Right on time for the 5oth anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, the European Union’s Communications Department, is thinking seriously about establishing a digital “embassy” in the (currently more hyped than) popular virtual reality Second Life. According to a pressetext.at (in German) report, EU spokesperson Mikolaj Dowgielewicz explained that an EU office in Second Life was intended to reach out, get closer, and communicate better with individual European citizens, since 54% of the alleged 4.4m virtual inhabitants of Second Life are European nationals, according to Second Life operator Linden Labs.
Austria’s social media researcher Thomas N. Burg, organizer of the first European Weblog conferences, BlogTalk, may be right in his assessment that the hype around Second Life is just another indicator that our real and digital realities are increasingly intertwined. Still, I can’t help but see a certain irony in the fact that, while European legislation is having an ever increasing impact on the real lives of Europeans, the European Union’s Communications Department feels that it will be easier to communicate by virtualising the EU.
Moreover, if a – in my opinion credible – source that I spoke to last December at the LeWeb3 conference in Paris is right, Second Life’s population is a lot more virtual than many people seem to think: The official numbers regarding “active accounts” are apparently including every successful login in the respective last six months, even if an account was active only once. That, combined with the recent public relations hype surrounding the system, which probably caused a lot of people to see for themselves what all the fuzz is about, seems to justify estimations that the actual number of the Second Life population is about two orders of magnitude smaller than what the official numbers seem to suggest.
And the European Union’s Communications Department is not even boldly going where no one has been before: Sweden’s Foreign Office’s “Swedish Institute” already has a Second Life presence, and so do a couple of French Presidential campaigns (Royal, Sarkozy, LePen (http://www.pte.at/pte.mc?pte=070302027)).
Maybe press statements about Second Life initiatives are still intended to have tangible First Life effects?
(hat tip: netzpolitik.org)