence as a new form of recruitment. (Note how the Wired Blog uses an uncredited picture of my avatar.) This virtual presence is only the latest in the US military's incursion into the metaverse, joining the US Navy Naval Underwater Warfare Center (click here to teleport) and the US Airforce MyBase sim (click here to teleport).
As a recruitment strategy, I'm not sure Second Life really hits the military's demographic as squarely as say Halo or Call of Duty. Second Life is (1) almost equally gender balanced, (2) generally an older demographic than the MMO crowd, and (3) very international, with more Europeans than Americans in SL at this point.
It seems to me that Second Life might be an ideal venue to recruit people of all ages interested in putting their talents and skills to work on behalf of others. I could easily imagine an organization like the Peace Corps setting up a sim that described their mission, explained how their application process, and let people experience some of what it might be like to serve a year or two abroad with them.
Suppose they had a recreation of a village in Southeast Asia where your avatar could innoculate kids in a medical center. Or a Latin American city where you could help a local job center get set up. Or an African village where you could distribute malarial bed nets to villagers.
You could organize regular meet-and-greets with Peace Corps veterans to talk with interested people about their experiences and their recommendations. And even host video from actual sites showing what current volunteers are doing on the ground.
For lots of the young people that we work with at Global Kids, the military seems like the best option for them to get money for college or pursue their vocation. For us, it's important for our youth to know that there are other possibilities out there for them to gain valuable experience, travel, and earn money for college that don't involve becoming a soldier. Virtual worlds can open up their horizons beyond what they already know and help them make more informed life choices.
Over the years, I have talked with so many people of all ages who hate their jobs and
are looking for ways to do something good with their lives. They just
don't know how to get started. Second Life could help people
to figure out what steps they would need to be a "full-time volunteer"
or a nonprofit professional. Once you can envision yourself doing the
job, you can get motivated to take the actions needed to get there.
Why not use Second Life to give people a second career in public service?