Second Life: union protests, TV broadcast, and a lunge for Oscar consideration

Interesting to read, via the incom mailing list, about employee protests against IBM in Second Life.

Before passing this off as a complaint to a tiny audience and unlikely to have much power or effect, consider this: IBM is estimated to be investing $10 million on building its presence in virtual worlds including Second Life.

In Italy, IBM employees are unionized, and there has been some unhappy back and forth with management – protesting over pay, pension and health rights on one side, IBM withdrawing a ‘productive work benefit’ in response. According to the article, an international affiliation of workers unions (Union Network International) launched ‘unions 2.0’ – they trained protesters in how to use Second Life and gave protest kits to their avatars. Avatars then went to IBM locations, put up banners and slogans, and encouraged anyone to sign a petition. Some of them found their way to an online IBM meeting that was taking place in Second Life – they asked to speak to management (the meeting was about website functionality, so I don’t think that would have got them too far), and they were asked to take their protest out of the virtual meeting room. From a union negotiation perspective the initiative may not have gained them much, but what it did do is give media outlets a ‘hook’ to hang a union story on. It made national TV news in Italy. As a PR strategy, that’s pretty smart.

As real-world protests enter virtual worlds, so virtual worlds are jumping over to traditional, ‘real-world’ media.

I wrote earlier about Canada’s National Film Board putting some money into exploring virtual-world filmmaking.

According to a recent article in a Vancouver paper, HBO not long ago won a bidding war (against MTV and Sundance Channel) to broadcast My Second Life – content created in the land of avatars. San Francisco filmmaker Douglas Gayeton assumed (borrowed? stole? impersonated?) a character called Molotov, and filmed the avatar’s online adventures. Some of it showed up on YouTube, and within 72 hours it was the most-watched video there.

The series will be on HBO in the spring, and it is already being screened in L.A. to try to qualify it for Academy Award consideration.

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Related links:

an interview  Nedra Weinrich did a while ago about some innovative health education initiatives being undertaken by Center for Disease Control in Second Life.

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