Two virtual representations of Guantanamo Bay prison (gitmo) have launched this week, one with the specific goal of encouraging the U.S. government to close the real prison and the other to encourage public discourse. Both projects are engaging examples of virtual advocacy, with one creating a virtual representation of the detention center in the virtual world Second Life and the other, a flash-based web site that has a video game quality to it.
Tearitdown.org, from by Amnesty International USA, is billed as an online movement to tear down the prison at Guantánamo Bay. Visitors to Web site can eliminate one pixel from a photo of Guantánamo by signing a pledge protesting the U.S. government’s detention center. This project is part of AIUSA’s America I Believe In campaign that seeks to restore America’s leadership on human rights and end abuses in the war on terror. All 500,000 petitions will be delivered in person to the president, encouraging the U.S. government to close the real prison.
The site departs from the typical online advocacy tactic of getting people to sign a online petition with some compelling messaging and forwarding it via email to friends. After you sign the petition, the online pledge rips a pixel from a photograph depicting hooded and handcuffed prisoners at the detention site. The pixel is replaced with your name and is left behind. Indeed, after I signed the petition,a pointer to the pixel with name on it. I saw there mesmerized watching the animation and reading the other names of the petition signers (not all 47,000 of them, though) and was offered a badge to put on my social networking profile or blog.
The Web site includes case studies, other actions and information about upcoming protest concerts happening around the country in the next six months.
Earlier in the week, USC Institute for Media Literacy and the Seton Hall School of Law launched a "Virtual Guantanamo" to focus on public policy issues surrounding the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center. The first in a series of monthly discussions about various political, legal and ethical questions surrounding the detention center, the program on Monday focused on constitutional questions relevant to Guantanamo. The mixed-reality discussion took place in real life at Seton Hall and in the virtual world, Second Life. Blogger Rik Riel writes about his harrowing experience as a virtual prisoner there.