Sunday, January 18, 2009

Mo' Real

A small group of social activists, journalists, and filmmakers has begun using Second Life to start covering the news. Leading the charge is Draxtor Despres [aka Bernhard Drax, a 38-year-old, Munich-born machinima hobbyist living in Pacific Grove, California]. Drax recently posted a report on YouTube telling how the incoming Obama Administration will use Second Life to help engage the public over health care reform. Here's that report, virtual video-style, below. [NOTE: Draxtor is the suited avatar with headphones.]

Drax, who has been experimenting with Second Life as a medium for news for nearly the past year, received international recognition in mid-December for his efforts [and recognition for Second Life as a new information medium] during the Paris celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There, Drax was awarded an "Every Human Has Rights" media award for his SL report, "Virtual Guantanamo," a feature story on the "virtual Gitmo" built in Second Life by filmmaker Nonny del la Pena and Peggy Weil, a professor at the University of Southern California. Their work, "Gone Gitmo," offers viewers an immersive experience about what it's like (no, really) to be a prisoner at Gitmo. See Drax's award-winning report, below:

Drax uses screen capture software to film events and gather interviews. Douglas Thomas, the director of USC's Network Culture Project, predicts an expansion this year in the use of the medium in education, journalism, and social advocacy, saying many nonprofits and social advocates also might start using Second Life as a new storytelling medium for encouraging public engagement in their causes. Says Drax: "How can we improve the real world? That's what I'm trying to focus on in Second Life." Drax will start filing reports next month from this virutal world for PBS's Frontline World. Said Drax, in accepting the award in Paris: "I'm proud I've gotten this award but it's a signal that this is viable, that this is legitimate, that this [SL] is not a game."

For more on the development of virtual worlds for social change, check out Games for Change co-founder Suzanne Seggerman and her work by clicking here to see her talk at the recent Pop!Tech 2008. Also check out Contribute Magazine's special report, The Cause Web, [September/October 2007], chiefly the story, Pixelanthropy, about the trend toward nonprofit activism in Second Life.

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