If all goes as planned, this Thursday will be a milestone day for Second Life, and virtual worlds in general: August 6th at 6:30am PST/9:30am, the FCC's first workshop on open government and civic engagement will be simulcast into Second Life, with an input channel for SL users to send questions and responses to participants in Washington DC. The workshop is part of the National Broadband Plan (see below), and will evaluate how high speed connectivity can improve transparency and citizen participation in government. The simulcast is being streamed into the MacArthur Foundation's island in Second Life; in-world hosting is by Global Kids, with Krista Hund (SL name: Kuri Minotaur) forwarding Residents questions to the DC workshop. To join in the conversation on Thursday morning, here's a direct teleport link to the island.
Here's the official word on this Second Life stream from Jen Howard, the FCC chairman's spokesperson: “In developing our nation’s National Broadband Plan, we are committed to finding innovative, cutting-edge ways -– both online and offline -- to reach out to the public and elicit suggestions, questions, and insight regarding our nation’s broadband future. We are delighted that this first workshop will have an aperture into Second Life and that staff is experimenting in such ways to reach all stakeholders.”
The virtual world component of the simulcast is happening in great thanks to Beth Noveck, President Obama's deputy chief technology officer for open government (and before that, an early academic innovator in SL), who helped connect FCC officials with Global Kids and MacArthur's Second Life administrators. She connected with me, to help promote it with the Second Life community.
“Creating universal access to high-speed broadband will help to foster new forms of civic engagement," Beth tells me by email, explaining her reason for encouraging the Second Life stream. "Extending these FCC Workshops to the virtual world enables a wider community to participate than those who can attend in Washington. But it also encourages people to convene and hold their own conversations about an issue to help inform the policymaking process.” To my knowledge, she is the first member of the Obama Administration to actively encourage virtual world participation in a major Federal government-to-citizen policy crafting session like this one.
I hope this is the first of many such events to come, and encourage Residents to attend, if they can. As a broadband-only virtual world, members of Second Life have a vested interest in the future of Internet connectivity; indeed, as active and highly-engaged broadband users, in my opinion they may represent an ideal focus group for the FCC. That in mind, I'll be in-world (as early as it is) to summarize Residents biggest concerns, reporting them here on New World Notes, and forwarding them along to participating FCC staff. If you can't get in-world, the simulcast can also be viewed on the web. All the details you need here.
Background on the Workshop
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) was signed into law on February 17, 2009. The Broadband Initiatives funded in the Act are intended to accelerate broadband deployment across the United States. The Recovery Act authorizes the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to create the National Broadband Plan, that “shall seek to ensure that all people of the United States have access to broadband capability and shall establish benchmarks for meeting that goal.” From August to September, the FCC will be holding workshops on key issues relevant to broadband deployment in the United States. The goal of the workshops will be to promote an open dialogue between the FCC and key constituents on matters important to the National Broadband Plan. More info here.