Sunday, 18 May 2008

I Don't Understand Second Life Or maybe I understand it all too well. When something terrible happens, a small part of me—both in the mental age it represents and its proportion relative to my overall response—wishes Superman were real. Ongoing humanitarian crises in Myanmar? Load Kent like a pack mule and send him in. Thousands of Chinese slowly suffocating in rubble? Have the Man of Steel put his X-ray vision to good use. Who doesn't harbor the childish desire to live in a world where the laws of physics can be violated in the interests of justice? Especially when you read an article like this: According to Zeke Poutine, officer in the "Not on Our Watch" Darfur activist group, [a vandal] shouted racial slurs while he trashed [Camp Darfur]. The Camp was rebuilt, but copycat attacks by others followed. But if Camp Darfur has its janjaweed, it has its guardians, too. For shortly after the raids began, a Better World visitor who’d learned a lot about Sudan’s genocide from the Camp called a group of his to the island, to offer their protection. Because the Camp exists not in our world, but in Second Life, the group that came to the aid of the refugees looks like this: Seriously: And that’s why Camp Darfur is now under the vigilant eye of the Green Lantern Core, a band of superheroes who patrol Second Life with masks, tights, and magic lamps. So I suppose I do understand Second Life. The allure of agency is difficult to ignore. What can we do about Darfur? Volunteer time. Donate money. What can they do about virtual Darfur? Defend it with alien technology. Why be Jon Stewart when you could be John Stewart? The unintended consequence of unleashing the Green Lantern Core in Second Life is how revealing it is of a particular kind of political agency. The power rings from which the members of the Core draw their strength are fueled by willpower. The more the wearer possesses, the greater the power of the ring. If he wishes really hard, he might just be able to change the world. If I do, reports of a blue and red blur delivering food in Myanmar will surface on the evening news. But I wouldn't hold my breath.

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