World Development Movement Death Counter

“A large death counter has been placed in a prominent place in, 3 dimensional virtual world ‘Second Life’ by global anti-poverty campaigners the World Development Movement (WDM). The digital counter records the number of children who have died as a result of preventable global poverty since Second Life was founded. The figure currently stands at over thirty six million, one hundred and ninety seven thousand. The organisation has already started a group in Second Life and plans to hold public meetings on global poverty issues. WDM is the first campaigning organisation to establish a permanent presence in Second Life.” – Article on WDM’s website

Read the rest of the article at the above link before proceeding. 

I have several opinions on this move into Second Life by the WDM.  The fact that they have moved into Second Life and are trying to raise awareness of their cause is a good move.  They are obviously a progressive organization that will use cutting edge technology to deliver their message.  The average age of the Second Life player is older than in most other MMO games.  There’s a significant number of people in-world that are activists, or trying to promote their cause.  And I think that among the SL demographic, their minds are generally open and accepting of these types of organizations and their efforts.  I also have to admire their effort in holding awareness meetings, and generally just getting their message out to those who might be able to help them with their efforts.  However, I believe that their death counter is completely out of place in SL, and it will likely offend many who might otherwise have helped their cause.

In your face activisim rarely results in a warm welcome to any neighborhood, and this is especially true in the virtual worlds.  Does Second Life really need a counter of how many kids have died of preventable poverty since Second Life came online?  What is the logical connection between Second Life being online and these kids dying?  And are we to believe that by visiting Second Life we are contributing to these deaths?  If we accept the proposition of spending time in Second Life equating to wasted resources and an increase in poverty around the globe,  then WDM is contributing to this same poverty by having their people spend time online in Second Life?  But they are doing positive work in Second Life, and their time does not fall to the same conversion factor of death that the rest of us are being accused.  By my calculation, their logic equates to 20 children dying every minute that Second Life stays online.

I am involved with several groups that are promoting educational projects in Second Life.  I believe that we are seeing the early stages of a shift away from “playing” in Second Life, to a culture of information, communication and education in the virtual world.  This death counter is clearly aimed at those who WDM deem as wasting time online, when they could instead be out saving the world from poverty.  WDM’s Second Life efforts might be better directed at attracting those who can help, rather that accusing and offending them with their death counter. 

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