World Economic Forum joins web fantasy in bid for openness

GENEVA, Jan 9, 2007 (AFP) – The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos this month will enter the virtual reality of web-based Second Life in a bid to open up the elite meeting of political and business leaders, the organisers said Tuesday.

After being televised, webcast and podcast in recent years, parts of the event will also be “vodcast” — video on demand — and blogged, while some participants will also be interviewed by a computer-generated avatar journalist on the Second Life website.

The site is an online fantasy world created by a San Francisco technology company, which counts some two million “residents” or virtual characters created by members.

The select, invitation only, Forum has been sharply criticised by anti-globalisation campaigners, who say it is unaccountable and chiefly harms the poor by promoting secret agenda-setting between business leaders and politicians.

The Forum said participants would be encouraged to join a blog for the meeting starting on January 24, while several web-based partners would feed in a selection of video and written questions and comments from the general public.

“There’s much talk about the hype surrounding Web 2.0 and whether there really is a sea change in how the I