In one of our first articles, Pixels and Policy took a look at how virtual worlds can play an important role in community interaction by providing a cheap, accessible forum for discussion.
Now Second Life activists are strengthening our argument as they participate in the Rutgers University "16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence" campaign.
Pixels and Policy takes a look at how gender activism is thriving in the Metaverse.
16 Days of Activism
The Center for Women's Global Leadership at Rutgers University initially planned the 16 Days of Activism program in order to increase awareness and promote dialogue related to gender discrimination and gender-related violence. Thanks to the collaborative tools virtual worlds provide, the movement took off.
Participation spans the real and the virtual, with real-world activist organizations and businesses operating alongside virtual organizations like Second Life's Left Unity Feminist Network . The virtual world might seem a strange place to lobby for the proper treatment of women in the workplace, but as our research has shown, real-world gender roles cross over into the virtual world with alarming ease.
One of Second Life's gender awareness activists, Scylla Rhiadra, was very kind in providing reams of information about planned events and the history of feminism and female activism in the Metaverse. Rhiadra's proselytizing and promotion of the 16 Days of Activism events in the virtual world has been persistent, and much of its success comes down to the diligent marketing Rhiadra has shown.
During the course of our conversation, Rhiadra made the excellent point that the mass communication potential of virtual worlds makes them exceptional tools for spreading a message across physical and cultural barriers. Our research on the role of virtual protest during the recent Iranian elections supports this view.
The Second Life blog Prim Perfect also gave some space to the 16 Days of Activism, and a full list of the virtual events hosted in the Metaverse is available through their website.
How Virtual Conventions Are Shaping Our Discussions
The prevalence of 16 Days of Activism in the virtual world and across the Internet – Rutgers even has a special area of their website for event-relevant activism websites – shows that an increasing number of organizations and academic institutions realize the potential presented by the virtual world.
Whereas an event focused on promoting activism and gender discussion at universities may yield thousands of participants nationwide, opening the doors of a world like Second Life adds an addition 600,000 potential eyes and voices. While companies are also coming back to the Metaverse, small organizations and projects like the 16 Days of Activism program are nimble enough to navigate the fickle digital landscape.
The 16 Days of Activism campaign has been active for 19 years, but its expansion into virtual worlds means many potential voices are hearing about it for the first time. If even a portion of those new eyes and minds can be convinced to participate and come back in a year, the utility of virtual worlds will be even more evident for future convention planners.
Did we mention that the events being held in Second Life are free? Residents can hear excellent musical acts or discuss the role of gender violence in developing countries from the comfort of their own homes. The ability to contribute to an evolving dialogue and make a potential difference has never been easier, and this simplicity will likely draw previously apathetic proto-activists into the fray.
The convention may be digital, but the results are very real.