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John Edwards in Second Life

BY Ruby Sinreich | Tuesday, April 10 2007

Apologies for the gap in my series of reviews of presidential candidates' supporter-created presences in Second Life. Last week there was a story about this on CBSnews.com which I thought did a good job of avoiding the sensationalism you see so often in coverage of SL, while still giving readers a sense of the in-world experience:

Adding another layer of confusion to this simulacrum, these virtual campaigns aren't campaigns at all — at least not in any official sense.

They are run by tech-savvy political junkies from across the country... Most have had little or no contact with the candidates or campaigns, despite their liberal use of the candidates' names, logos and likenesses in Second Life.
- CBSnews.com: Democratic '08 Hopefuls Go Virtual

Today's victim: John Edwards. I visited his new location on March 22nd, the day Elizabeth Edwards announced the recurrence of her cancer. There was a photo of her posted near the site entrance with a timely message. Last month, the Edwards group in Second Life moved their headquarters to a quiet beach setting. The previous location on the more active SL mainland was famously vandalized ("griefed") by some losers with excess time and skillz on their hands.

The new Edwards Campaign Central is located at the relatively bucolic and PG-rated Laguna Beach (SLurl). A wooden boardwalk (right) borders about half of the space, inviting visitors to cruise and enjoy pictures of the candidate interspersed with issue information and invitations to "join the e-team" or donate to the Second Life Relay for Life (a great effort).

In other corners of the site are a forum-like space (left) which I presume is used for meetings, and a "Free stuff" pavilion with boxes that can give you information about in-world activities and freebies such as Edwards t-shorts for your avatar to wear.

In the center is a tropical sort-of tiki hut (below). In the future they hope to show videos there, but right now it's just a nice place to chill out. ;-)

Given that I panned the Hillary Clinton presence in SL, I am surprised to tell you that I liked Edwards space even less. It did not give me the sense of what or who his campaign is about. The beach setting suggests a sort of luxury and leisure that are not associated with the candidate's image or policies. However, my traveling companion disagreed, saying the space felt friendly and comfortable to him.

We spent some time talking to Redaktisto Noble who is the main John Edwards organizer/manager in Second Life. He had this to say: "My personal goal is to prove to the campaign that SL can be a valuable medium for a serious campaign... I would love to have at least one, maybe several, "debates" among supporters of the various campaigns. But first they have to get a platform! :) ... I would reemphasize that we want group members to bring their ideas and add to what we have here."

As I add to this series, you can follow the pictures in my Second Life Campaigns Flickr collection. I hear there are some Republicans I need to visit and I also have to return to Barack Obama's SL office (and take pictures this time). Stay tuned.

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