Second Life enabling better US-Islam relations?

Second-Life-church While frequently dismissed as a frivolous diversion (which, to be fair, it is to some), Second Life has the potential to be much more than just “IRC with graphics”.

The technological uses are the most obvious, and already being investigated by companies like IBM; Second Life is an ideal environment for large-scale data visualisation, for example.

Recent mainstream media stories have suggested that Second Life is a haven for terrorist recruitment and money laundering. While the potential is arguably present (and the actuality overstated), the flip-side is that virtual worlds provide a space where more positive forms of cultural exchange can occur – like a Muslim investigative journalist being able to experience a service in a virtual synagogue. [Image by RykerBeck]

The cynic in me suggests that we will export our human propensity for divisiveness wherever we go, be it into outer space or the inner space of the metaverse. But perhaps the lower barriers in virtual worlds will make it easier to overcome the old hatreds … by allowing us to see “behind the veil”, to coin a phrase.

3 thoughts on “Second Life enabling better US-Islam relations?”

  1. I am glad that you wrote this. I think that the majority of people tend to see what they want to see; for example, the Caliphate experiment sim is seen as being a travesty by some instead of an experiment – and the arguments against that experiment tend to be very bigoted.

    I would say… overall… that there is more exposure between cultures within Second Life, for better or worse. The prejudices on all sides become more apparent, and in some cases are honestly outspoken: That is good. It is the quiet prejudice that is usually the greatest problem.

    For myself, as Nobody Fugazi, I have had a lot of interesting sojourns within Second Life that have expanded my horizons. Of course, being open minded and explorative of other cultures makes one a target for people who are prejudiced themselves. 🙂

  2. Fascinating – and yes, I think that virtual worlds present us a unique opportunity to explore other cultures and religions. Having some initial, even if virtual, exposure in a non-threatening or heavy-handed way to places of worship or gatherings of interested folks can do a lot to promote sensitivities that just seem to be too rare today.

    Interfaith connections will be one aspect of PeaceFest ’08, happening in-world on Aug. 15-17. Check the website for more info.


  3. Right now SL is clumsy, impractical and not very nice looking. It’s very bulky and slow. But that’ll change over time, as more people join, more business gets conducted and more research gets done inside SL. There may be competition in the shape of other VRs but I am betting on SL, despite all its flaws.

    However if some 20 million peeps have signed up, as LL gets a chance to hire some competent staffers, as hardware and connectivity speeds up in the second decade of the new millenium, we will see these things become a demographic disturbance. The potential is stunning, and as programming, hardware and general insight in the practicality increases this stuff will become a more compelling emoting device than heroin.

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