April 12

Since, for a lot of people, altruism is intricately entwined with religion, I decided to pay a visit to a church in SL. It was called Truth and they offered church services on Sunday morning at 11, just like many real-life churches. Also on the island, they had a coffee shop where people came together, sat on couches, and had a Bible study. I waited around for a bit to observe, while carefully working not to disturb their regular study. It sounded like every other Bible study I'd seen in real life and I though it was kind of neat that you could participate in faith-based activities with those who are far away and that you could conceivably continue to participate regularly even if the rest of your life was quite transient. Similar set-ups existed for the Jewish faith, but there didn't seem to be too much in SL for Islam.

For something completely different, I visited the SL AIDS Quilt. I've seen the real-life AIDS Quilt and it was considerably more moving. As someone who has a relative who suffers from HIV, I find this is a subject that really hits close to home. At the site, there was a link to join the HIV/AIDS awareness group. Tried to join, but couldn't quite figure it all out.

Also went over to the Danish AIDS Memory Park where you could donate money to the cause and light a candle in memory of someone who passed away from AIDS.

April 11

This is basically a place holder blog during lab until I can have a little more time to elaborate. Trip to the Virginia Tech Memorial.


The Northern Illinois University memorial on the island.


April 9

Tonight I watched American Idol Gives Back. You can make fun all you want. I can't help it that I like cheesy reality competitions. (By the way, Go David Cook!)

By the end of the 2 1/2 show, they had raised over 22 million dollars for various charities, promoting everything from AIDS treatment in Africa to literacy programs in Appalachia. Watching the heartbreaking videos of beautiful little babies dying of preventable diseases such as Malaria, I felt compelled to send in money to do whatever I could to help make sure that these horrors stop.

The night made me realize that the most important thing that Second Life can do for causes is raise awareness. As Second Life grows and reaches out to more and more users, they have a greater voice to reach out and make a difference. Second Life could also broadcast and promote videos like the ones on Idol Gives Back and prompt users to donate money and make a difference in the real world.

The only constraint that I can see hindering the process is the current lack of activity on many of the non-sex-related islands. It seems that unless you're offering sexual favors or Linden dollars, many avatars are unlikely to frequent your space. Maybe if they could offer Linden for visiting islands sponsored by causes and charity (and set up a way you could then donate those Linden, if you choose) then they could truly go far in raising awareness.

March 28


Made visit to an island that focused on transsexual and transgender issues and support. When I did a search and prepared to teleport, I got a warning that child avatars, nudity, and other such behavior was not permitted, as to promote a more positive environment in which to discuss the serious issues facing those in these communities.

No one was around for me to talk to, but I will be checking back in the evening soon, so that I can hopefully talk to some people about what the presence of transsexual and transgender support in SL has meant for them. I am sure that an online community for these individuals could be extremely beneficial because in certain areas it may be hard to find people to whom they can relate. It also may be difficult for them to meet in RL due to the stigma and public perception of these lifestyles. Certainly, having grown up in a small town, I'm familiar with how cruel and judgmental some people can be and I'm hoping to find out from those that frequent the island whether they've found the activism within SL to be helpful, and if they're involvement in the community has provided some tangible emotional/psychological benefits in RL.

March 26

Visited Camp Darfur created by an organization called Better World. When I first teleported, I thought the island appeared to be a bit too happy to properly convey the subject matter. Then, I found a sort of port-key that transported me to the real Camp Darfur on the island. I got a welcome message stating some statistics illustrating the horrors of Darfur and was presented with a card telling the story of a member of the Janjaweed. Pictures and tents were everywhere. The pictures of children in Darfur were especially heartbreaking. It was definitely the most depressing site I've explored in SL.


I was initially skeptical of such islands in SL and was afraid that an island devoted to Darfur might trivialize the horrors of genocide. While I did find it to be very consumerist (and a little silly) that the island offered so many free shirts, I think it properly conveyed the information about Darfur and definitely peaked my interest. Though there was no one on the island when I was there, I can see how these types of islands can raise awareness and help engage a public that has little opportunity to relate to these tragedies.


Today I also found a large billboard in a freebie area that said "Don't Forget the Real World". On it, it had a running count of the number of children who had died as a result of preventable global poverty since SecondLife was launched on June 23, 2003 (the total when I checked was 50,084,108). It was from the World Development Movement and you can check out their info about it here. I thought that this was a very good point because, while I've discovered you can raise awareness in SL, it is very difficult to save lives if you're constantly consumed with the virtual world.

March 7

Today I went to the Estonian embassy which was definitely interesting considering I am one of the few people I know that has been to Estonia in real life. As soon as you teleport, you meet a beagle which tells you how proud Estonians are of their 90-year-old republic, which I certainly found to be true in real life. The embassy building is actually staffed during regular business hours, so you can find out a little bit more about a relatively obscure country and they can possibly drum up some more tourism.

I'm definitely going to try to come back during regular business hours to see what the people who work there have to say about it.

February 21

It's been a while since I've journaled here. I've mostly been wandering around and exploring and still learning the ropes of SL.

In class, we've just begun our discussions of Fight Club, and our discussions as to who/what Tyler Durden is/represents. In my opinion, Tyler is the natural, chaotic reaction to our hyper-consumerist culture. The narrator, at the beginning of the book, basically only exists as a human being within his relationship to the things he owns. He is basically a slave to the market, he works a crappy job he doesn't care about, and buys things just for the sake of having them, and also because he feels they will somehow complete him.

Tyler is free from these chains. He screws with the market and societal norms as much as he possibly can. He is a squatter in an old, run-down house in the middle of what can only be described as an industrial wasteland. He messes with the perfect images and escape that movies provide by splicing in bits of pornography into family films. He rejects society's notions of self-improvement in favor of self-destruction.

In a way, I think that people's avatars have the ability to be their Tyler Durden, if you will. You may be a stiff old white guy in a suit in your daily life, but you can a furry or own your own punk rock club in Second Life. Admittedly, I work in a typical office job and have a pretty up-tight internship, both of which require me to keep a somewhat-natural hair-color and dress in a way that society would deem appropriate for these positions. Since I can't really rebel in my real life, my avatar sports pink hair and refuses to wear khakis.

It does lead one to wonder if this virtual rebellion from consumerist culture and societal norms is nearly enough. Second Life itself can be pretty market driven, with all of the dancing, sitting, and survey-taking you do earning you Linden dollars. It's also filled with name brand items that you'll "just have to have" to complete your avatar's image. While you do have more freedom to let your freak out, it is only online and you do have to come to terms with reality eventually. Though, this virtual rebellion might serve to fuel a greater rebellion in real life, kind of like how fight clubs set the stage for Project Mayhem

I, for one, am starting to wonder if maybe self-destruction really is the answer.

January 29

Last night I decided to finally do a bit of exploring in the virtual world and also get quite a bit of The Shock Doctrine read. Throughout the evening, I attempted to draw parallels between the two, but to no avail. The biggest idea that I've garnered from Klein's book is that in these "disaster capitalist" societies, disaster victims are thought of as somehow less that human. Human beings are used as sorts of lab rats for torture experiments, entire economic systems are overhauled without the consent of the nation's people, and leaders rejoice at the clearing out of low income housing. Differences in race, income, and ideology are considered detrimental.

In Second Life, on the other hand, differences are celebrated. You can basically be as much of a weirdo as you want and no one really seems to care. You want to be a furry? Put on your fuzzy bunny suit. You want to dress like a Transformer? Go right ahead. You want to be an absinthe-consuming alien creature? Join the party at UK island (just next time, don't run me over in your Model T).

I wonder if this open, accepting environment will diminish once Second Life becomes an even more mainstream past time. If so, I think most of the charm of SL will be gone. The biggest perk right now is that it's the one place you're free to be whoever you want to be.