The "Second Life" of NY Times Magazine Cover Feature, CeaseFire

May 3, 2008, 4:27 AM, Posted by Susan Promislo

On 9/13/2012 CeaseFire changed its name to Cure Violence

This weekend's New York Times Magazine cover story profiles CeaseFire, a violence prevention program built on a public health model that attacks the spread of violence much like epidemiologists attack the spread of infectious diseases.  The charge it issues in its ads and print materials is clear-cut:  Stop. Shooting. People.  CeaseFire is supported by RWJF's Vulnerable Populations portfolio, and its innovative "violence interruption" strategies are making a real difference on the streets of Chicago and increasingly, as the article notes, in other urban centers plagued by gun crimes and deaths.  Among RWJF programs, CeaseFire also has been out in front in testing virtual world tools and techniques to enhance its real world impact.  In 2006, CeaseFire Deputy Director Candice Kane and her partners at the University of Illinois at Chicago's Center for the Advancement of Distance Education (CADE) attended a Games for Health West Coast meet-up in LA.  Since then, they have developed two islands in Second Life as part of their training protocol for violence interrupters and community outreach staff, helping them learn how to diffuse situations that otherwise might escalate in to violent attacks or acts of retribution. 

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CeaseFire Island avatars and streetscapes are closely modeled on real-life Chicago staff and neighborhoods...right down to the graffiti and cigarette ads plastered on the buildings.  A slide deck from CADE provides some great screenshots -- if you read the Times story, you'll recognize Janell, Tio, and others and see what their avatars look like. Coming up, we'll get the chance to talk to Candice about CeaseFire's experience in using Second Life to complement its offline training efforts, though we might have to wait for their phones to stop ringing off the hook, given the interest the Times article might spark.  Stay tuned... P.S.  The slide presentation also highlights other ways in which CADE is using virtual worlds to improve pandemic flu and bioterror-related disaster preparedness.  

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.