Posts Tagged ‘understanding islam through virtual worlds’

Rita J. King’s Award-Winning Gov2.0 Speech

Video of Rita J. King's award-winning O'Reilly Gov2.0 Summit presentation

Video of Rita J. King's award-winning O'Reilly Gov2.0 Summit presentation

O’Reilly Media has uploaded the video of Rita J. King’s recent award-winning presentation at the O’Reilly Gov2.0 Summit and Expo. The video only shows the powerpoint images. For an idea of how the speech was delivered from the audience’s perspective, see image below.

Rita J. King speaking at the O'Reilly Gov 2.0 Summit

Rita J. King speaking at the O'Reilly Gov 2.0 Summit

UPDATE: You can also view the awards ceremony, posted below. Rita J. King appears about six minutes and 30 seconds in.

Gov2.0 awards ceremony, featuring Rita J. King (about 6 mins, 30 seconds in)

Gov2.0 awards ceremony, featuring Rita J. King (about 6 mins, 30 seconds in)

Rita J. King: Gov 2.0 Hero

Rita J. King joins Craig Newmark, among others, as a Gov2.0 Hero

Rita J. King joins Craig Newmark, among others, as a Gov2.0 Hero

Congratulations to Rita J. King for being recognized by Government social media site as Gov 2.0 Hero. The complete list of Gov 2.0 Heros is here. Also included in the list is EPA Gov 2.0 guru Jeffrey Levy (who, coincidentally, bears the distinction of being the person who introduced me to the Internet in 1991.)

Each Gov 2.0 Hero is asked a series of questions about their thoughts on government and technology. Rita’s entire response is worth a read, but here’s an excerpt:

What was your path to Gov 2.0?

I’ve been studying the cultural effects of digital anonymity since 1996, but when I discovered a Muslim woman in a virtual Jewish synagogue in Second Life in 2006 I realized that global culture had entered a powerful new realm. The idea of “avatars” is polarizing. Some people instantly see the benefit of this new form of identity and community construction while others, believing that avatars dehumanize people, are appalled. I was not a gamer, nor did I ever expect to be mesmerized by the virtual world of Second Life after a friend of mine who works at IBM suggested that I check it out. I was reading Joseph Campbell’s “The Power of Myth,” and I searched on temples, synagogues, churches and mosques during my first few hours and days in Second Life, which was how I found myself at prayer services in a virtual Jewish synagogue speaking to a Muslim woman.

On September 8 at the O’Reilly Gov 2.0 Expo, Rita J. King will be discussing “Digital Diplomacy: Understanding Islam through Virtual Worlds” as part of the Government as Peacekeeper section.

DIP Speaking at Gov2.0 Expo

DIP will be presenting Understanding Islam through Virtual Worlds on September 8

DIP will be presenting Understanding Islam through Virtual Worlds on September 8

DIP is pleased to be among the featured speakers at the upcoming O’Reilly Media Gov2.0 Expo. Rita J. King and I will be speaking on the changing landscape for Cultural Diplomacy and discussing our case study “Digital Diplomacy: Understanding Islam through Virtual Worlds.” Our project explores how project explores how foreign policy can augment existing physical world engagement with Islamic communities worldwide by utilizing complex, nuanced opportunities provided by 3d Immersive spaces.

Follow us @ritajking on Twitter for updates or @ reply us to let us know if you’ll be there.

Digital Diplomacy: Toward a Culture of Experimentation

Image credit: <a href=

Image credit: Lynn.

Pax Bellona blog has posted a solid analysis with recommendations reacting to Secretary of State Clinton’s new digital diplomacy outreach efforts. The recommendations include:

BlogTV – Allows users to create their own live streaming webcams
BitBomb – A text message reminder service that sends reminders to your cell phone
Sendible – Allows users to schedule email and text messages (such as for birthdays)
Doodle – An extremely simple scheduling/coordination program that requires no signup (I did use this to schedule my first year review with two busy professors – I was able to schedule and confirm in about two days, which I think is quite good)

These are all great tools, which I also recommend. The challenge, however, in addition to adopting these new tools, is creating a culture within the organization that reinforces entrepreneurialism and creative problem-solving. As we discussed in our recent report, “Digital Diplomacy: Understanding Islam through Virtual Worlds,” and also in a recent interview with the National Journal Online, the biggest challenge is overcoming bureaucratic stovepipes and endorsing a systemic shift in government, business and non-profit culture toward one that is agile, nimble and supportive of experimentation with new ideas and new technologies. Even adopting Pax Bellona’s good technology recommendations may not be enough.

The fact is, technology evolves faster than we can pace. Three years ago, Google was hardly a player. A year ago, the now-ubiquitous Twitter was relatively unknown. It used to be that once you got the hang of your bureaucratic position you could guarantee a degree of stability and consistency. No more.

Keeping current with technology is very much like surfing, which makes “surfing the Internet” an apt aphorism. You don’t just catch a wave and ride it forever. As each wave passes, the next one rises requiring you to paddle out to catch it and ride it — or miss it. Waves come and go. It’s a strategic mistake to assume that a wave will last forever. This motion toward constant change is antithetical to the mindset of bureaucracy. I see it as a grand opportunity for organizational culture to shift toward a more dynamic, creative mindset. It requires a degree of intellectual athleticism to keep up.

Change is an inevitable part of the way that business and government and all organizations must now operate.

(Thanks John!)

Op-Ed in Abu Dhabi’s “The National”

Screenshot from Abu Dhabi's "The National"

Screenshot from Abu Dhabi's "The National"

There’s a great op-ed in the Monday, February 16, 2009 edition of the Abu Dhabi’s “The National,” called “A ‘second life’ for public diplomacy in the Middle East.” The article explores President Obama’s public diplomacy strategy in the Middle East and has this to say about the Understanding Islam through Virtual Worlds project:

When viewed in the context of the currently rising optimism about the US handling of Middle East issues, a project of this calibre suggests that US public diplomacy in Muslim countries is developing new approaches to Arab-Islamic culture. The project’s use of Second Life virtual experiences, where internet users can interact with each other through avatars to engage in intercultural dialogue, is indeed a pioneering initiative. It may enable foreign policymakers and practitioners, corporations, NGOs and ordinary people to both understand and appreciate the nature of the Islamic faith and the communicative power of virtual space in promoting religious dialogue.

A year ago we were in Doha, Qatar — in fact, that’s where we effectively started the project — at the US Islamic World Forum and as our friends and colleagues gather in Doha right now, we’re particularly grateful for the support many of them showed for this project.

Update: The op-ed was a response to a February 10 article in The National, “Call for greater online cultural dialogue,” by Roland Hughes.

Video from the Understanding Islam through Virtual World release

Evan M. O'Neil, managing editor of PolicyInnovations.org at the January 29 event.

Evan M. O'Neil, managing editor of PolicyInnovations.org at the January 29 event.

The Carnegie Council has posted the complete video from the Thursday, January 29 release of the Understanding Islam through Virtual Worlds findings. You can watch it here.

In addition to featuring the remarks by Rita J. King and me, it includes a live performance by Iranian hip hop artist, Yas, who we first met in Doha last February at the launch of the project. Yas generously agreed to perform one of his songs about the Iranian poet Rumi.

As Rita J. King mentioned in her remarks,

“The Understanding Islam through Virtual Worlds project was guided by the 13th century Sufi mystic poet Rumi’s idea: ‘Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down upon that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’ doesn’t make any sense.’”

So it was extra special that Yas performed a song about Rumi. Special thanks to Yas and his manager, Neda Sarmast, for their support of this project and for generously appearing at the event.

Special thanks to everyone at the Carnegie Council who made last week’s event possible including Deborah, Dennis, Devin, Matt, Eva, Madeleine, Evan, Melissa, Danielle, Stefanie and Joel as well as everyone else behind the scenes who made an event that was unusual and unfamiliar to them wonderful and special for everyone.

Press Release: Understanding Islam through Virtual Worlds

Digital Diplomacy, January 2009

Digital Diplomacy, January 2009

Findings from Understanding Islam through Virtual Worlds Project
“Elevating humanity’s most distinguishing feature: the imagination.”

February 2, 2009 — After a year of research across the Internet and four continents, Dancing Ink Productions’ Rita J. King and Joshua S. Fouts, senior fellows at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, have released the findings from the Understanding Islam through Virtual Worlds project. The project was funded by a grant from the Richard Lounsbery Foundation.

The findings include a trilogy of actionable reports including policy recommendations on the potential use of virtual worlds for public diplomacy to be submitted to the Obama Administration; a mini broadcast quality documentary produced in collaboration with Ill Clan Animation Studios; and a graphic book chronicling the journey. By releasing three versions of the report Fouts and King hope to make accessible what is still a very new medium. Digital versions of the findings can be found here.

“With this report, Josh and Rita have illuminated a new path–a definite intelligible plan–for practical public diplomacy in an area of supreme urgency. Furthermore, they have done so by elevating humanity’s most distinguishing feature: the imagination,” said Joel Rosenthal, President of the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs.

The idea for Understanding Islam through Virtual Worlds project was hatched with a very specific idea in mind: How could people learn about other cultures in an authentic, experiential space — specifically, how could they learn about cultures that self-identified as Muslim? King and Fouts chose Second Life for many reasons, among them that it is the best international platform — more than 70% of its users are from outside the United States. Their goal was to to see what they could learn about Islam — not by inviting particular people with particular perspectives into Second Life, but rather to follow the trail of what was already happening culturally in the space that might yield new insight about Islam.

“Belief systems overlap now in ways that would have been unthinkable millennia ago when many of the conflicting ideas still governing human behavior today were created, but immersive virtual environments offer the perfect medium for assessment of concepts of self and community,” Rita J. King told the audience at the Carnegie Council. “It is not just a good medium, passable amid a sea of other equally effective options. It is the perfect medium, at least as an initial training ground to teach the digital culture how to engage in difficult and sensitive conversations involving real-world challenges in the complete absence of any possibility of physical violence or even any trace of intimidation. Additionally, virtual environments offer a deeper level of candor, which is necessary for true understanding.”

“Earlier this week, President Barack Obama launched the first public diplomacy campaign of his presidency by granting his first international interview to a non-US satellite television news station, Al Arabiya,” said Joshua S. Fouts in his January 29, 2009 remarks at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs. “In doing this he effectively went over the leaders of the Middle East and spoke to the people. ‘All too often,’ President Obama said, ‘the United States starts by dictating … so let’s listen.’”

This project at its foundation is about storytelling which is about understanding something new about the human condition. Public Diplomacy, Cultural Diplomacy or Strategic Communication as it is also known, are efforts by governments, NGOs, and civil societies to tell their story to foreign publics. Too often public diplomacy is criticized for being too preachy and not listening. With this project, Fouts and King listened to, and documented the narratives of, people from all over the physical world who either practice Islam, or want to further understand those who do.

Digital copies of all of the Understanding Islam through Virtual Worlds reports can be downloaded here.

For more information, see DIP’s Dispatches from the Imagination Age and the Dancing Ink Productions homepage.

Rita J. King’s remarks from the Understanding Islam through Virtual Worlds release

Following are Rita J. King’s remarks from the January 29, 2009 release of the Understanding Islam through Virtual Worlds report, presented at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs:

Thank you to The Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, the Lounsbery Foundation, Evan O’Neil, ILL Clan Animation Studios and everyone who helped us gain a greater understanding of Islam and virtual worlds while we worked on this project across four continents in the physical world and, at the same time, in a three-dimensional, digital, virtual world called Second Life. I am grateful to Joshua S. Fouts, the co-director of this project, whose visionary work hinges on the notion that exploring other cultures is an adventure and a mission.

Virtual worlds give people space to inhabit and enhance one another’s ideas. Tonight, we will be sharing a short documentary video shot entirely in Second Life, excerpts from a 150-page graphic book and policy recommendations for the Obama Administration.

While we worked on this project we didn’t know who the next American president would be. We are happy to deliver our recommendations to an administration that has already demonstrated a great awareness of the transformative power of the Internet.

The Understanding Islam through Virtual Worlds project was guided by the 13th century Sufi mystic poet Rumi’s idea: ‘Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down upon that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’ doesn’t make any sense.’
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Collaboration, Community and Culture

Collaboration, Community and Culture

We’ve uploaded the Understanding Islam through Virtual Worlds mini-documentary to YouTube. The original high-res file is broadcast quality of which we’re incredibly proud. Unfortunately, the compression quality of the YouTube version is nowhere near as nice as it looks in high-resolution. But it gets the idea across.

Compliments to the team at Ill Clan Animation Studios especially Paul Jannicola, Kerria Seabrooke and Frank Dellario whose commitment to quality and collaboration remains unparalleled in what is still a very new industry — machinima video productions. They really moved this video from something potentially ordinary to something that captured the true visual beauty of what we saw during our year on this project. Because machinima video production is still so new it is considered a bit of a novelty by the film and broadcast industry. In addition to top notch creative work, the Ill Clan’s level of attention to detail, such as lighting, resolution and story is unparalleled. The work that Paul, Kerria and Frank have recorded inside Second Life is competitive with much of today’s top quality animation. See their serial, oft-times hysterical soap operatic “Tiny Nation” for an example of their high productions standards (and comedic timing). Note to Hollywood: Option these folks.

As one viewer told me on Thursday after seeing the documentary, the beauty of the Understanding Islam through Virtual Worlds documentary video helped them understand how the sacred is manifest in Second Life.

Note particularly how Paul and Kerria’s camerawork captures the gleam on the marble inside Second Life’s Al Andalus mosque.

Thank you Ill Clan!
Collaboration, Community and Culture

January 29 Understanding Islam through Virtual Worlds is FULLY BOOKED.

The January 29 release of Understanding Islam through Virtual Worlds is fully booked.

The January 29 release of Understanding Islam through Virtual Worlds is fully booked.

Response to the January 29 release event for the Understanding Islam through Virtual Worlds reports has been overwhelming and has exceeded the space limitations at the Carnegie Council.

If you RSVP’ed on Metaverse Meet-up or on Facebook only and not via the Carnegie Council website, you may not be guaranteed a seat.

The virtual version of the Understanding Islam release will be the following day, Friday, January 30 at 1pm Eastern. To RSVP for this event, please send an IM to Dee Elcano in Second Life. Space is limited for this event.

The Second Life event will screen Understanding Islam through Virtual Worlds machinima, created by Dancing Ink Productions and ILL Clan Animation Studios as well as digital copies of our policy recommendations and graphic book.

If you can’t make either of these events, we will be taking questions via Twitter at 3pm Eastern on Friday, January 30. You can follow us at @eurekadejavu and @josholalia.

Digital versions of all the reports will be made available January 29.