Back in my oft-cited “Disneyfication” post, one of the things I expressed concern about was a potential bias towards advancement of “liberal” social causes in the criteria for the Linden Prize. Well, now that Linden Lab has actually released the Linden Prize finalist list, it behooves me to go back and dig deeper into the actual nominees, and see just how much liberal bias there actually is. After all, theorization should be no match for diving in and finding out, right? So let’s have a look…
Alliance Virtual Library – The Info Island project is run by the Alliance Library System, which is mainly based in Illinois. The facts that, first, it comes from a well-known liberal hotbed (the home state of President Obama, among other things), and, second, that it deals closely with local governmental agencies that are often liberal, are about the only things I can find here. Certainly they support a wide range of environments, only some of which could be said to be “liberal.” Assessment: Some liberal bias, but it’s not great.
American Cancer Society – This is the well-known Relay For Life that has been happening in SL for a few years now. My gut instinct is to say, “Cancer affects everybody, so how can this be a liberal cause?” It’s also a cause I have supported and continue to support in SL. BUT! This op-ed in the Wall Street Journal reports:
Last week the American Cancer Society announced it will no longer run ads about the dangers of smoking and other cancer-causing behaviors and the benefits of regular screenings. Instead, the Society will devote this year’s entire advertising budget to a campaign for universal health coverage. John Seffrin, the Society’s chief executive, said, “[I]f we don’t fix the health-care system . . . lack of access will be a bigger cancer killer than tobacco.”
Sadly, these ads will waste money that should be used to continue the Society’s educational campaign about prevention and detection. The evidence shows that universal health coverage does not improve survival rates for cancer patients.
“Universal health care,” a.k.a. “socialized medicine.” Ask my ex-wife, currently struggling with the Finnish health care system, exactly how much that helps. I hope ACS gets off that high horse and gets back to their core message soon. Assessment: No real liberal bias, but watch that whole “socialized medicine” thing carefully.
Invisible Threads – The folks at “Double Happiness Jeans” describe it as a “virtual sweatshop.” Uh-oh, is that a liberal codeword I hear? False alarm, though, as they describe their process, which allows SL-based employees to “manufacture” jeans from the comfort of their own homes, is kind of the antithesis of a “sweatshop” environment, and described by them as “the future of capitalist production.” True, they did have an attack from a group calling itself “Virtual Anarchy,” attempting to “unionize” the virtual workforce, but I’m hard-pressed to say, from the record, whether that was an actual griefer attack or just a publicity stunt. Assessment: No real liberal bias.
Let There Be Night – This project is also linked with something called “Dark Skies Awareness.” The concerns raised here seem to be partly based on environmental factors, and partly on the needs of scientists, specifically astronomers. I know something about the latter; my father, prior to his retirement, was a city manager in San Diego County, California, and as such was approached by astronomers at the Palomar Mountain Observatory with regard to changing street lighting to keep from spoiling their observations. The city did start employing low-pressure sodium lighting, which is more easily filtered than other types of street lighting. (As a side bonus, I got some nifty memorabilia out of it, like a copy of the earliest photo of Halley’s Comet as it approached the Sun in 1986.) The site does make some troubling references, however, to things such as the widely-publicized envirowacko “Earth Hour” event. Assessment: Some liberal bias, but doesn’t detract from the astronomical message…at least until we are able to move all astronomy to Earth orbit, or to the Moon.
Nonprofit Commons – This project is a host for many non-profit agencies’ SL presences, and, of course, some of those nonprofits are going to be lefty in nature. A few examples: WMNF, a radio station that “advocates for peace, social and environmental justice” (liberal codewords!); the Drug Policy Alliance Network, which is pro-legalization; and the Sierra Club, which is well-known as being highly liberal. However, there are some pretty good counter-examples listed among their membership as well, such as the Center for Civic Education, which promotes American political knowledge (and, let me tell you, some libbies are in desperate need of same!), and the Faith Foundation, a faith-based charity for children. Assessment: A mixed bag, which is pretty much what you’d expect.
Skoolaborate – This particular project is sponsored by existing schools, and liberal bias in primary and secondary education has been well-established at this point. See, for instance, this article from the Christian Science Monitor. The site is heavily larded with liberal codewords such as “diversity,” “international citizenship,” “issues of global significance,” “underprivileged groups,” and “inter-cultural understanding.” Furthermore, the actual “units of work” which are taught by Skoolaborate members are not open for inspection by the general public, including the parents of the children undergoing such instruction; to me, this strongly suggests a “hidden agenda.” Assessment: Clear liberal bias.
Studio Wikitecture: Open Architecture Challenge – Sponsored by the Open Architecture Network, and “dedicated to improving living conditions through innovative and sustainable design.” While the liberal codewords in that statement and the references to the UN Millennium Development Goals are troublesome, they also have a fair number of business sponsors…and, as I was telling Selenalore last night, I see no reason to condemn so-called “green building initiatives” out of hand, as long as there’s no harm in it. Assessment: Some possible liberal bias, not a lot, but caution is indicated.
The Space Between These Trees – Benefits the Kintera project. I’ll admit, my gut reaction was to dismiss them as “envirowackos” out of hand. However, I took their “Awareness Quiz,” gave what I thought were “common sense” answers to the questions, and got 6 out of 6 correct. (For instance: Hunger is not always caused by a lack of food in the world. It’s generally caused by the food being in the wrong place…and sometimes the reason why the food can’t be moved to the right place has more to do with politics than anything else.) They focus not only on giving out livestock, but on teaching the recipients to care for it properly, and encouraging them to pass the offspring of that livestock on to others in need. This is in line with the whole “Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; teach him to fish, you feed him for a lifetime” proverb, and makes plenty of sense. Assessment: Perhaps still some liberal bias, but certainly nowhere near as much as I first thought.
The Tech Virtual – This project relates to museum presences in SL, and the main museums involved seem to be focused on science, technology, and innovation. None of this is prticularly “liberal” in outlook, though their upcoming projects on “energy” and “health” would bear watching, to ensure there’s not too great a focus on “liberal” aspects of those issues, like global “climate change” or socialized medicine. Assessment: No real liberal bias, but watch those two projects I indicated.
Virtual Ability – I’m trying not to be biased by the fact that the people behind this project are fellow Coloradans. :-) They’re all about helping people with RL disabilities get ahead and thrive in SL…and some of what they say resonates a great deal with experiences friends of mine have had, and perhaps a couple of my own experiences as well. I can’t find any liberal bias in this one. Assessment: No liberal bias.
Clinical Scenarios for Increasing Patient Safety – This is tied to the British National Health Service, and, if you want a liberal can o’worms, it’s hard to find a bigger one. See, for example, this post on the MedRants blog. However, this is about improving patient safety…and anything that does that in the execrable NHS can’t be all bad, I say. Assessment: Liberal bias only insofar as it’s tied to British socialized medicine.
LanguageLab.com – It’s a language school. Really, how biased can it be? Primarily, too, it’s focused on teaching English to non-English speakers…which is a laudatory goal, as English is pretty much the de facto lingua franca (how’s that for some “borrowed” language terms?) of the planet; still, I can think of a few libbies who would be shitting bricks and sputtering “cultural hegemony!” at the thought. Assessment: No liberal bias.
The NMC Campus Project – This is all about the use of virtual worlds in higher education. The involvement of academia in this kind of project is pretty much a red flag for liberal bias; see for instance, Daniel Pipes’ essay on “conservative professors as an endangered species,” as well as, for a local angle, the case of Ward Churchill and the University of Colorado. In fact, when I clicked over to their site, the first thing on their calendar was a series of lectures entitled “Global Agenda 2009: Tinderbox – Understanding the Middle East.” (Uh-oh!) The lecture in question was fifth in a seven-lecture series, this one featuring a columnist for Israel’s leading newspaper…but this after the lecturers in lectures #1 through #4 have already drummed the liberal party line into anyone attending the whole series. Another event on their calendar relates to responses to climate change among native peoples in Alaska. (Liberal codewords!) However, you could probably get much the same content on 80% of college campuses in the land…including the one I graduated from, more’s the pity. Assessment: Liberal bias, but this is due to endemic bias among the underlying organizations, and not SL-specific.
So, tallying everything up, we have three clear instances of liberal bias and five “partial” instances, out of 13 projects total, so the situation may not be anywhere near as dire as I first thought. And, in all cases, none of the bias was specific to being in SL, but was all a function of the underlying organizations. Now, on the other hand, there was no instance of any finalist project having a conservative bias of any nature…whether this was due to bias on the part of the Linden Prize selection committee, or simply due to the fact that there just weren’t any “conservative” projects for them to choose from, I don’t have enough information to say. Overall, though, I’m willing to concede that my initial assessment of the Linden Prize was off-base to at least some extent, possibly completely so.
“When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong.” – Jake Houseman (to Johnny), Dirty Dancing
UPDATE: Well, according to Massively.com, the winners are Virtual Ability and Studio Wikitecture. That’s one “no bias” entry, and one “some bias” entry…and LL doesn’t live down to either my expectations or Prok’s (he thought Skoolaborate would take it). Consider me corrected…at least for now. However, keep your eye on the prize (as it were), as there’ll be plenty of opportunity for LL to show liberal bias in the future.