In the Loop

Activism meets avatars

Posted at 1:14 PM on March 30, 2007 by Sanden Totten

Remember a few weeks back when I lamented the rise of "protesters for hire"? Well, little did I know how surreal the world of protesting has gotten.

An article in today's Washington Post drew attention to a major French protest where activists clashed with security officials leading to an all out battle involving guns and grenades . . . fortunately the grenades were pigs rather than explosives.

Protest has reached the on-line virtual world of Second-Life. In a clash between digitized citizens and the on-line representatives of the far-right Front Nationalist French political party, push guns (like virtual air cannons) and pig grenades (launch-able pigs that splatter neon pink on everything) were used until eventually the FN headquarters was erased(read an excellent re-cap of the protests here on the New World Notes blog).

(photo by RubyJi via creative commons license)

Now, this isn't the first protest in Second Life. Demonstrations against the U.S. government have been underway for sometime in the virtual world. But it seems to be the first where the clash ended up like some of the bigger protests we've seen in the real world (I'm thinking of Seattle during the WTO conference).

Protesting in a virtual world has some distinct advantages:

No one is hurt.

No one is arrested.

You can have pig grenades.

But the real question is: does it make a statement like a real-space protest? The brains behind the Wonkette blog don't think so. It makes me wonder though what the real point behind a protest is. If it's capturing the media's attention then for now, a couple dozen on-line protesters seem to be making a bigger splash than thousands of real time marchers. So maybe virtual protesting is a good thing . . . until it's so common no one cares anymore.

March 2007
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