Congressman Markey's Avatar
I was intrigued by yesterday's Boston Globe headline informing us that "A likeness of Markey will address climate change meeting."
Well, I'm not going to get in a quibble over whether the likeness will actually be doing the addressing, or whether Congressman Ed Markey himself will be doing the addressing while what appears on screen for the delegates enjoyment if not edification will be the likeness. It's only a headline, after all.
In any case, since Markey couldn't be in Bali for the international conference on climate change - he had to stay in Washington to push for enactment of the energy bill - he decided to participate via Second Life.
Thus he needed to create an avatar (delicately headlined as "a likeness").
While he is not my representative in Congress, Markey is someone that I genuinely like and admire. He tends to be good on the issues I care about, like global warming,
And I certainly laud his decision to attend the Bali conference virtually - that much less jet fuel despoiling the environment, etc.
But why attend via Second Life?
Why not participate using widely available video conferencing technology (which, like Second Life, works over the Internet), in which you get to see the real people talking, not their avatars? Is attending via Second Life more environmentally responsible? Less of a carbon footprint?
Why else - other than the sheer trendiness of it - go as an avatar, rather than as yourself?
This is Ed Markey:
...or at least that was what he looked like a few years back. (This is the picture posted on his web site.) Ed Markey is 61 now, but I did see him at a fund-raising dinner for St. Francis House a couple of years ago, and he looks pretty good - he's still got the boyish good looks thing going. And this photo is recognizably him.
This is Congressman Ed Markey's avatar:
Hmmmm. Not so recognizably Ed Markey.
In fact, I'd say the avatar is downright creepy and weird. (But I pretty much feel that way about avatars in general.)
Markey will deliver his speech from a computer in Washington tonight and an animated 3-D version of himself will address the conference over a computer screen at the Bali meeting. Markey's avatar, dressed in a dark blue suit, white shirt, and green tie, will walk around a computerized version of the Bali conference scene as he speaks.
Markey is no doubt a geek at heart - another one of his principal concerns has long been technology - so he may be getting a kick out of the "cool factor". (Although I must ask whether there can there be any cool factor left on Second Life if 61 year old Congressmen have avatars hanging out there? I mean, I know he's a Democrat, and he is from Massachusetts, and us Baby Boomer Massachusetts Democrats have cool factor going and coming. Still...)
"We've long ago left the world of rotary phones as the exclusive means of communication," Markey told the Globe yesterday. "This makes it possible to create through the virtual world what would be impossible to accomplish in the real world because Bali is one of the remotest locations in the world, and Congress is in session still working on an historic energy bill."
Good luck to Congressman Markey - or his likeness, or his avatar - with the speech. It's obviously important, and let's hope that the delegates don't find the delivery medium off-putting or distracting.
In some frames, it also appears that his onscreen doppelganger has a fairly extensive combover.
Well, at least Markey didn't go for an avatar that makes him look like Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt.
I guess the avatar combover is all the more reason to like Ed Markey.
As I said, I don't live in his district. But if I did, I'd surely vote for Ed Markey.
Since I don't, well, I guess I'll just have to get me an avatar and have my avatar vote for his avatar.