Obama becomes second President to use Second Life as a dissemination tool

Nevertheless, the President of the United States of America might probably not have been aware that his face was on wide screens all over Second Life (and Metaplace), but that doesn’t mean his staff was clueless. In fact, from Drax’s video, you can see that a debate (with some Lindens in attendance) was organised afterwards, and it was hinted that members of Obama’s staff were present. They also claim in the CBS article (linked above) that this was specifically organised, not just a bunch of residents throwing up a few in-world screens and linking to the screen; so it’s unfair to say that “Obama was not in SL”. His avatar wasn’t, but his RL team was. That, ultimately, is the difference between “having the President” in SL and “having the Presidency” in SL (Obama represents the Presidency, but the Presidency, as an institution, reaches further than the physical presence of the US President).

Contrast this to the approach taken by Portugal’s Presidency. It was not only the “staff” that was aware of the President’s speech in SL. First and foremost, they have endorsed a virtual presence in Second Life — not paid for it, because it was felt that taxpayer’s money could be better employed elsewhere. Instead, volunteers (both individuals and organisations) were encouraged to participate in setting things up, but there was a theme and a purpose which was clearly defined from the start (in this case, bridging the distances separating Portuguese communities all around the world). The date and place for the official address was publicised on the official website, and, although there was no concern of making a huge media splash out of it, the Presidency of the Portuguese Republic definitely used social media tools to promote the event, feeling — probably rightly so — that people already connected through online social media would be a better target for this event than the mainstream, unconnected population.

During the day of the presidential address, things were also quite different. Obama was basically addressing a real life audience (we can see it on the video). A digital camera was just capturing the video and also streaming it into SL. So it was not a special event just for virtual worlds, but a one-sided mixed-media event, where a RL event is transmitted life into SL, and discussed there afterwards (but no feedback was pushed to the “real” side of the event).

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