Wednesday, February 28, 2007

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The SLLA storm the virtual Davos stage to demand... something or other

Is there a widespread uprising against the decline of Second Life utopia?  Reading the Los Angeles Times last week, you'd assume so.  After all, the Times reports, a clandestine band of rebels known as the Second Life Liberation Army has been launching attacks on numerous corporate-owned sites, demanding all Residents be given the right to vote, while other Residents are departing SL with complaints that the world has lost its otherworldly freedom.

A galvanizing story, to be sure, which has the only flaw of being, as far as can be discerned, not strictly true.  Instead, it's more likely that the Times has fallen prey to a phenomenon that's so common in the mainstream press, it has a name: astroturfing.  It also represents another variety of confused mainstream coverage of Second Life, in which the world is taken seriously enough to devote feature length stories to, but not seriously enough to apply traditional standards of accuracy.

Second Liberation Army HQ-- in handy walking distance to many fabulous nightclubs, casinos, and clothing emporiums

I should start by saying that's there's nothing wrong in itself with roleplaying the political rebel; seen that way, the SLLA fits somewhere to the right of the more rigorous social architects behind the Neualtenberg/Neufreistadt experiment in virtual democracy.  Indeed, there's actually something, well, adorable about the SLLA. After rushing the Reuters' Davos stage in the middle of a January interview, a chatty SLLA lieutenant told me recently, Adam Reuters praised their enthusiasm and invited them to have a pleasant talk.  (Not exactly talking the Symbionese Liberation Army here.)  And their calls for a direct, one Resident-one vote democracy have the charming kind of idealism that's only possible when past history is ignored, or just unknown.


Being new, SLLA's leaders weren't around in 2004, when Linden Lab asked Residents if they were interested in self-governance, but garnered a tepid response; nor in 2005, when the company introduced a feature voting mechanism-- which attracted, at most, a mere 478 voters.  Nor perhaps do they even remember the Resident-led petition in 2006 against a widely reviled property rights abuser-- which despite so much acrimony, tallied less than 100 signatures.  This is not to say Residents are socially apathetic, as the anti-CopyBot revolt proved.  Residents' collective sense of Second Life reminds me of Americans' relation with their country:  deeply patriotic to its ideals on an emotional level, eager to rally in its defense, when threatened by external forces-- but come most election days, still not likely to show up at the polls.

Meantime, the SLLA's attacks against American Apparel and other corporate sites caused minimal and temporary damage, if that, and more striking, seem like strange targets, if what they sought was attention.  As I've reported before, most corporate-funded sites in Second Life are scarcely and briefly visited, including (one assumes) by the very corporate officers who funded them.  Were these SLLA assaults really comparable to a terrorist attack, it'd be like Al Qaeda passing up Los Angeles so they could firebomb a Dairy Queen drive-thru off the I-5.

Which suggests another problem with the LA Times' story:  judged by their scant foot traffic, corporate sites aren't threatening the SL community as a whole, because there's little evidence the community as a whole is even aware of them. (That most of these sites are on private islands which Residents must voluntarily opt to visit is left unmentioned by the Times, either inadvertantly, or perhaps because this fact would irrevocably muddy its narrative.) 

And while corporate sites still struggle for relevance, even a quick glance at Search suggests roleplaying is thriving.  Elf roleplayers still total over a thousand, as do the controversial Goreans.  The very new cyberpunk realm of Midian already has some 400 members, and (one of their developers told me) had to cap their membership, for fear of becoming overcrowded.  Gleaned from numerous groups, many of the above numbers probably overlap, to be sure, but still far eclipse the SLLA, which as of last week, has all of 70 members.  (Not only does the utopia of roleplaying seem to be thriving, so does the utopia of the intellect, with the long-running Thinkers group totalling some 250 members.)

Are the early adopters leaving to any significant degree?  (And does it count as "leaving" when a Resident just gives up their land but retains their account, as is probably more often the case?)  Perhaps, though from my vantage, it doesn't seem to be.


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» SLLA Attack from Second Life - Ebersberg Blog
Prrruussst, so da gibt es also eine SLLA in Second Life (Second Life Liberation Army).Das was sie auf Ihre Fahneng eschrieben habe ist mehr oder weniger :- Attackieren von Firmen Inseln und- Avatar WahlrechtMehr oder weniger kann man das hier Nachlesen [Read More]


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Chav Paderborn

Given our general apathy, it's amazing they exist at all. I think they've got the wrong targets, but it's always a good sign when people care enough about something to defend it from a percieved threat.

second life Promoter

I have a list of siteweb about the second life, mais it's in French. But I'd like to share it with some one who need it, still.

Icon Serpentine

Astroturfing refers to a PR technique for creating false grassroots support for a campaign... I don't think I fully understand your use of the term.

Anyway -- just another media outlet editorializing/narrating rather than fact reporting. Sad really, but that's the norm these days.

PS: There's always been a contingent of users against commercial growth in SL. It used to be forum flame-bait back in the day. Tyrell even satirized the issue as an April Fool's prank one year.

SLLA is just another iteration of the contingent. You're totally on the spot about their importance. They're not even terrorists (what an over-used word these days). Just a bunch of semi-political attention-seekers. Big deal; who isn't these days?

Ketter McAllister

"I think they've got the wrong targets"

Chav: Just curious - what do you think would be "the right targets" that would make a better impact?

Pablo Andalso

One of their primary sources is Prokofy Neva, one of the most opinionated people in SL... and it's always the end of the world to her. This seems a lot like the "story too good to check" fiasco if it's based on the opinion of a polemic.


Like rl, a lot of avatars just wanna go shopping, get laid and dance the night away. Thank God for the some/many who don't, otherwise SL would be mucho boring.


'"I think they've got the wrong targets"

Chav: Just curious - what do you think would be "the right targets" that would make a better impact?'

Well, if they would blow up nightclubs and private sims, there woulf be much more impact I think.
Noone likes it when a dancer is knocked off his/her lap, plus the beer is spilled.

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