Tuesday, 5 April 2011

SL Left Unity - questions

Olza Koenkamp, an SL activist, sent some questions to me. These are the first few – Olza has said there may be more at a later date. I thought I would publish these answers for other members to read and perhaps help open discussions and debate with the wider membership/ anti-capitalist left across SL.

1. Why did you help form this group (SLLU) on SL?

This group was formed back in 2006 when Second Life was rarely out of the press.

In RL, I am a member of a Left Unity group – the Scottish Socialist Party, which is generally recognised as one of the most successful projects in Left Unity in the world; using a general statement of aims and principles for the left to unite behind. It was thought that SL might be a platform to promote such a way to unite the left using SL, across the world.

Ever since, SL has stagnated and not been used quite in the ways that were predicted back in 2006 (or at least, as widely as first anticipated). SLLU recruitment, although still rising in ACTIVE members, has slowed because of many of the political people who were initially attracted to SL leaving during the period between 2007 and now (the reasons for the departure of these people are many-fold, and should be a topic of study of those who study VR and its platforms – I have my theories, but these can be explored in a further article in the future).

This recruitment data is shown in the fact that every year, we “cull” our membership by deleting avatars from the group who have not logged in to SL for 2 years or more. At one time we had around active 700 members; now we have around 500 (across 5 groups – the main one being SL Left Unity (the others being SL Left Unity Artivist Network; SL Left Unity Feminist Network; SL Left Unity LGBT Network and SL Left Unity Unity Hub). Although there is cross membership – there are some people who join only one of these groups. Analysis of membership of these groups show our active membership to be around the 500 mark.

Therefore, SLLU’s objectives have moved *slightly* from recruitment and forwarding a proposition of left unity to the new SL and SL public in general, to now concentrating on ways and space for those, like academics and artists using SL, to forward an education programme that brings anti-capitalism back to the mainstream as it once was until the late 1990’s.

Although this is a slight objective emphasis change, it does not replace our original aim of connecting with ordinary users; it does, however recognise, that our places of learning and creativity (eg Universities) HAVE moved further away from the discussions around envisaged alternative systems of social organisation. This is in stark comparison to academia and “artivism” of the mid 1800’s through to the late 20th century, where these subjects would have been the common topics of discussions at all levels.

Olza asks:

Why not organise on a different virtual world or in a different platform, for example some place only for chatting?

There are many “Left Unity” discussion forums and groups on net 1.0 and some net 2.0 applications, eg blogs; facebook and yahoo groups. My own internet early 2000’s experience was on yahoo groups and I have taken some of the successful aspects of that experience to inform how SL Left Unity has been promoted; for example, trying to encourage as much cross cooperation and OWNERSHIP in the central hub of SLLU for as many people and groups as possible across the anti-capitalist left spectrum.

SLLU *could* branch out to opensim – and perhaps a few of us need to engage there (I have an avatar there) – and I, as well as other people involved in the running of SLLU are open to that.

Other platforms such as Twitter, have their own idiosyncracities that do not allow a wider participation and although SLLU does have a twitter account, it is used only to retweet other members contributions to twitter or promote SLLU events (though the use of the twitter account has been intermittent).

2. Has SLLU made some real influence? Have You made some impression on some RL institution or any other RL consequences?

Yes we have. We have helped (and indeed catapulted the issue into the mainstream media) with chasing the French Front National from recruiting in Second Life and we also did the same for a RL/SL IBM strike in Italy which, because avatars were able to infiltrate a meeting of RL CEO’s, led to the resignation of IBM Italy’s CEO and the strikers winning the working conditions they were fighting for.

We have also helped with university studies on the use of SL in left/cooperative education etc.

However, I feel the real influence we have had is with individuals – with activists sharing experiences in RL that have encouraged others to go on to find RL groups they are comfortable with. Our biggest success is helping others engaging and shaping their RL world.

Examples of a huge range of activities that have in some way influenced RL are on our blog that has been running since 2006. We also have an archive on our Flagg sim, maintained by RL student (as part of a RL college course) Jamesdekens Resident.

3. What are the main aims? I am not asking about aims of Left organisations in general, but especially SLLU.

(Our charter and Aims and Principles are here

See answer one. I think to summarise and add to that answer:

To bring together anti-capitalist left activists into a hub where they can cooperate in activities across their particular ideological differences (eg, socialists, anarchists etc uniting in work to propote and raise awareness of the Greek uprisings of 2009/10 or on the Israeli government crimes in Gaza). People and groups can unite on educational projects – and can agree to disagree on various solutions.

Each individual or group can take a view outside SLLU on, for example a one or two state solution in Gaza, but can cooperate on educational “demos” or installation showing the Palestinian peoples plight.

What people have to understand is that SLLU is a place to listen to differences and to work on similarities.

Disagreements are fine, so long as people can accept others have a different view and that the best way to promote your difference, is to do so comradely. It is through thesis and antithesis we reach synthesis – or it is through sharing experiences we both learn and teach.

4. Would you move SLLU from SL to other platform?

SLLU won’t be moving FROM SL – but could have similar groups with aims and principles in other metaverses- which will happen.

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