Real Politics Made Virtual

Geração Activa: A Political Campaign With Avatars If you take a look at the image to the left, you might imagine it’s the latest machinima for promoting something in Second Life®. After all, machinimas are getting better and better, and since virtual world sales (or shows; or events; or whatever) are definitely worth the expense to do a promotional video that looks awesome, you might be right.

However, you’d be probably quite surprised to figure out that this is just part of a real-life political campaign from Portugal’s Prime Minister, José Sócrates, for his re-election on September 27.

Just watch the trailer and notice the image at 0:14:

Intrigued? Well, you should be. The video doesn’t even look like a typical political campaign video. And that’s the whole point, really: welcome to politics in the 21st century.

Obama leads the way

Billions of articles have been written about the amazingly successful campaign that Barack Obama launched on the social media — besides real life — to get elected (well, he did get elected), so it’s pointless for me to enumerate them all. Suffice to say that two important aspects were, for the first time, put in place.

The first is that the old model of rallying around cities and giving large events is not working any more. People are lazy and distrust politicians. They have their own ideas and minds, and a higher education, when, say, compared to the 19th century. Travelling around cities to gather support might have worked on the pre-Information Age, but, except for Caledon and other steampunk enclaves in Second Life, the Victorian way of doing things is out of fashion.

During most of the 20th century, people actively involved in following politics just used the media to stay in touch. Newspapers first — where they read about the politicians’ ideas — and later on TV. Now, instead of patiently waiting for the “election train” to arrive at your home town to listen to the candidates, you just browse the traditional media and get informed that way. The focus slowly changed from “rallies” and “events” towards “good media presence”; having a good hairstyle and selecting a nice fit of suit or dress to look “right” on TV is way more important than charismatic oratory skills.

However, people are not watching TV these days to stay in touch with politics. Unless it’s scandals or corruption, most citizens couldn’t be bothered less with what politicians are thinking — so the media naturally focused on that. In fact, thanks to freedom of speech, which is pretty much universal in the western world, the only thing that the media are fond of publishing is the dirtiness of politics, which is the only thing that really matters to citizens — and the one that will sell the networks some more ads.

But there is always “too much of a good thing”. If all you hear and listen about politicians is scandals and corruption, that’s the image the citizens have of politicians: they’re just around to be, well, corrupt. And incompetent. And this is pretty much the idea that we have of them for the past 120 or 150 years; I’m always amused to read old novels from the late Victorian era when it was considered to be very bad form to become a politician; real aristocrats and gentlemen would never meddle with