FCC Workshop on Open Government Will Simulcast into Second Life

August 6, 2009 -

New World Notes reports that the Federal Communications Commission will provide the Second Life community with an interactive simulcast of today's workshop on open government and civic engagement.

SL users will have a special channel to forward questions and responses to workshop attendees in Washington, D.C. NWN notes that the event is part of the National Broadband Plan and will help government officials understand how high-speed Internet access "can improve transparency and citizen participation in government..."

FCC spokeswoman Jen Howard commented on the SL simulcast:

In developing our nation’s National Broadband Plan, we are committed to finding innovative, cutting-edge ways -– both online and offline -- to reach out to the public and elicit suggestions, questions, and insight regarding our nation’s broadband future. We are delighted that this first workshop will have an aperture into Second Life and that staff is experimenting in such ways to reach all stakeholders.

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Don't Sue Me, Bro... Taser Drops Suit Against Second Life

July 25, 2009 -

TASER International has - at least for now - dropped a trademark infringement suit against Linden Lab, which operates Second Life.

As GamePolitics reported in April, the maker of the controversial stun guns, filed suit after it discovered virtual TASER replica items being sold in Second Life as gear for SL avatars (see pic at left).TASER also alleged that its brand would be damaged via association with virtual sex and virtual drug use occuring within Second Life.

Virtual World News reports:

Taser filed a Notice of Voluntary Case Dismissal... and adds that because Linden never filed an answer to the original complaint, the dismissal is "without prejudice" -- meaning Taser could choose to refile at a later date.

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Barack & Michelle Obama Available as Second Life Avatars

July 22, 2009 -

For a price, Second Life users can now cavort in avatars which are close to being dead ringers for the President and First Lady.

New World Notes reports that a very realistic Michelle Obama avatar has just been completed, while the Barack Obama avatar has been available for some time. Both are the creations of SL entrepreneur MrSigmund Fride:

As one would expect, [Michelle Obama] is on default elegantly coiffed and smashingly dressed, and about as instantly recognizable as Mrs. Obama as the avatar version of her husband. (Creating avatars based on identifiable real world celebrities, as this series strongly suggests, is no easy task.) One significant shortcoming: the avatar's arms aren't as perfectly sculpted as the First Lady's most famously are...

Other popular avatars based on real-life figures are Italian President Silvio Berlusconi and Chinese actress Gong Li.

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Obama's Deputy CTO Makes Second Life Appearance Today

July 20, 2009 -

The Obama administration's deputy chief technology officer for open government will pay a visit to Second Life at noon Eastern time, reports New World Notes.

Beth Simone Noveck, who is known as Lawlita Fassbinder on SL, has been a member of the virtual community since 2004. Noveck will speak about her new book, Wiki Government: How Technology Can Make Government Better, Democracy Stronger, and Citizens More Powerful.

Noveck talked about her job with the New York Times last month:

If [average] people are going to be asked to spend the time on contributing, you want to use the participation they give you...

Even something like having a blog with an open discussion about policy is so revolutionary in the way government works.

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Second Life: We're Still Alive in Australia

July 1, 2009 -

Faced with rumors of a Second Life ban by Australian government authorities, publisher Linden Lab issued a statement last night to reassure SL users Down Under that no such action has taken place. At least, not yet.

Here's what Linden said on the issue:

Linden Lab has received no indications from the Australian government that it plans to block Second Life and will keep our community apprised of any developments on that front. In the meantime, we want to assure Australian Residents that Second Life remains accessible and functioning in your region.

Australia has and will continue to be an important market for Linden Lab, and we’re committed to providing the best possible Second Life experience for the users... Some of the most exciting uses of Second Life have come out of Australia, a diverse community of Residents that includes major universities, large enterprises and many thousands of consumers, who spend hundreds of thousands of hours inworld each month.

The Second Life rumors surfaced after the Australian government said that it planned to block Internet access to games which would not meet the MA-15+ content rating standard.

Meanwhile, New World Notes reminds us that the community of Australian SL users is a rich one, indeed:

There's a number of Australian organizations, including several universities, with an official presence in Second Life, there's been several SL-based fundraisers to benefit various Australian non-profit causes... and coming soon, a feature film starring several of Australia's top actors which depicts Second Life in a positive/neutral manner...

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Second Life Vigil For Slain Iranian Protesters

June 29, 2009 -

New World Notes reports that a ceremony was held in Second Life last week to honor protesters killed by security forces during the post-election unrest in Iran:

Lasting longer than 90 minutes... about forty people ultimately showed up for the vigil. No one there was reportedly from Iran, but some have family members who are. It wasn't only a time for mourning, but coordinating and growing the nascent "Support Iran" group which organized the event.

 

What we're seeing here, then, is an immersive offshoot of the informal Internet community that has sprung up in the last couple weeks...

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Second Life Banned in Australia? Not So Fast...

June 29, 2009 -

As GamePolitics reported last week, the Australian government is moving to block online access to games containing content which would exceed the country's MA-15+ rating. The proposed filtering scheme would affect online retailers selling such games as well as games played online such as MMOs.

In last week's coverage we noted speculation that such a ban could affect games like World of Warcraft and Second Life. At least one site is now reporting that Second Life has, indeed, been banned. The Inquisitr, invoking Nazi (!) imagery, writes:

It was confirmed by Australian Minister for Censorship that online games such as Second Life is banned in the country. There was confirmation from Censorship Minister Stephen “Goebbels” Conroy...

It is surprising because this policy has always been known to everyone. When Conroy was asked, he didn’t give direct answer. The more Australian government confirms the issue, the more totalitarian the policy is becoming if compared to China.

But Wagner James Au, who tracks SL happenings on New World Notes, writes that rumors of SL's Australian demise are greatly exaggerated:

Over the last 24 hours I've been peppered with links... which seem to suggest the Australian government is imminently planning to block access to Second Life from that country...  I'm far from an expert on Australian jurisprudence, but near as I can tell, any relation with this news to Second Life is highly tenuous and conjectural at best...

 

Nothing in the [Inquisitr] editorial actually confirms [a ban], and the very second sentence compares the government administrator involved to Joseph Goebbels, which is such a ham-fisted violation of Godwin's Law*, the only thing it really confirms is the author's own penchant for dubious hyperbole...

 

It's likely there are several layers of parliamentary, bureaucratic, and technical implementation before any of this impacts Australian access to Second Life (if it ever does.)...

* Godwin's Law: As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.

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Australia Moves to Block Online Access to Games With Content Beyond MA-15+

June 25, 2009 -

Australia's federal government said yesterday that it plans to block access to websites which host and sell games with content edgier than what is allowable under an MA-15+ rating. The unprecedented censorship policy will apply to Australians of all ages.

As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, a spokesman for Communications Minister Stephen Conroy (left) said that the filtering scheme willl apply to downloadable games, Flash games and websites which sell boxed copies of MA-15+ games via mail order.

Colin Jacobs of Electronic Frontiers Australia, an online users' lobbying group, criticized the plan:

This is confirmation that the scope of the mandatory censorship scheme will keep on creeping. Far from being the ultimate weapon against child abuse, it now will officially censor content deemed too controversial for a 15-year-old. In a free country like ours, do we really need the government to step in and save us from racy web games?

Mark Newton, described by the SMH as an ISP engineer, told the newspaper that the plan could affect online-only games like World of Warcraft and Second Life as well:

That [online games] exemption [on content ratings] is the only reason why multi-player games with user-generated environments are possible in this country; without it, it'd only take one game user anywhere in the world to produce objectionable content in the game environment to make the Australian Government ban the game for everyone.

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So Far, Iranian Censors Not Blocking Online Game Traffic

June 25, 2009 -

While the Iranian government has cracked down on communications by restricting Internet traffic during the ongoing post-election unrest, an analysis performed by Craig Labovitz of  Security to the Core suggests that authorities aren't paying attention to the flow of online game data:

While the rapidly evolving Iranian firewall has blocked web, video and most forms of interactive communication, not all Internet applications appear impacted. Interestingly, game protocols like xbox and World of Warcraft show little evidence of government manipulation.

Perhaps games provide a possible source of covert channels (e.g. “Bring your elves to the castle on the island of Azeroth and we’ll plan the next Ahmadinejad protest rally?”)

Meanwhile, Xbox 360 gamer Mike Murikami, blogging for The Examiner, notes:

With the Xbox 360 offering video chat among the features of being an Xbox Gold subscriber, this could easily be an upcoming popular way for loved ones and news outlets to deliver messages to and from the country.

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Portuguese President Speaks Out Via Second Life

June 23, 2009 -

Portuguese President Aníbal Cavaco Silva has jumped into the Second Life metaverse in a big way.

New World Notes reports that Silva recently became the first head of state to deliver a speech via SL. The President's message marked the Portuguese national holiday Camões as well as the official opening of the Portuguese Republic Presidency's Island in Second Life.

Portugeuse filmmaker and machinima artist Hugo Almeida led the team which designed the Portuguese President's impressive SL island:

In spite of the crazy deadline to bring to shape such a huge project, we couldn't possibly say no. 

Check out a video of the island here.

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As Protests Rage, Iranian Second Life Residents Are Missing in Action

June 17, 2009 -

The post-election tumult in Iran has taken a toll in Second Life, where Iranian members have been notably absent in recent day, reports New World Notes:

When the widespread protest... erupted last weekend, I went searching Second Life for Residents who lived in that country. According to Linden demographic stats published last year... there were over a hundred of them then, logging into Second Life on a regular basis...

 

Linden spokesman Peter Linden confirmed to me last night, "[W]e've not seen any log-ins from Iran." ...the utter lack of Iranian log-ins in the last few days suggests that Second Life is being blocked, or that Internet connectivity has become so degraded in that country, it's shut down by default...

 

For the moment, however, it is probably better that Iranians' Internet activity center on Twitter and other such tools.

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Second Life's Virtual Meth Lab Will Help Train Police

June 10, 2009 -

While Second Life has many uses, law enforcement training has not historically been among them. But that may be changing.

New World Notes reports that consultant Fred Fuchs, who goes by Gus Plisskin in Second Life, designed a virtual meth lab to help cops recognize when they've stumbled upon the real thing. Such labs are not only illegal, they're extremegly dangerous as well.

Said Fuchs/Plisskin of his virtual meth lab project:

We hope to encourage use of SL for training law enforcement and social workers. We found that a walk-thru helped other types of clients think about ways they could use SL... Accuracy in simulations is 'my thing'.

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Obama Advisor To Make Second Life Appearance

June 8, 2009 -

Kevin Werbach, who served on the FCC segment of the Obama transition team, remains with the Administration as a part-time advisor on broadband issues.

Over at New World Notes, Wagner James Au reports that Werbach, who is a veteran of the Second Life metaverse, will make an SL appearance later this week:

Werbach will be back in-world this Wednesday at 1pm Pacific to appear on the Metanomics show, for an extremely apropos topic: "The Age of Obama: Virtual Worlds, Open Government, and Policy"...

 

Kevin tells me he can't discuss the particular policy advice he gave the Administration about virtual worlds, but I suspect he'll provide some great insider perspectives on how they're being shaped. 

Werbach and his Second Life avatar appear at left.

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U.S. VAT Tax Would Affect Games, Systems, Online Fees (and everything else)

May 28, 2009 -

Suddenly, there's a good bit of discussion in Washington, D.C. about the possibility of a value-added tax, or VAT.

For the uninitiated, a VAT is essentially a national sales tax. As the Washington Post points out:

Common around the world, including in Europe, such a tax... has not been seriously considered in the United States. But advocates say few other options can generate the kind of money the nation will need to avert fiscal calamity...

A VAT is a tax on the transfer of goods and services that ultimately is borne by the consumer. Highly visible, it would increase the cost of just about everything... But VAT advocates say those negatives could be offset by using the proceeds to pay for health care for every American...

Should a VAT be enacted, it will tax every type of transaction involving a good or service. For gamers, that means disc-based and downloaded software, consoles, peripherals and even monthly fees for Xbox Live, Second Life and World of Warcraft.

The WaPo posits scenarios involving VATs ranging from 10-25% but concludes that a VAT is unlikely - for now.

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FBI Investigates Second Life, But in a Good Way

May 20, 2009 -

The feds are coming to Second Life, but it's not a raid.

Virtual Worlds News reports that the FBI is establishing an SL presence for the purposes of recruiting, accepting crime complaints and publicizing wanted felons. The agency is describing its venture into the SL metaverse as a "pilot test."

Jonathan Cox, a management analyst who spearheaded the FBI's Second Life foray, commented:

Unlike 10 years ago, almost everyone today has had an experience connecting online through virtual media, whether through a gaming console or popular sites like Second Life. The ease at which information can be transferred, ideas can be exposed, and technology can be shared in virtual worlds will hopefully lead to the arrest of a fugitive or the location of a missing child in the near future.

In addition to SL, the FBI outlines it use of other forms of social media here.

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Use Game Interface to Manage Power Consumption

May 12, 2009 -

Homeowners will soon be able to monitor their residential energy usage with a game-like interface which employs avatars similar to those found in Second Life. earth2tech reports that the OpenShaspa Home Energy Kit is now available:

The kit comes with a system that can monitor and control home power output with wireless sensors, and connect this data to mobile phone and Internet applications... Sensors for gas, water and other utility resources can be integrated into the control system, as well...

 

In what could be a first, OpenShaspa can be hooked up to a virtual world created with OpenSimulator, an open-source spinoff of Second Life... Shaspa’s developers believe that modeling energy consumption data in 3D could make it more comprehensible and easier to manage.

GP: As of this writing, no price or distributor info is listed on the Shaspa site. While the tech is exciting, as one earth2tech commenter points out, it will need to have serious security measures built in, lest a hacker crank the heat up to 90 and overflow the bathtub while you are away.

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Congress Awaits FTC Report on Explicit Content in Virtual Worlds

May 11, 2009 -

At the behest of Congress, the Federal Trade Commission is looking into children's access to explicit content in virtual worlds.

That word comes by way of Virtual Worlds News which spoke to a pair of FTC attorneys last week. The regulatory agency's report on its findings is scheduled to be presented to Congress in December.

GamePolitics readers may recall that in 2008 Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) called on  the FTC to issue a parental alert about the virtual sex occurring in Second Life:

Sites like Second Life offer no protections to keep kids from virtual "rape rooms," brothels, and drug stores. If sites like Second Life won't protect kids from obviously inappropriate content, the Congress will.

VWN notes that Second Life publisher Linden Lab recently announced a plan to restrict underage SL users from accessing mature content.

Via: Massively

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Don't Tase Me, Bro... Second Life Zapped by TASER Lawsuit

April 21, 2009 -

TASER International, which manufactures the controversial electric stun guns that bear its name, has given a jolt to Linden Lab and a number of its corporate executives with a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Arizona.

TASER, which faces numerous lawsuits of its own filed by individuals who have been tased (or, in some cases, their survivors) is concerned that virtual TASER replica items are being sold in Second Life as gear for SL avatars (see pic at left).

TASER also alleges that its brand will be damaged via association with virtual sex and virtual drug use occuring within Second Life. From the 102-page complaint:

All of the defendants that sell virtual property like Plaintiff's real ones, under the mark TASER for use in Second Life programs and grids, also sell adult-only explicit images and scenes... thus attaching such content to the TASER mark... and also sell unlawful drug materials... thus attaching such content to the TASER mark...

TASER 's claims are primarily based on trademark considerations. The company seeks damages in excess of $75,000.

Via: Massively

UPDATE: New World Notes has more...

UPDATE 2: GamesLaw offers a legal analysis of the TASER suit.

UPDATE 3: New World Notes reports that Linden Lab, owner of SL, contacted an in-world vendor of virtual items and requested that "Taser" be replaced with "stun gun."

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Tax Day Tea Party Staged in Second Life

April 17, 2009 -

With federal income tax returns due yesterday, conservative "tea party" protests were staged at a variety of locations around the United States.

For those who prefer their political activism to be of the virtual type, the Second Life metaverse featured a Tax Day tea party of its own.

The Second Life Newspaper reports:

A diverse crowd of dozens of men and women gathered... They picked up various protest signs: “Born Free, but taxed to death,” “Give Me Liberty ... not debt!”  ...A video screen on display played a short movie with a man portraying Thomas Paine speaking out against the expansion of today’s government...

 

The Tea Party in SL was sponsored by the GOP Cafe... The big topic was what the participants saw as runaway government spending gone out of control...

A few times, the sim was griefed with floods of particles. Twice, a strange loud voice pierced the air for about half a minute. Some joked this was the work of liberals, “they can’t stand the criticism...”

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It's Raining Obama Bucks in Second Life

February 27, 2009 -

Steve Nelson, who has created fascinating visualizations which combine real-world political data with the Second Life metaverse, is at it again.

On his Clear Night Sky blog, Nelson has posted a video which mashes up SL and the 2010 federal budget:

To commemorate the 2010 federal budget... I have installed a new feature at the Capitol Hill in Second Life.

Using the APIs available from USASpending.gov, the Show Me the Money! piggy bank will shower $100 bills down on the Capitol Hill legislative chamber. Each bill has the name of one of the top 50 recipients of government funding during 1Q 2009. The size of the bill is proportionate to the amount of money received, at a scale of $1billion = 1 Second Life meter.

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TV News, State Officials Investigate Rock Band-Playing Librarians... But Weren't They Just Doing Their Job?

February 25, 2009 -

Omaha's Action News 3 is running an exposé on some Nebraska Library Commission employees who posted a video of themselves setting up and playing Rock Band on company time. But did the workers do anything wrong? From the Action News report:

Were some Nebraska state workers paid to play? A video that appeared on YouTube is creating a firestorm of reaction and suggests so...  Employees at the Nebraska Library Commission are accused of wasting [taxpayer money] and then posting video and pictures of the whole thing on line.

Nebraska State Auditor Mike Foley told Action News that a YouTube user spotted the video at left and made a complaint, leading to an investigation by Foley's office. However, Library Commission Director Rob Wagner has backed up his employees:

In a phone interview... Wagner says the workers did nothing wrong. He says the library system is branching out into video games to bring more young people into the libraries. 

GP: While library systems around the country are increasingly adopting video games in an effort to attract teens and stay culturally relevant, that word seems not to have filtered back to either Action News 3 or the Nebraska Auditor General's office.

If libraries are going to offer games like Rock Band, wouldn't it make sense for the employees to at least know how to set them up and be able to explain them to library users?

It's too bad that the local media and the state bureacracy is screwing them over for their efforts at innovation.

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Holocaust Survivor Visits Second Life, Tells of Encounter with Nazi "Angel of Death" Mengele

January 27, 2009 -

An 87-year-old Holocaust survivor spoke to a Second Life audience last week about her experiences with the horrors of Auschwitz during World War II, including an encounter with the dreaded "Angel of Death," Josef Mengele.

New World Notes reports on the appearance by Fanny Starr, who now lives in Colorado. Fanny spoke in SL via an avatar belonging to her daughter, Helen:

Helen's mother has made it her life's mission to recount her experiences to as many people as will listen.  Extending her voice to Second Life, Helen tells me, is just another venue to do so.

"I did not have to convince her, I just asked," Helen tells me. "SL technology can reach a broad base of people in a small atmosphere, something a RL classroom cannot achieve."  Then there's another consideration, for a woman on the cusp of 90: "[S]he can lecture from the comforts of her home versus the classrooms she has lectured in for the last 30 years..."

"The responses are amazing," Fanny's daughter Helen tells me, "but the emotions outweigh the comments."

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Michelle Obama Inspires Second Life Fashion Designs

January 22, 2009 -

Newly-installed President Barack Obama may have captivated the public's imagination, but at least one designer of virtual fashions is thinking more about First Lady Michelle.

New World Notes reports that Second Life fashionista Iris Ophelia has assembled a line of haute couture garments with Mrs. Obama in mind:

Blazers and skirts are a bit of a First Lady staple... The Shades of Gray suit by Miko Omegamu of Icing is probably one of the outfits in SL that is most faithful to Michelle Obama's style...

 

Mrs. Obama definitely favors the silhouette of pencil/sheath dresses... She's also known for really chic use of color and texture in her outfits...

 

The Midas Evening gown by Shai Delacroix of Casa Del Shai is probably more risqué than Michelle's normal attire (cleavage is a bit of a faux-pas when you're the First Lady), but the soft color and the flowing fabric make for something closer to what I wish she'd been wearing to the Inaugural ball...

 

To quote Yves Saint Laurent, "Fashions fade, style is eternal."


The After-party Buzz on Second Life's Obama Inaugural Balls

January 21, 2009 -

Yesterday, we mentioned that numerous Obama inauguration-themed events would be occurring in Second Life.

This morning, Bixyl Shuftan of Second Life Newspaper recaps a pair of virtual inaugural balls which took place in SL:

I checked Netroots, the group of liberal political bloggers... There were about 40 people in their dance floor area, with a musician singing live on stage...

At one point, one attendee asks, “Looking for an American.” This was followed by cheers, “Yay, we love Americans!” “You done great today - keep it up!” “Happy day for Americans, and I hope for everyone else too.” “CONGRATS AMERICANS .... From DOWNUNDER!” Almost everyone was in formal wear, with two ladies wearing dresses with Obama’s likeness on the skirt...

 

Gemma and I then went to the Inaugural Ball at the Capitol Hill sim... As an officially neutral area, Obama didn’t get the lavish kind of praise he got at the Netroots as he did here, but he did get some, “Oh yes, one of the best days in American history.” “It is hard for me to define.... but if nothing else I do have an increased sense of optimism and pride in my country.” “Obama will certainly have an impact on streaming media.”

 

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Obama Inauguration Celebrated in Second Life

January 20, 2009 -

The Second Life crowd is marking the inauguration of President Barack Obama in a number of ways today.

TechNewsWorld reports that SL festivities will include an inaugural ball:

...there will be two celebrations: the official and ever-so-formal Inauguration Ball and another more informal "meet and greet" party. Tickets to both are free and available at SL dispensers in-world. You can even pick up a free [virtual] tux or ballroom gown if you don't have one or can't afford one...

The ballroom is roofless, since some residents can fly and prefer to make their entrance from above...

 

"I would like to attend the SL Inaugural Ball," Cubsfan Pugilist, an active Second Life resident, who also organized Obama political rallies in Second Life, told TechNewsWorld. "I also got tickets for the inauguration in DC, but I don't think I will be attending that. So I should be in Second Life."

In addition to the Inauguration Ball, the virtual SL Newspaper lists a half-dozen separate Obama-themed events, while New World Notes chips in with its own list.

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British Labour Party Leader Sets Up Shop in Second Life

January 13, 2009 -

Second Life seems to have peaked, but the British Labour Party apparently never got the memo.

The Daily Mail and the Guardian are both reporting Business Secretary Peter Mandelson has set up shop in SL's virtual world where he will lead "an online campaign against Conservatives."

The move comes by way of Labour's game plan to retain power in the event of a General Election. From the Daily Mail:

[Mandelson's] starring role in Second Life will intensify speculation that he is being earmarked as Gordon Brown's election supremo.

But it will also draw criticisms from those who will question the involvement of a senior politician in a fantasy world best known for its dubious moral standards... As well as the millions of innocent users who enjoy its escapist fantasy, Second Life has also become a favoured tool of adulterers and porn addicts.

The Guardian takes a more positive view:

The point about virtual worlds such as Second Life and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter is that they offer a direct communication channel to voters when they are at play at a time when people, especially younger people, are switching off from traditional media channels...

 

Mandelson's visit to Second Life... is partly a successful publicity stunt but is also a way to make sure that leading politicians have some idea of what is going on out there. Sadly, most of them still don't.

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State Department Official Meets with Egyptian Students in Second Life

January 12, 2009 -

New World Notes reports that State Depatment official James Glassman (in avatar form at left) will hold a virtual meeting with student journalists in Cairo this morning.

Among other issues, Glassman, who serves as Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, is expected to field questions about the current Israeli-Hamas conflict in Gaza.

DIP's Dispatches from the Imagination Age reports that USAID is funding the event.

No Second Life account? Catch the video simulcast.

UPDATE: DIP has a video of the event.

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Anti-Israeli Protests in Second Life

January 7, 2009 -

Israel's controversial incursion into Gaza has sparked virtual protests in Second Life, reports scribe Wagner James Au.

On his New World Notes blog, Au describes the protests taking place at SL Israel, a Second Life area which recreates Israeli landmarks and tourist attractions in virtual form:

Last week when Israel began launching guided missiles at Hamas targets in Palestine... SL Israel became a flashpoint of another kind.  As the airstrikes pounded Gaza, so did protesters, teleporting into SL Israel, waving flags.

"Lots of people yelling," Beth Odets tells me. "They were going on and on with slurring obscenities about murderous Israeli forces, etc."  She gives me a screenshot taken during the incursion, festooned with anti-war or pro-Palestinian signs, some depicting dead Arab children...

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Georgia City Wants to Develop a Virtual World Interface

December 18, 2008 -

Uh, I'd like to pay my property tax, sign up for trash collection and could the police department do something about that Orc who lives around the corner?

Well, it's not quite like that, but the City of Decatur, Georgia is evaluating the use of a virtual world interface to "encourage community networking, improve civic engagement, and promote economic development."

The project even has a name: Virtual Decatur.

A website devoted to Virtual Decatur references Second Life and World of Warcraft, although not necessarily as models. From the site:

Virtual Decatur will provide an environment in which residents, businesses, institutions and visitors can interact and connect...  it is it is imperative that the project go beyond the features of traditional virtual environments.  The overarching purpose of this project is to allow users to interact with the City in new and innovative ways that are not possible in the real world.

Possible features of the proposed Virtual Decatur might include:

    • Opportunities to gather citizen input on policies, topics of interest, city services, and happenings
    • A Virtual City Hall Tour with multimedia capabilities.
    • Opportunities to earn coupons for use in real stores/retail establishments.
    • Streaming video of public meetings, ideally with a chat room feature that allows viewers to comment.
    • Access to visitors information (store hours, directions, weather, etc.)

A Request for Information (RFI) is available for download, with proposals due by February 13th. Among other requirements, the city expects Virtual Decatur to be "avatar-based" as well as "fun and intuitive."

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PS3 Home Launches Tomorrow... Can it Compete with XBL?

December 10, 2008 -

Sony will launch the beta version of PlayStation Home, its long-awaited PS 3 online service, beginning tomorrow.

PS Home would appear to be Sony's long-overdue riposte to Microsoft's popular Xbox Live service, which has been building a strong user base since the days of the original Xbox. Home takes a decidely different approach to its user interface, however. The service will function as a virtual 3D world along the lines of Second Life. Users will have individual avatars as well as personal spaces called "apartments" which can be decorated.

A company press release describes Home as:

...a ground-breaking 3D social gaming community available on PS3 that allows users to interact, communicate and share gaming experiences... Within PlayStation Home, users can create and customize their own unique avatars and explore the virtual community in real time where they can communicate freely through text or voice chat.

 

PlayStation Home users will not only be able to enjoy variety of entertainment content such as mini-games, videos and special events along with their friends, but will also be able to create their own community by using the “Club2” feature to create clubs with other PlayStation Home users who share the same interests. PlayStation Home also allows groups of users to launch directly into their favourite online games together from PlayStation Home.

VentureBeat's Dean Takahashi, who participated in Home's closed beta, writes:

Home is different from Second Life and World of Warcraft. Unlike those fully-built worlds, Home isn’t really a world. It’s more like a series of virtual spaces. If you want to visit your own personal apartment, where no one can visit without your permission, then you teleport there. If you want to go to the central plaza, you teleport there. Same goes for the bowling alley or the bar from the game Uncharted. You’re free to decorate your home as you wish. If you want to listen to music, you can walk up to a jukebox...

In the movie theater, you can go into a room and see what’s playing. You can actually watch that movie with your avatar in a social setting, making comments about it that others in the theater can see. That turns movie-watching into an online social experience. There is a profanity filter, and Home will be compliant with the PS 3’s own parental controls.

GP: The Home launch is a critical step for Sony and the PS3. Let's hope that they get it right. However, as a PS3 owner who tries to stay optimistic (Sony doesn't make this easy), I am concerned about the PS Home press release (I'm looking at the SCEE version), which devotes several paragraphs to the marketing of virtual crap for avatars. For example:

Thanks to Diesel, avatars can look great from the start with Diesel offering the latest men’s and women’s designer avatar clothing, with items ranging from free of charge to €1.50...


PlayStation®Home gives everyone their own apartment to spend time in and entertain friends - who will now be able relax on exclusive Ligne Roset furniture. At the virtual store, people will be able to choose from a selection of the most popular Ligne Roset designs...

 

A selection of virtual Watchmen merchandise e.g. T-Shirts with the smiley face logo, Doomsday clocks and character statues, will also be available in the New Year...

Meh.

XBL got it right by making an easy-to-use, pleasant gaming environment. Sony really needs to focus on its core gamers with PS Home. Everything else is just a distraction.

 
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Andrew EisenWow. The Hyrule Warriors DLC is more extensive than I thought. The new scenario in the first pack is a full five levels and the new Adventure Map is a whole new map, all 128 squares. Yowza!09/30/2014 - 11:08am
Andrew EisenI'm most pleased that the Quick Start Menu will now launch when the Wii U is powered on from the TV Gamepad TV Remote. I felt that was a huge oversight and I'm glad it's been corrected.09/30/2014 - 11:06am
MaskedPixelanteHey look, Nintendo figured out folders on the Wii U. I mean, yeah, they figured out folders on the 3DS several years ago, but these are BETTER! These... uhh... actually display the full folder name on the home screen instead of just the first letter...09/30/2014 - 9:19am
Technogeek(Yeah, it's not game related, but my brother is a car nerd and loves to bring this up whenever there's an excuse to laugh at CNN.)09/30/2014 - 8:48am
TechnogeekDid someone say "actual knowledge ruins the news"? http://jalopnik.com/how-much-can-cnn-get-wrong-about-f1-engines-physics-in-111142340509/30/2014 - 8:47am
NeenekoHeh. PoliSci tends to ruin the news. Kinda like how being a gamer tends to ruin mainstream game stories, any actual knowledge in a field highlights how poorly it is reported.09/30/2014 - 8:30am
MechaTama31Heh. I don't think you need a master's in politics to see that... ;)09/30/2014 - 7:32am
Matthew WilsonTrust me i read the same sites.I have a Master's in Applied Politics. I get to see through the spin both Left and Right that tend to be put on news stories.09/30/2014 - 1:02am
WymorenceI also have an extremely hard time in listening to people who froth at the mouth when the POTUS does something almost identical to the previous POTUS, but for some reason is subhuman for it this time around09/30/2014 - 12:43am
WymorenceThe problem is that opposing views are a good thing, but sites like Brietbart and their ilk are the exact opposite. 9/10 times they tweak the news to benefit their own views instead of just giving their own side of it.09/30/2014 - 12:41am
james_fudgeIf I were in a cult I might try and shut myself away from opposing views...09/29/2014 - 11:48pm
james_fudgeoh and Nate Silver and Politico too.09/29/2014 - 11:48pm
james_fudgeI read a lot of sites every day, Drudge, Breitbart, Huffpo, DailKOS, Red State, Fox, MSNBC, CNN and i'm not infected. Time for people to get thicker skins.09/29/2014 - 11:46pm
james_fudgeNeo_DrKefka: you do know you visited "one of those sites" when you posted that article, right?09/29/2014 - 11:44pm
E. Zachary KnightOcarina of Time done up in the Link to the Past engine? You know I would buy this day one if it were official. http://kotaku.com/fans-are-remaking-ocarina-of-time-in-2d-164059481909/29/2014 - 11:14pm
MaskedPixelantehttps://twitter.com/raymond03155046/status/516735796754522113 "We're fundraising for the group who helped our pets out in their time of need." "lol ur just doing this for the money get over your cat."09/29/2014 - 9:26pm
MechaTama31https://www.humblebundle.com/store/p/dontmove_storefront <-- This looks like it might be the most incredible dollar I'll ever spend.09/29/2014 - 9:12pm
Matthew WilsonI agree. the same for MSNBC as well. both of them can go away, but like it or not its a free market and fox news make allot of money sadly.09/29/2014 - 7:46pm
quiknkoldI'm an independent voter. Vote Blue and Red. so I dont really visit any specific news sites(Though I know FoxNews can take a flying leap off a bridge)09/29/2014 - 7:02pm
quiknkoldFactcheck.org. there you go. neither left or right. straight down the center.09/29/2014 - 7:01pm
 

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