Look out avatars, there's a new kid on the block. He's a few years older than your average teenage computer geek, prefers a grey suit to cargo pants, and is slightly more political. His name is Congressman George Miller, and he chose to take his message beyond the grounds of Capital Hill and into the virtual world of Second Life.
Last month, Miller took the opportunity to address a lucky crowd of avatars (by invitation only) in a virtual House of Representatives. The discussion focused on the Democrats' initiatives for the new congress, and Miller spent a half-hour answering questions from fellow avatars.
Miller's presence in Second Life was not the first by a politician; former Presidential hopeful Mark Warner gave an interview last year.
Second Life offers an unusual way for politicians to interact with constituents. It has the potential to create more open access to congress by offering events such as Miller's press conference, where "Joe Avatar" can attend events and access his congressman "virtually" directly. However, access to this web community requires a type of internet connection strong enough to support the graphic-laden and interactive technology. In order to sustain this type of high-bandwidth content, which is becoming more common as the internet grows, ISPs must be willing to step up to the plate and offer technology that meets all users' needs.
For now, Miller says, Second Life is "going to develop into an important forum for members of Congress of both parties." Yet for this forum to really take off, it may be necessary to close the digital divide and open-up high-speed access to all internet users.
For those interested in starting your own Second Life, you can take the plunge here.