Thursday, March 11, 2004


Continuing my conversation with Amsterdam Becquerel, who's researching an academic paper on the subculture of Second Life...

AB: What do you see as some of the larger moral questions concerning participation in worlds like SL?

Avatar ethics versus personal morality: what are the limits of appropriate behavior and intent for your avatar, versus your personal, offline behavior? Almost anyone who plays an MMOG has to deal with this dillema, if they have a real-world, committed romantic partner. Is it permissable to flirt, or even engage in virtual sex scenes, in-world, in a way you'd never do in the material world, if that behavior would offend your partner? In Second Life, and in most other MMOGs, there are systemic ways of punishing bad behavior (griefing, hate speech, and so on)-- there's already a God of the system who's created a disincentive for unethical action. So it seems to me that the overarching moral question online, really, is how you handle choices of the virtual heart.

AB: Are there problems with governance in worlds like SL? I often make the comparison in my head between what’s going on here with creating societies in the real world, like the American frontier of the 1800s. There’s a kind of struggle to create a society of laws that are respected and abided by, and a problem with figuring out who has jurisprudence in cases of dispute. Is this accurate?

Somewhat. Second Life is like the American frontier-- except that here, the Greek gods
are hovering over the range, and they sometimes come down and intercede in the affairs
of the cowboys and settlers. So in the day-to-day, hour-by-hour experience of the game,
yes, residents are working out an unofficial set of mores, traditions, peer groups, and when
necessary, societal ostracization against misfits and bad actors, and taken together, all this
and more creates a fairly coherent system of de facto governance. This governance lines
up with the code of the gods (i.e., Linden Lab's terms of service and community standards),
enhancing it, rather than contradicting it. However, when [the] Lindens' rules are violated,
the gods must come down, and exact punishment. Inevitably, and quite unintentionally, the
god's punishments sometimes disrupt the social order of the residents. Because after the
lightning bolts come down, questions come back up, in reply. ("Why did you suspend me,
but not X?" "Why do the Lindens favor Group A, but are totally against Group B?" "Why is
Linden C so vindictive and unfair, while Linden D is so much more forgiving?") My sense is
that this puts a strain on the naturally developing order. (Fortunately, my sense is also that
these tensions are usually healed within 24 hours.) What we have is a workable but occasionally
unstable meshing of these two systems. So in terms of governance, if you want to talk about
American frontier as your analogy, I'd say it's more like Magnificent Seven meets
Clash of the Titans.

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Good Day. My home is not a place, it is people.
I am from Liechtenstein and also now am reading in English, tell me right I wrote the following sentence: "Save on flea shampoo and more at kay fresh clean flea tick scented shampoo for dogs.I immobilized the flea with a drop of liquid soap and smashed it."

Thank :-) Ofira.

Posted by: Murphy at Jul 1, 2009 2:13:08 AM