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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

HOMELAND SECURITY COMES TO SECOND LIFE

"Response" is the name of a private (but publicly accessible) island that happens to be owned by a top East Coast University. It's been built to resemble a small town in New England, not to evoke nostalgia, but to simulate and model emergency response behavior to very real dangers (fires, structure damage, and so on) in an online world. This morning, the leader of that university project (whose avatar is a cybernetic humanoid alien) will be giving a presentation on his work-- which happens to be funded by the United States Department of Homeland Security.

Educators and government/military officials have been exploring the national defense utility of online and virtual worlds for years, but now that they're doing so in a public setting in Second Life, it brings up all kinds of new challenges to my work as the embedded journalist. Up to now, "embedded" meant within the world of Second Life, reporting on the evolving community of Residents, mentioning the real world only insofar as it intersected with what they were creating and experiencing here. As with the New York convention last week, however, keeping those realities apart is becoming more and more difficult. This also means wondering when I'll need to drop the "embedded" part of my title altogether. Because not only do the worlds refuse to be kept apart, now that merger is being partially funded by US taxpayers, too.

Anyway, full announcement after the break. I won't actually be able to make this morning's event, myself, because as it turns out, I'm too busy hammering out the details on the Second Life visit by a guy who used to brief Donald Rumsfeld's staff and Senator John Kerry.

Second Life: A Platform for Homeland Security

The Synthetic Environments for Emergency Response Simulation (SEERS) project aims to provide cost effective mission rehearsal and virtual prototyping tools for the emergency response community. The project, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is part of the core research program of the Emergency Readiness and Response Research Center (ER3C) at Dartmouth College's Institute for Security Technology Studies.

Satchmo Prototype, a Dartmouth researcher, will give a presentation on the use of Second Life as a platform for creating synthetic environments for Homeland Security. He will discuss the pros and cons of the Second Life platform, present his work creating an environment for community emergency response teams and will lead a brainstorming session on other possible uses.

Day: Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Time: 10 am (gametime)
Location: Response (10,140)

For a teleport, IM Pietro Maracas [founder of the "RL Work in SL" group], Echinacea Wallaby, or Katherine Mullen.

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Comments

The homeland security / second life idea sounds like a big waste of time and money. I have never heard of anything so stupid in all my life.

Posted by: Scott at Oct 20, 2005 6:46:04 PM

I'm not sure how they can test security in SL; but, my knowledge is still very limited regarding SL. However, the whole concept of military or, in this case, homeland security, using 'gaming' (I use that term loosely) to test activities has been used for years.
Myself, I find it exciting that our virtual worlds are being looked at with another eye other than the common skepticism and criticism I encounter everyday when I attempt to explain the complexities of the online experience.

Posted by: Ronnie Revere at Oct 21, 2005 8:42:44 PM

Re: "it brings up all kinds of new challenges to my work as the embedded journalist. Up to now, "embedded" meant within the world of Second Life, reporting on the evolving community of Residents, mentioning the real world only insofar as it intersected with what they were creating and experiencing here. As with the New York convention last week, however, keeping those realities apart is becoming more and more difficult."

I'm glad you're facing up to this problem, which is not only brought on by SLCC or Response, but brought on by Stagecoach Island and the Linden priority to market this platform to educational projects, and the celebration of those who have managed to jimmy SL into some kind of tool for their RL enterprises.

Now why am I not surprised that it's the US government funding and big business funding that is helping to destroy the indigenously-created virtual world of Second Life and possibly turning it into an Internet clothesline for 3-D resumes and resume polishers...an amalgam of commercial ads and non-profit ads in the market of government/corporation/foundation grant dollars?

I think the clash between the "your world, your imagination" original founders' mantra and this new shtick, which is "you only imagine it's your world" and "our corporate vision, your tax dollars at work" is going to get so big that eventually it will force the split of SL like an amoeba into other things.

And that may be its natural evolution. Some company like EA.com or Sony will buy out the big subscription list of the "blingtards" and the "casual players" the Lindens and FIC so often scorn (and appear to work against with things like dumping events listings, forums classifieds, ratings, etc. etc.). That way all those Tringistas, blingers, av-sexers, etc. can be poured off on to other servers where they won't disturb the aesthetic of the elite users of SL.

LL itself, keeping with its Lab-like name, will go into the edu/gov/org market. Maybe the host-your-own-sim option will be put in there somewhere. But it's hard to imagine how the SL and RL worlds as an admixture are going to be sustainable in this option.

They've tried to make them work, after dumping their "One World, One Grid" Wendell Wilkie type of philosophy for the "Private Island" "white-flight from mainland ugliness and greifing" option. That's working very well. These private enclaves are now proudly called "colonies" by Philip Linden, whereas before the *whole thing* was perceived as an exciting colony (and for a time, the new continent Magelland explored in the company-manufactured legend was the "colony").

The real colonization of the Metaverse is going to be coming from where the money is, which is government/corporate/
foundation dollars, not subscription dollars and even venture capitalism.

There's a certain hard core of beta player who complains mightily about commercialization of SL, that advertising, big business, sweatshops, etc. etc. will come in and destroy SL, even though the Lindens have built all kinds of checks into that, mainly by making it possible only to do what you want on your own land and not opening up their own considerable Governor Linden holdings(although increasingly, possibly with insider knowledge about the lessening of capacity for advertising on the forums and the expense now in world of $250 classifieds, there are micro-barons who have already set up networking of ads on expensive 16m plots that are now beginning to mar the landscape of sims, especially when in water in the waterfront view).

But it's not just over-commercialization, there are other destructive forces of this fragile world of the imagination too -- the governmentization of the world, the educationalization of the world, the charitization of the world. These are all cases of people simply wanting to harness the technology to achieve some other RL goal without realizing that the technology of a 3-D world isn't just a means to an end, it IS something in its own right -- a 3-D world that already has people in it who already live, and move, and have their being -- and even make a living! -- in this world.

In this case, unlike other tools throughout human history, the tool or medium isn't just to be pressed into service, the tool itself will act upon the user in unexpected ways (like space exploration) because it enables lucide dreaming, tapping into the imagination, tapping into right-brain creativity, the seat of emotions, etc.

Posted by: Prokofy Neva at Oct 23, 2005 11:52:50 AM

Woa... nice responses. Using Virtual Environments to train soldiers has been proven effective long ago. The U.S. DoD firmly believes in this philosophy. The old saying goes "You fight like you train". The Synthetic Environments for Emergency Response Systems at Dartmouth College brings this concept to emergency responders. You fight like you train, but you can't afford and don't have the resources to train regularly. So using synthetic environments you can train at a lower cost in a safe place. It may sound stupid, but you can only be good at something if you practice it, and responding to disasters is not easy to recreate in the real world.

Posted by: Satchmo Prototype at Oct 27, 2005 10:29:58 AM

i like the idea of The homeland security second life idea but needs more study

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Posted by: bingo at Aug 29, 2007 5:48:29 AM

Great, now the government is openly in a game simulating disasters.
Nobody else thinks this is a problem?

Our government has already shown how well it handles disasters *cough*katrina*cough* natural and man made and just pretend two buildings packed with asbestos fell in a highly populated area, surely they would keep the place clear till they knew it was clean?

By the way, how much stimulus money did they spend building their little island?

I have been away from sl for a little while, it strikes me as funny how when peek over the fence to see what is going on i see military, army, navy no mention of naval intelligence of course, If there was a republican in office i wonder if the military would be welcome with such open arms?

To all you people living on the coasts, the NAVY is going to be doing excercises using WHITE PHOSPHORUS the stuff from fallujah off the coast of the whole USA east and west coast it will be washing up on your shores, why dont you ask them how they will handle it?

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