Virtual Protesters for PETA

Desperately Seeking Stella

There’s more and more talk in mainstream media about Second Life (SL) and at the same time we see that many large businesses, as well as official institutions (such as the US Congress) have made efforts to ensure a SL presence. But is SL really being used in the realm of public affairs and activism?

Well, it seems it is… Once again, NGOs have been quick to embrace new ways of engaging people to take up their causes. Last night, Stella McCartney and PETA launched their anti-fur campaign (which runs until 29 July) exclusively via their Second Life island with a picnic and dance party with a “(second) live” DJ (and yes, all so-called avatars, i.e., your SL alter ego, were quite enthusiasticallly dancing with “Fur is not fair” signs – see above). (Incidentally, we didn’t find Stella).

The protest was open to any and all SL members and guests were invited to pick up a welcome pack that contained some instructions as well as a protest sign. Participant numbers probably only reached about 30 in the first few hours and many already seemed to know each other (from their first life, I suspect), which might explain why there were no active attempts to recruit or inform about the campaign or the cause. The focus instead seemed to be expressing support for the cause by dancing and just being there. Given the low turnout, one has to wonder whether the objective of the Second Life launch was to simply to secure a few more column inches due to the novelty of an SL campaign launch.

Clearly, an advantage of such a virtual protest and campaign for busy people is that the actual level of engagement required is quite small: all you need to do is teleport your avatar to the protest, make him or her dance and hold a sign and then you can get on with your first life job or favorite evening TV programme (depending on what time zone you are in)… but will this ever match the level of engagement of RL (real life) interaction?

Campaign press release and schedule can be found here