Monday, January 21, 2008

Political Power Playing

Politics in Second Life?

Uh, yea? There are politics everywhere. There are politics in your workplace, in your home, with your friends, with the meter maid who just slapped a parking ticket on your car because you were seven seconds too late even though they saw you running for your car.

The definition of politics is the interactions and processes by which people make decisions upon actions with other people.

According to this, by the strict definition, we've had politics in Second Life for a long time. You could start with Linden Lab opening up Second Life to the first beta tester (some would argue we're all still beta testing, but that is a story for another day) and started receiving feedback concerning the game. You had politics when residents began to bicker and coalesce and agree upon what to do with the land they were buying and renting. You could compile volume upon volume of books listing the political power plays between Joe Shone and Jack Black and their clubs/casinos/stores.

But that's me being semantic. They're really talking about real life politics as we tend to know them. Presidential candidates and political lobbies using Second Life as a staging area and center ring for their campaigns. And on this, I agree with them. Second Life has a shaky record with this.

Senator Edwards attempted (or was it his following?) to build a campaign in Second Life. It wasn't the main lane of attack for him, and in fact it was rather small and isolated. Hardly anyone noticed when it came and when it folded. It was halfway sabotaged when a group of griefers set up a similar build advocating a psychic with a similar last name (Edward as opposed to Edwards). I haven't seen or heard much of any other potential candidate (save for Ron Paul, but does he really count?) starting anything in Second Life. I've seen a few lobbies for upholding the Second Amendment or urging action against global warming, but again nothing with too much momentum.

I think hoping for this kind of thing in Second Life is fatally flawed in two ways. To think that anyone could consider Second Life for a penetrating campaign is hopeless. The grid is too suburban and sprawling, and news in Second Life itself is sketchy, that the message does not get very far. Even in the extremely unlikely event you reached every single Second Life resident, you would only reach anywhere between 200,000 to 300,000 residents (I believe the 500,000 is far too optimistic. I think the actual number, accounting for alts and one month wonders, is actually somewhere between 275,000 to 312,500 residents but I'm low balling here). 300,000 is only about the size of Cincinnati. Consider also that this is spread across the world. Only half of the recipients of your message may be Americans and able to vote for you and possibly your lobby. If I'm French, I might care who becomes President but I'm not going to be able to do much about it. I might even hurt the campaign if I try to help it (since Americans are notorious for often deliberately voting against world opinion). You're just not going to reach many people and many are just not going to care.

The other problem is that people really will not care. Most come into Second Life to relax, socialize, build, and hang out with friends. They want to escape these kinds of pressing world issues and political maneuverings of real life. We already have enough problems with ad farms, right? When the people of Second Life can barely motivate themselves for forcing Linden Lab to reexamine its policies in Second Life or organizing to strike a blow against a resident grabbing power, why should they be expected to take interest in actual politics? Are you really going to garner the support of Dave Triskaidekaphobia, who is only really interested in finding a house and some gorean slaves? I do not hold much hope that it would. The corporate builds ran into this some times ago. Why go to Pontiac or AOL island, when the average resident is going to buy neither of these products? The average resident isn't interested in either. They're running on a cable connection and using Skype rather than AIM, and vehicles in Second Life can be found for free and are useless considering teleportation and poor sim crossings. The interest is just not there.

These are ingrained into Second Life itself and will not be easily changed. Personally, I would not like to see it changed. I'd much rather see Second Life take its own course than to have it become little more than a giant political ad paid for by some presidential or congressional hopeful.

But that's not up to me, is it?

No comments: