Virtual world voters shunned

Back in 2008, during the US Presidential Election primaries, all the Democratic hopefuls had a Second Life presence of one sort or another; Hillary Clinton and John Edwards had virtual campaign headquarters, and there were several “Obama for President” resident groups. The GOP were slower to embrace SL, though eventually a couple of Sarah Palin avatars made an appearance.

I had expected to see the current UK elections stir some interest on the grid, but all I could find was this rather disappointing “Election HQ“, which consists of nothing more than a few balloons and a malfunctioning noticeboard outside an empty store:

There is a “Conservative Party Supporters” group, with a grand total of 3 members, led by one “ToryBoy Horatio”. Potential members are greeted with a jolly “Well hello fellow Etonians and the rest of you rabble”, which makes me think that this might just possibly be a parody rather than a serious vote-gathering enterprise.

It’s said that about 7.5% of SL residents live in the UK, which, out of active users, would amount to around 75,000 potential voters, a not inconsiderable constituency. The fact that none of the major parties has felt it necessary to establish a Second Life presence may say something about the how the platform’s profile has declined in the last two years.

Or perhaps they are are just wary of meeting the same fate as John Edward’s virtual campaign (as described in Peter Ludlow’s brief history of griefing in the metaverse).

6 Responses to Virtual world voters shunned

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  2. Harper says:

    I’d offer a third alternative to your two cases. Since the British election season is so short — only some 30 to 60 days, I believe? — is there enough time to warrant the expenditure of time and capital in buying/building space, advertising, whipping up the faithful, etc.?

    • johnny says:

      The official campaign may only be a month long, but the unofficial pre-campaign has been going on since last year, plenty of time to establish a grid presence, which, in relation to the whole campaign, would be inexpensive in terms of money and time.

      All the parties have some sort of social media strategy, mostly involving candidates contributing to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, with varying degrees of success. I’m sure that if SL was getting the amount of attention that it was in 2008 then we’d be seeing more evidence of the election on the grid, run by supporters if not the parties themselves.

      I’m not sure that SL is a particularly good campaign tool anyway – it can be used for general publicity, but engagement with individual voters is difficult due to the anonymity, and you can’t even collect funds, because it’s too hard to verify that contributors are UK residents. I think the US candidates used it as a way to show they were tech-savvy, but SL is yesterday’s news in that department now.

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