Monday, November 19, 2007

Can we take a virtual Foreign Secretary seriously?

Look right. There is embracing technology and there is just being bloody silly. Last week, David Miliband, like his other minister friends embracing technology gave a speech on Second Life at somewhere called Diplomacy Island which is apparently the home of the Virtual Embassy for the Maldives. The video of the speech has been posted on the Foreign office YouTube channel, but I warn you before you press play that he is as wooden as ever.

Now some people might say this is a brilliant way of engaging people. To use a virtual conference to put out a message to a much wider audience. Digital Trends for example argued this point saying "[b]y using Second Life, the minsters [sic] were able to reach a much wider range of the earth's population to talk about the impact climate change is having on everyone."

Errrrr..... reality check! I know that might be difficult given the whole "virtual" nature of Second Life, but the idea that by broadcasting a speech on Second Life you're reaching the wider planet's population is universally idiotic. Currently - right this moment - there are 40,114 people logged into Second Life.

That is less than the population of the Cayman Islands, and the vast majority of them will probably be having virtual sex or wandering around bored looking for someone to have virtual sex with. They won't be thinking about saving the planet. In fact, the whole point of Second Life is to get away from the real world and real life problems, not replicate them.

As a Times leader noted last week, "anyone on Second Life needs to get a life".


James Higham said...

Is virtual sex satisfying, Dizzy? I ask merely for information.

Cllr David Sammels said...

I'm surprised that Second Life gets so much coverage on sites such as the BBC. When you compare it to the number of users of other online games with no connection to real life it pales in comparison.

I wonder how much Miliband has been spending on e-communication lately; I really don't think sorting out a Youtube channel should be the responsibility of the British Civil Service!

JuliaM said...

I await Millibland's entry into 'World of Warcraft' with anticipation.

Go on, Davey boy.....pick a PVP server!


Anonymous said...

You could visit the reproduction of Mies van der Rohe's masterpiece, the Farnsworth House, on Architecture Island. You could attend exhibitions at one of the hundreds of art galleries (including mine) displaying original works in Second Life. You could attend a meeting of the Second Life Bar Association to discuss issues of international law. You could participate in many of the political or educational events there. I happen to know that the design department of one of the world's leading tech companies encourages its employees to spend time designing unrelated objects in their private SL region to keep their creative juices flowing. I know writers organised into creative writing clubs who read their works to each other regularly; people from all over the world who would never otherwise meet.

I don't dispute that many in SL are having (or seeking) virtual sex, but you overgeneralise a little, Dizzy. Most of the internet is porn too, but we bloggers are not (all) here for titillation, are we?

SL may be a glimpse of the future interface for the Internet. People happily buy books or gadgets from fancy interactive lists on Amazon or wherever, but few will buy anything they need to try on. As Moore's Law permits SL to approach ever closer to photorealism, I envisage shoppers trying clothes, shoes etc. on their accurate "avatars" and having the real goods delivered to their home. I can envisage virtual meetings in an SL-like environment making a lot of carbon emissions unecessary. At the moment, I agree with you that it is a technology looking for a purpose. I am old enough to remember people saying of personal computers "very clever but what are they FOR?" SL can certainly be very silly at times, but it's fascinating to watch it evolve and to experience the creativity it unleashes in some of its users. It does not take much in the way of an imagination to see where it (or more likely its successors) may lead.

Perhaps you are such an old nethead that you have become sentimentally attached to the way things are? Or even nostalgic for the way they were before the masses found their way into cyberspace? I don't know any more than you do exactly what Second Life is for, but I suspect it could be the precursor of something important.

dizzy said...

"I don't dispute that many in SL are having (or seeking) virtual sex, but you overgeneralise a little, Dizzy. Most of the internet is porn too, but we bloggers are not (all) here for titillation, are we?"

Speak for yourself.