Sunday, October 23, 2011

Virtual Occupation: Political Action In Second Life

Anonymous Artist

On October 22 at 6:36pmSLT (Pacific Daylight Time, the inworld time of the virtual world Second Life) OccupySL performed their first Virtual Occupation of Capital Exchange, "the #1 Stock Market Simulation Game in Second Life."

The Rules of Engagement are somewhat different in the virtual environment, as the owner of a "sim" (an area of virtual land) can "boot" (remove) and "ban" (prevent re-entry) avatars from the area using server tools (which happened, as detailed below) so a continual Occupation is not technically possible. However, a public artist's sandbox hosted at the Linden Endowment for the Arts [LEA] was chosen as a secondary/fallback site that would allow OccupySL to set up a sustained "artwork" to raise awareness and promote discussion of the issues of the Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Together and related contemporary global social change movements.

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The Politics of Art

Lest you think this was some sort of personal attention-getting stunt, I beg to remind you of the long history of artists who felt the need to speak out about the social and political conditions of their time: from the classical (Picasso's Guernica and Massacre In Korea, Jacques-Louis David's The Death of Marat, Goya's The Third Of May 1808 and The Black Paintings, Édouard Manet's The Execution of Emperor Maximillian and The Barricade (Civil War), Otto Dix's Erinnerung an die Spiegelsäle von Brüssel (Memory of the Mirrored Halls of Brussels), the work of William Hogarth and the satirical art of 18th-century England) to the contemporary (Banksey, Ai Weiwei, Barbara Kruger, Chris Ofili, Tania Bruguera, Tamara DeLempicka, Jenny Holzer, Steve Shepard, Käthe_Kollwitz, Ben Shahn, the Bogside Artists, Dorthea Lange, Diego Rivera, Sue Coe, Richard Hamilton, Hans Haacke, Andres Serrano, Marcus Harvey, Andy Donato , Eric Johnn, Graffiti, cartoons and the China/Avant-Garde Art Exhibition in Beijing in 1989 and zhengzhi popu (Political Pop) movement in China), art and politics have been inextricably combined.

Art & Agenda - Political Art and Activism - 50 Stunning Political Artworks - The Top 10 Pieces of Political Street Art

Contemporary Art In Virtual Environments

I'd also like to remind you that artists like Eva and Franco Mattes ['Synthetic Performances'], Cory Arcangel ['Super Mario Clouds', 'Various Self-Playing Bowling Games'], Miltos Manetas ['SuperMario Sleeping', 'Flames'] Harun Farocki ['Serious Games I-IV'], Joseph DeLappe and the ElectronicOrphanage, Jodi, Mind Games and
Game Modification, Hacking, Patching, Avatars and Code-based Practices within Contemporary Art projects/shows have used virtual & game environments to make artistic statements of a political nature.

The US Army also uses virtual worlds...

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Second Life Left Unity
is the seed organization of the OccupySL group and has been raising awareness in Second Life of the issues surrounding the RL #Occupy Movement since shortly after Occupy Wall Street, inspired by the 15-M/Indignants Movement in Spain, captured the imagination, concerns and frustrations of thousands of people across the globe. SLLU has raised money for #OWS through donations and virtual concerts and distributes information, links and support for #OWS from within the virtual world of Second Life.

Just because we live, work and play in a virtual environment does not mean we leave the physical world and our concerns outside. If you are inworld and are interested, use Search to locate the OccupySL group and join for information and updates related to OWS and OSL actions; the Twitter hashtag is #occupysl.

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OccupySL - Action: Stock Exchange

The virtual 1% meets the virtual 99%

The first action of OccupySL went smashingly. As planned, we rallied at the SLLU OccupySL area and agreed to act in strict accordance with #OWS principles: no griefing, no harassment, no provocative or mean comments (no violence)... just raising awareness. When all were ready, we teleported into the Exchange...

... where we were immediately greeted by MR CEO and his greeter-bots and group-join script. In fact, we were continuously asked to join the group by this bot/script even in the midst of our brief exchange with MR CEO. MR CEO seemed on the defensive from the very start, accusing us of griefing him (in the first 30 seconds) and then getting increasingly harried and aggressive (just like some RL ("real life") Banksters we know, yes?) despite our polite and friendly comments and greetings.

If virtual worlds like Second Life are a reflection and microcosm of the physical world, nothing could have illustrated these principles more plainly than our encounter at the Stock Exchange. Perhaps the questions raised earlier this year about the business model of the Stock Exchange, its treading close to the rules regarding in-game gambling and the subsequent attention had MR CEO on guard; we will never know.

What we do know is that our action mirrored events surrounding the RL Occupy Movement. The confrontation between the Bankster and the Occupiers was immediately fraught with intolerance, misunderstanding, bad communication and no curiosity, interest or even civility on the part of the Bankster.

We OccupyLEA

Action: Fallback

As agreed, and reflecting the RL Occupy Wall Street which was forced to abandon its planned Occupation of Chase Plaza for Zucotti Park (now renamed to 'Liberty Square', it's original name before Brookfield Properties bought it as a zoning requirement - kinda like the SL 'land bonus' prims), we moved to the public sandbox at LEA5 and began to set up our tents in what we have rechristened 'Liberty Squared' ().

While we were setting up, Thirza Ember, who had advance press notice of the Occupation, IMed me and told me that MR CEO was making various wild claims (again in spooky syncronism with the RL Occupy Wall Street action) that we "griefed his sim" and "used scripts to crash his sim."

Comparing notes and screenshots, we observed that the sim was set to no-script, meaning there was no possibility of us "using scripts" to do anything there, as script running functionality had been disabled (which you could verify yourself by visiting the sim).

Contrary to MR CEO's private IM dialogue with Thirza and any1 accusing us of crashing his sim (with or without scripts), we were in fact ejected and banned by group tag and then MR CEO rebooted his own sim. No one did anything to MR CEO and certainly not anything that would crash his sim; he seemed to convince Thirza of this but fortunately all chat logs and screenshots agree that the usual 2-minute-warning drop-down box indicated that MR CEO was the person who "crashed" his own sim:

[the only edits made in this chat log are to remove "so and so is online/offline" lines; the name of the STOCK EXCHANGE has been made generic and spaces are put between relevant sections for readability. Raw logs are available if needed and can be verified by Linden Lab]

OccupySL HQ

Baxter Aubin: About time to do it...
Merriam Galaxy: should we go now?
NTropy Sellers: I'm ready
Merriam Galaxy: yup :)
Ringo Stark: 3
Baxter Aubin: Yep
Ringo Stark: 2
Ringo Stark: 1
Ringo Stark: go!
Miso Susanowa: YAY!
Teleport completed from

The region you have entered is running a different simulator version. Click this message for details.

Automatic group invite SL 2.3: To join our group, open `Local Chat` and click the given link.

GREETER-BOT: Hi Miso. We hope you enjoy your visit to [STOCK EXCHANGE].
SECURITY GREETER BOT: Hello Miso. At [STOCK EXCHANGE], your safety is our top priority.

Automatic group invite SL 2.3: secondlife:///app/group/[STOCK EXCHANGE]/about
Automatic group invite SL 2.3: To join our group, open `Local Chat` and click the given link.
Automatic group invite SL 2.3: secondlife:///app/group/[STOCK EXCHANGE]/about

ANOTHER BOT (Suit Black): Hi Miso. Click on the large bottom monitors to receive a landmark and notecard on companies listed on the [STOCK EXCHANGE]. Enjoy your visit.

[STOCK EXCHANGE] Office Assistant: [another bot! Sheesh no wonder the guy crashed his own sim; it's infested with bots!]
Click the buttons below to receive more info on our services. IM MR CEO if you have any further questions. We appreciate your interest in [STOCK EXCHANGE]!

Miso Susanowa: Hello Mr Bot
Miso Susanowa: oic
Wizard Gynoid: hiya crystal.
Miso Susanowa: hi Crystal :)
MR CEO: Well this is awesome (this is the first thing he said to us!)
Ringo Stark: we are here!
Wizard Gynoid: this is what democracy looks like
Ringo Stark: and we are the 99%!
Miso Susanowa: occupy sl!
Baxter Aubin: Hiya MR CEO. :)

MR CEO: So now you're picking on someone who makes $40,000 a year?
Merriam Galaxy: Hi MR CEO
MR CEO: I think this is pretty misguided
MR CEO: I'm no millionaire
NTropy Sellers: It's not personal, MR CEO
Merriam Galaxy: it's just a symbol, MR CEO
Ringo Stark: nope
Ringo Stark: join us!
any1 Gynoid: Hiya MR CEO!
Merriam Galaxy: it's not directed at you
Merriam Galaxy: yes, please join us :)
Miso Susanowa: and if you don't make that much, then you are also the 99%
Miso Susanowa: hi! :)

MR CEO: This is my lot, so it is directed at me
Merriam Galaxy: not at all
NTropy Sellers: Well, we're not here to grief or harm. Just to raise awareness.
MR CEO: This is griefing
Merriam Galaxy: not in the least
MR CEO: Please leave my lot, I haven't done anything to any of you people
Baxter Aubin: It's directed at the media, the public, the politician. It isn't personal.
MR CEO: No, this is personal
MR CEO: I haven't done anytning to any of you
Liqwid Lancaster: lol
MR CEO: I don;t go to your lots within SL to grief
Merriam Galaxy: please, MR CEO, it really isn't
Ringo Stark: time to fly
Miso Susanowa: we've just shown up MR CEO...
NTropy Sellers: This helps you, MR CEO. We're giving you traffic and free publicity.
MR CEO: You aren't helping me at all - you are harassing me
Liqwid Lancaster: I was about to say, I never saw anyone give up free traffic :p
MR CEO: I don;t go to your lots in Sl and harass you
MR CEO: So why are you doing this to me?

Merriam Galaxy: it's not you, it's about what wall street and stock markets do
Miso Susanowa: no one's harassing you MR CEO, really
Ringo Stark: you can always eject us
Baxter Aubin: You seem like a nice guy, MR CEO. I have nothing bad to say about you personally.
Miso Susanowa: we just came! No prims, no junk, no crashing
Miso Susanowa: no violence
Merriam Galaxy: nope, we are very nice ppl

[System Message] MR CEO ejected and banned you from this land. You are no longer allowed here and have 15 seconds to leave.

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Others were able to remain for a little longer, as it took a few moments for the ejection/security program to get to them, but no one was on the sim longer than 10 minutes, and most of that 10 minutes was spent by the documenting parties at the sim border where they had been thrown by the banning.

At OccupyLEA, comparing notes

Thirza Ember: hey someone used a script to crash his sim
Thirza Ember: or so he says
Thirza Ember: I thought you guys weren't going to grief
Miso Susanowa: nope
Miso Susanowa: sticking to exactly the OWS principles
Thirza Ember: well, he says not and he's going to report you
Miso Susanowa: and no one tried any scripting at all except for the hold-sign scripts
Miso Susanowa: well, thats fine, we logged everything
Thirza Ember: you did crash his sim
Thirza Ember: i was there when it crashed
Miso Susanowa: no one griefed Thirza we all agreed on that for days now
Miso Susanowa: he did mass ejects
Miso Susanowa: and any1 is a stockholder there [any1 Gynoid is a full member of the [STOCK EXCHANGE] and thus has every business being there.

any1 Gynoid: the freaking CEO is claiming we attacked with scripts...
Miso Susanowa: did anyone try to run scripts there?
Miso Susanowa: besides simple holding scripts?
Miso Susanowa: in the signs?
Kitten Mai: Don't think so.
Merriam Galaxy: nope, not me
Ringo Stark: nope
Thisbe Blackadder: all i have is my ao
Kitten Mai: My boots may be resize scripted but that's it o_O
[again, screen captures support our claims that the land is set to NOSCRIPT]

Thisbe Blackadder: all we did was tp in and stand there *shrug*
Kitten Mai: Yup
Liqwid Lancaster: he restarted the sim
NTropy Sellers: How could we grief with scripts when no scripts are allowed on his land?
any1 Gynoid: HE crashed the sim ... he admitted that
any1 Gynoid: rebooted on purpose
NTropy Sellers: Speaking of scripts.. how does one get a script to run here when scripts are not allowed??
any1 Gynoid: He's p*ssing himself because he might lose prims or some such nonsense...
Merriam Galaxy: an angry businessman protecting his property from a perceived threat

Miso Susanowa: you say he admitted crashing his own sim?
Miso Susanowa: do you have that log pls?
any1 Gynoid: yes big time... he rebooted the sim
Miso Susanowa: he is claiming we crashed his sim
Liqwid Lancaster: He rebooted it because I got the little 2 minute warning tab as I was leaving
any1 Gynoid: plus we all saw the warning messages
Miso Susanowa: i got "you are no longer allowed here you have 15 seconds to leave
Miso Susanowa: which is some kinda [security] orb
Akabn9 Ewry: the warning messages mean it was a controlled reboot. MR CEO did it on purpose.
Merriam Galaxy: he shut it down, there was a 2 minute warning
Ringo Stark: me, i got ejected and banned
Gabriella Glenfadden: i had just arrived and got the 2 min warning
Miso Susanowa: total transparency
Kitten Mai: I just got ejected. Didn't see the 2 minute warning.
Miso Susanowa: and no one ran any scripts or anything?
Baxter Aubin: I was ejected, no warning.
Merriam Galaxy: I was ejected to the edge and couldn't walk back
NTropy Sellers: It's a no script sim.. how could we grief with scripts?
Thisbe Blackadder: i was ejected and banned at 18:39, then tped here
Merriam Galaxy: I took screen captures of it
Miso Susanowa: great Mirriam! can you send that to me email pls?

No, OccupySL did not crash the sim; the owner did [rebooted]

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The bigger story here is of course not MR CEO at all, but exactly the kind of thing that is experienced by the RL Occupy groups every day. We were polite; we did not go somewhere we had been forbidden to go [and do not plan to go again now] and yet an instant antipathy and hostility to the simple message of the 99% Occupiers came into play.

This is why OccupySL was formed; to raise awareness of these issues.

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Fortunately, the action at LEA was another parallel to the RL OWS events; As I was making the tents nice and tidy, two of the "owners" of the sims, PatriciaAnne Daviau and Solo Morningstar, came by. They expressed interest in the OccupySL movement and were very gracious and kind, giving me a tag (I had lost mine previously given when the Sandbox was new, some time ago) so that the tents could stay at in keeping with the guidelines of the self-curated gallery at LEA5. This is a reflection of the RL events at Zucotti Park in the first few days of the Occupation when the "owners" of the park, Brookfield Properties, told Mayor Bloomberg that the Occupiers could stay (before political pressure was put on them by the Forces of Wall Street).

At present, only our tents are there and a skeleton of the Media Center, which will contain links to RL Occupy information, websites and videos as well as links to the OccupySL site and actions. We will be working on those over the next few days and it should be very interesting!

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Any1 Gynoid's writeup of the Occupation of CapEx

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You can see more of our first action on Flickr in the OccupySL Group and in my own set. You can also read about the RL Occupy movement in my series 'Taking Wall Street By Twitter: an exploration of the power of electronic democracy' on my other blog, Netpolitik.

Keep Calm and Occupy Second Life

This pooled collection on Flickr - Protests, Political Art, Democracy, Social Change - is a set of photos and artwork dealing with contemporary movements of global protest, including Occupy Wall Street.
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We are the virtual 99%.
We do not forget.
We do not forgive.
Expect us!


My name is Anonymous Kitty
and I approve this message

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sororNishi said...

All excellent stuff, as usual.

Rik Panganiban said...

So how many avatars participated in this first action?

Miso Susanowa said...

Hi Rik... you'd have to ask Meeriam or any1 about that; it was hard to keep track with everything happening but from the photos it looks like about 15-20.

Sowa Mai's dog said...

make a machinima and tell the world why occupy sl

Goerg Janick wants to use caerleon to organize next week occupy sl

Miso Susanowa said...

hmmm too bad for gerog that there's already been an OccupySL group and movement in SL for a month and is already organized.

He's welcome to join as long as he followes the General Assembly model and doesn't hot-dog and grandstand.

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