Business Booms in Second Life The July/August 2007 issue of Technology Review has a feature article on the “Metaverse,” a proposed melding of Second Life (the virtual world created by Linden Labs) with Google Earth. Users or their avatars will be able to move seamlessly between the two worlds, touring virtual real estate one minute and zooming down to catch the destruction in Darfur the next (see below).
You’ve read in these pages about the nonprofit presence in Second Life, but, not surprisingly, for-profit companies are also very well represented:
Dozens of companies, including IBM, Sony Ericsson, and American Apparel, have bought land in the virtual world, and most have already built storefronts or headquarters where their employees’ avatars can do business. ... In 2006, Starwood Hotels used Second Life as a virtual testing ground for a new chain of real-world hotels, called Aloft. The company constructed a prototype where visitors could walk the grounds, swim in the pool, relax in the lobby, and inspect the guest rooms. It’s incorporating suggestions from Second Lifers into the design of the first real Aloft hotel, set to open in Rancho Cucamonga, CA, in 2008.
An interesting idea from our colleagues in the for-profit world.
According to a recent article in Advertising Age, “Everyone from Starwood Hotels to American Apparel angled to score bragging rights on being the firsts in their respective industries (‘First hotel in Second Life!’ ‘First clothing brand in Second Life!’), until there came a point when it seemed to be news if a company wasn’t considering jumping into Second Life.”
Witness the destruction for yourself. Using coordinates provided by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Google acquired high-resolution imagery over the region of Darfur and Eastern Chad. Now you can witness the destruction in Darfur via Google Earth. Zoom down and see what a burned village looks like from above, the vast tent cities of people displaced from their homes, and photographs on the ground of refugees struggling to survive. Read eyewitness testimony of atrocities in attacked villages.
“When it comes to responding to genocide, the world’s record is terrible,” says Museum director Sara J. Bloomfield. “We hope this important initiative with Google will make it that much harder for the world to ignore those who need us the most.”
Manhattan Goes to Seed The July 2007 issue of Scientific American interviews science writer Alan Weisman who has spent some time figuring out what would happen if all humans suddenly disappeared from the planet. Without the constant intervention of human beings—street cleaners, road crews, pump operators, and others—our infrastructure would quickly crumble. Water-logged foundations would corrode causing skyscrapers to fall, bringing other buildings down with them. Rivers that once flowed through Manhattan would flow again, and the island would return to a state of nature in fairly short order.
Weisman’s thought experiment provides a new way for environmental activists to understand and communicate our impact on the environment.
We first reported on Darfur hunger striker Start Loving this past April 6th. According to recent a post on his Dying for Heroes blog, June 10th was the 102nd day of his vigil in front of the Sudanese embassy in Washington, DC. He spends 9-12 hours a day marching back and forth along the sidewalk with posters designed to awaken the consciences of passing motorists and pedestrians. You can read more about his vigil and his philosophy here and here .
Roving WCT reporter Albert Ruesga interviewed Start Loving this past June 11th. We post excerpts from that interview below.
WHITE COURTESY TELEPHONE: What kind of responses have you gotten to your blogging?
START LOVING: Very little. There are probably about 50 hits a day. I’m here all week so there’s no way I can promote it. Very few comments per se. …
WHITE COURTESY TELEPHONE: Several weeks back there was a Darfur demonstration here in front of the Sudanese embassy involving Save Darfur, church groups, and other advocacy and civic organizations. How do you feel about those efforts?
START LOVING: … [T]he Save Darfur movement has nothing to do with me, I believe, because they’re horrified by the idea of paying a big price. This is not why people come to them. They come to them because they want to feel good for having done something about the genocide, and maybe that’s paying two dollars for a green wrist-band, or maybe it’s sending in $100, putting a jar in their mother’s office so that people contribute. Well, you know, a friend the other day said there’s a place for everything. … Thanks to Save Darfur and the people who were here, close to 70 percent of the people in this country and roughly that many Muslims and Arabs around the world according to recent polls know about and are concerned about Darfur. But they’re not ignited. They can’t even conceive of “Hey, gee, whatever price it takes to stop the genocide.” …
WHITE COURTESY TELEPHONE: What would your advice be to these groups? What would you change about the way they work?
START LOVING: … Ultimately, we can’t escape selfishness. So, am I going to indulge myself with trivial passions, or am I going to satisfy the part of myself that wants to make a difference in the world? I’ve chosen the latter. Even there, am I going to do half-measures, or do I want to eliminate regrets—“By God, I did everything I could.” So out of love for my brothers and sisters in Save Darfur or Stand Now or anyone that’s watching, you know what, think about where you’re headed right now. When your grandchild says, “Gee, I heard about this Darfur thing—what did you do?” “Well, I went to a rally on September 30th.” Is that going to satisfy that grandchild? “I understand that there were half a million people exterminated in brutal ways, Grandma, and that there were two and a half million people in camps, and you and the powerful United States–you went to a rally? You wore green armbands? … This is what ‘never again’ means?” You know, none of us are going to be happy with that. But this is what we’re doing. It’s madness. It’s clinical madness.
I take no credit. I did nothing in my teens and twenties to stop the Vietnam War or to bring civil rights. I did nothing. I did nothing to stop Cambodia or Rwanda, or the Balkans, although I knew about them going on. You know, I’ve got nothing to be proud of. I simply lost my tolerance for being that inhumane. I just can’t do it anymore. I don’t want those regrets.
All of us have experienced at one time or another—maybe with that silly Coke commercial, maybe at the ball game, or maybe watching the Olympics—my gosh, we’re all just one human family. Most of us have had that experience. I have come to the wisdom that that’s where being fully alive comes from. It’s indulging that side of it. We can’t indulge our whole nervous system, it’s too big. We’ve got to pick and choose.
Based on studying King, Gandhi—a fascination with them—Jesus, Teresa, Romero, Diane Wilson, all our great literature, even our trivial movies—Star Wars—they all point to the direction of self-sacrificing for a greater good. I finally realized, you know, they weren’t kidding, they were on to something. This is where joy comes from. ... You sacrifice pleasure for the common good. But the joy that comes trumps everything I had in my privileged background. It’s just better. It’s why these people have done what they did. You know, Gandhi didn’t do this because, “Oh, jeez, this life really stinks, but I’m helping others.” No, it’s like “Jeez, I’m part of the human race!” This is what life is like. I mean this is what life feels like.
Mr. Start Loving describes himself as a “would-be disciple of Jesus.” He’s on the 36th day of a hunger strike that he hopes will awaken our moral conscience to the genocide of the Fur, Zaghawa, and Massaleit people of the Darfur region in Sudan.
He’ll stop his water-only hunger strike when he’s assured that there will be an “airtight protection” of the people of Darfur against attacks by the Janjaweed, a militia group recruited by the Sudanese government from among the Bedouin Arabs of the region.
This is an unprecedented opportunity, he believes, for the United States to exercise leadership and reacquire some of the moral authority it has lost over the past six years. According to his analysis, the United States refuses to take more vigorous action because it doesn’t want to upset China, a country that buys 70 percent of Sudan’s oil.