Posts Tagged ‘cnn’

Finding Real Meaning in Virtual Memorials

September 11, 2009

The terrorist attacks eight years ago today were an assault on “civilization and modernity itself,” diplomat Dennis Ross told the 9/11 Commission. What then would the attackers and their sympathizers think of virtual anniversary commemorations in the online role playing game Second Life?

Mirroring real life ceremonies, users in the popular multi-player environment honored the attacks’ 2,976 victims through prayer, candlelightings and memorials. Their activities even drew media coverage, from citizen journalists on CNN’s iReport.com.

I attempted to light a virtual candle. Being a n00b, I’m not sure whether I was successful. If you come across the message “Samuel Auggers has dedicated this candle to the victims of 9/11”, that was me. In a real life tie-in, candlelighters were given the opportunity to donate to Tuesday’s Children, a nonprofit that assists the families of those killed in the attacks. As hard as I tried to get into it, I found the experience about as emotional as online shopping. For an injured firefighter too weak to join his peers at their real life ceremony, however, it could be extraordinarily powerful.

9/11 candle lighting in Second Life

That firefighter is probably the type of user organizers had in mind when they created the Second Life 9/11 Memorial Event. The event, complete with a 21-gun salute and bagpipers, is based on real life police and fire traditions. Only real life first responders or avatars with stellar reputations are allowed to be in the honor guard or assume other ceremonial positions.

Elsewhere, Second Life users have constructed an immaculate granite memorial, including photographs of many of the victims, where users can leave flowers.

911sl1

Again, offering an outlet for those unable to attend real life events is the most obvious utility for these virtual commemorations. It’s easy to see other applications, however. While legal wrangling has delayed real life memorials in New York and Shanksville, Pa., their Second Life counterparts could already be receiving guests. Also, with virtual memorials, the potential for them to be targeted for a subsuquent attack — I’ll leave Second Life terrorism for another blog post — is less of a concern.

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