I was flying 600 meters above Janni when my submarine burst into flames.
I’d taken to the sky after the area around my (previously) remote compound was invaded by an army of Brazilian tourists and a small band of nudist Wiccans. Somehow they managed to block all water routes leading out of the area.
Fortunately, my submarine can fly. At least, it used to.
By now, you know that Second Life is a place where anything can happen. What you may not know is that it’s also a place where nothing ever really works the way it’s supposed to.
Ask any long-time resident, and they’ll tell you that Second Life is always broken. For the last couple of weeks, group chat — the primary tool that political campaigns use to organize in-world — has been busted. While Second Life has tremendous potential for political mobilization, it looks like a fragile toy right now.
Given that backdrop, it should come as no surprise that there hasn’t been any substantial campaign activity here since my last post. In the past couple of weeks, Mike Gravel supporters created a new group, and Ron Paul supporters opened a new HQ. The latter is significant because Paul is the first Republican candidate to have a presence in Second Life, and the former is surprising because Gravel claims to have been hiding under a rock for the last ten years.
Meanwhile, both parties have held real-life debates, and neither has acknowledged any campaigning in Second Life. It’s curious. If you’re going to use the medium to campaign for office, then get out there and do it!
I guess the virtual campaigns are playing it safe, trying to avoid the early missteps that received negative publicity, hoping they’ll eventually get the official stamp of approval from their respective candidates. In the meantime, this assignment has become damn boring (except for the nudist Wiccans).
In this first phase of the campaign, we’re seeing the work of an enthusiastic group of volunteers who have no official connection to the candidates. What the volunteers of the various Second Life campaigns are producing is part of a more significant movement called “voter-generated content.” This is what grassroots politics looks like in the 21st century.
So far, the campaigns are taking a (mostly) hands-off approach and are allowing voters to use the candidate’s names without interference. In a recent CBS News story, Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki describes the campaign’s approach to dealing with modern political activism on the Internet:
“We’re running a different kind of campaign here. There are thousands of people, more, using the Internet to network and spread the campaign and people doing it on the ground, too, and we’re excited about these efforts,” Psaki said. The only regulation the campaign will try to put on using Obama logos or likeness would be if “anything comes across our plates that’s offensive or not aligned with what our priorities are, we’ll deal with that on a case-by case basis.”
So what happens when voter-generated content clashes with the campaign’s priorities? We’ve already seen one upstart video make waves on YouTube. While there was a brief effort to link the Vote Different video to the Obama campaign, it’s pretty clear that it was produced by a lone filmmaker, acting independently of the campaign.
The thought that individuals now have the same access to media production and distribution that was previously reserved for only the most well-funded candidates has to scare the party machines like nothing they’ve ever seen. The old-line partisan hacks must be shaking in their boots — assuming they even realize what’s about to happen.
In this first general election cycle of the YouTube era, voters are likely to use those tools to support candidates of the two major parties. It’s only a matter of time before voters realize they can use those same tools to support any candidate — and then we may start seeing real change.
I doubt the two-party system is ready for the long tail of politics.
Over the next 18 months, we will undoubtedly witness all sorts of exciting campaign activities taking place across the social web. As Psaki indicated, the candidates will continue to take a hands-off approach to social media. But at some point, the campaigns will decide that any given platform is too important to leave in the hands of political amateurs. And that’s exactly what happened last week when the Obama campaign finally took control of the Barack Obama user profile on MySpace.
While it seems obvious that the Obama campaign should have control over the Barack Obama profile on MySpace, gaining control of that profile resulted in rare negative publicity for the campaign.
Obama’s MySpace page was initially launched back in 2004 by Joe Anthony, an ad hoc Obama Supporter. Anthony’s efforts were a classic example of voter-generated content. Obama had not yet declared his candidacy, but an excited supporter took the opportunity to set up a public profile for the campaign anyway. Over three years, Anothony watched the profile attract more than 100,000 friends.
And that’s when the trouble began. The Obama campaign began to see MySpace as a strategic tool for reaching younger voters. They were uncomfortable leaving the profile under the control of a volunteer who had no real affiliation with the candidate. While the campaign tried to recruit Anthony, the terms offered didn’t meet his long-term career objectives. The negotiations ended badly, and Anthony ultimately lost control of the page he’d spent months building.
As Anthony told the Chicago Sun-Times:
“I have no background in politics other than this page,” he said. He simply wanted to change the world.
Every campaign should look for enthusiasm for the candidate combined with enough knowledge of new media to generate critical momentum. The problem is that the same voters who are so enthusiastic in the beginning are not always the ones who see the project through to completion, as Joe Anthony discovered.
We might see similar struggles in Second Life if the virtual world doesn’t implode before reaching critical mass. For the time being, the real-world campaigns don’t think Second Life is important enough to join the big leagues — although I expect we’ll see at least one of the top-tier candidates provide some form of approval. If for no other reason so they can issue the obligatory “First In Second Life” press release.
Curiously, the Barack Obama Second Life headquarters disappeared several weeks ago. The building vanished overnight, replaced by signs indicating the headquarters would be moving to a new location. That was weeks ago, and there’s still no sign of the new HQ.
Is the disappearance of the Obama HQ somehow linked with the struggle to gain control over Obama’s MySpace page?
For the record, the Obama building isn’t the first Second Life campaign HQ to vanish. The original Hillary Clinton headquarters disappeared in early April. It’s still not clear whether the deletion was the intentional work of a disgruntled volunteer or the result of a technical glitch. It’s surprisingly easy to set the Second Life land permissions in a way that causes anything built on a piece of land to be returned to the owner (and removed from the land).
If land permissions are to blame for the Clinton incident, we’re starting to see a trend. Proper land settings would have prevented the defacement of the Edwards campaign headquarters. These examples are more reasons why candidates who are serious about campaigning in Second Life will ultimately want to employ professionals to build and manage their virtual campaigns.
In the meantime, these Second Life campaigns are more like virtual fan clubs than conventional political machines.
Over the next few weeks, I plan on taking a closer look at these fan clubs, and I’ll have the full report here on Medialoper — provided I have adequate funds to complete my assignment. Unfortunately, as I mentioned last time, I spent my initial advance on a flying submarine (now deceased). As a result, I’m flat broke, and if Lopy doesn’t wire more money soon, it looks like I’ll have to take up camping to earn a few extra Linden. As luck would have it, the nearest campsite is the Wiccan nudist beach.
Update: 5/16/07 — Two links were removed from this post. The first was a link to another blogger’s report on the disappearance of the Obama campaign headquarters. I initially linked to that post because it corroborated my experience of teleporting to the location, only to find that the building was no longer there. The second link was to a post with background information describing the deletion of the original Clinton campaign HQ. I had hoped to talk to the blogger in question before posting my story to get more information on the occurrence but was unable to. The paragraph regarding the deletion of the Clinton HQ was in no way intended to cast doubt on the accuracy of that blogger’s reporting.
Looks like someone has been reading the Second Choices blog. The sincerest form of flattery and all that…
Actually I just discovered Second Choices as I was researching and drafting this post. I wish I’d known about it before my first post. Better late than never.
I think a presidential campaign is big enough for more than one blogger to cover. Plus, LaiLaLei’s blog is much more in-depth on the details of the various campaigns in SL because she’s posting almost daily. I highly recommend that anyone who’s interested in the topic read Second Choices.
I think my approach is slightly different. I’m using SL as a starting point to discuss the impact new media and the social web are having on the campaign.
So while I’m covering the campaign from Second Life, this isn’t strictly a Second Life column. Plus our writing styles are quite different.
Thanks for your reply. I never implied that the blogosphere could only handle one blogger per subject. I do however believe that when mentioning another’s work (or lifting from it), that links are made to the original source, and that text is placed in quotation marks. Just because it’s a blog does not mean that the rules of traditional journalism don’t apply.
I see what you’re getting at and I didn’t realize what you were implying in your original post. LaiLaLei and I have pretty much come to the same conclusions about what might be going on with the Obama HQ, and we’ve even used the same quote from one of his RL campaign workers. However, I can assure you that I hadn’t read the Second Choices post when I made my observations. I filed this article on Wednesday afternoon and pre-posted for Thursday morning. The Second Choices post on the Obama HQ didn’t appear until later in the day on Thursday.
As far as linking, I’ve linked to the Second Choices blog twice in this post. It would have been impossible or me to link to the Obama post on Second Choices because it wasn’t yet online when I posted my story.
While I can appreciate your suspicion, it’s entirely misplaced.
Is there something else here I’ve missed? Would you like to make any more unfounded claims about my lack of journalistic integrity?
I’ve read what ronin sent us and what was written at Second Choices and I’m still having a hard time figuring out what Minerva is even getting at.
It’s customary when accusing someone of lifing from someone else’s work to be specific as to what was lifted so that others can figure out the veracity of those accusations.
Weird also, that Minerva instructs us about linking and quoting in the comments of an article that has 10 links and two pullquotes.
Including links to the exact blog which she is accusing him from stealing from.
Minerva, do you seriously think that ronin is going to link to Second Choices and then, later on in the same paragraph, steal from it? What sense could that possibly make?
Thank you for your reply.
I was not referring to the Obama post. I was referring to the Mike Gravel YouTube post, which to me seemed to have a lot of similarities to the Second Choices post on the same subject.
Mike Gravel appears on national television and tells the world that he’s been hiding under a rock for the last ten years and only one blogger gets to comment on it?!
Sorry, but that sort of statement tends to attract a lot of attention. Technorati lists at least 13 bloggers who commented on Gravel’s statement:
I guess you don’t read much. If you did you’d know that news sources (including blogs) frequently cite the same facts when reporting on the same story.
I’ll accept that apology now Minerva. Any time you’re ready to make one.
Please see comment number 3 in this thread, where I state that “I never implied that the blogosphere could only handle one blogger per subject.” (note the use of quotation marks.)
Further, while subjects may receive mention in many articles, sources are always given and quoted.
As for your descent into ad hominem, it neither warrants further mention nor invites further debate.
So Minerva, please tell me what additional phrase you would have had me quote. Gravel’s the one who said he’d been “living under a rock”. And I linked to the YouTube video where he said it. Anyone watching the video would get to hear it directly from the horses mouth.
Also, an apology is owed. You’ve accused me of lifting from another blogger’s story without proper credit. In the process you have essentially accused me of plagiarism.
You also raised the issue of journalistic ethics. I naturally assumed that since you’re concerned about ethical behavior that you would do the ethical thing and apologize for your mistake.
Oh, here’s the source of the Mike Gravel quote. Gravel made the comment on MSNBC during an interview with Keith Olberman and Chris Matthews.
Is that what you’re looking for?
Just a bit more background on this YouTube video for the record.
Technorati shows 33 links to the YouTube video in question:
And it appeared not once, but twice, on the home page of Digg over the past two weeks.
12 days ago it received 1255 votes and 138 comments:
14 days ago it received 1068 votes and 82 comments:
It was also a top rated video in the Politics category on YouTube.
To suggest that this is an obscure clip that could only have been discovered through the Second Choices blog is absurd.
Minerva, I must confess to some confusion. By linking to the YouTube video, Ronin came about as close to linking to his source as is possible. He even (properly) attributed the quote to Mike Gravel. In fact, since he did not quote the line precisely as said, his method of paraphrasing with attribution meets all standard requirements. You have to admit that when it comes to sourcing quotes, giving credit to the person who actually said the words ranks pretty high on the journalistic integrity list.
Given the fact that the two posts happened hours apart (with Ronin’s publishing first)), this appears to be a coincidence. It’s a pretty irresistible quote, when you think about how dull most politicians are. The candor alone is worth the price of admission.
I do think you owe Ronin an apology for the accusation of plagiarism, not to mention lack of journalistic ethics. As for the “ad hominem”, you came pretty close with you “note the quotes” remark, don’t you think?
Just wanted to say hello all. This is my first post.
I came to learn alot here.