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Aug 28, 2005

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In the end, this may all be academic (people don't like losing their online identity, especially when they helped build a community). But the questions around identity may be something that teachers should start looking at as many students have rathe... [Read More]

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In the end, this may all be academic (people don't like losing their online identity, especially when they helped build a community). But the questions around identity may be something that teachers should start looking at as many students have rathe... [Read More]

Comments

1.

Why do we need these boxes?

What purpose do they serve?

All the divisions: the Four/Six/Eight/Whatever Player Types, the Three/Four/Whatever Worlds,

They are all arbitrary, since you can slice up the pie an infinite number of ways. They seem to me to all be attempts to force human complexity to fit into personal, idiosyncratic world-views.

Our entire culture is obssessed with dividing and labeling things into non-overlapping distinct categories, according to race, class, and worse, the polarized binary divisions of male/female, Left/Right, liberal/conservative, patriot/traitor, married/single, gay/straight, greed/non-greed, good/evil, capitalist/communist, My Religion/Wrong, etc etc.

All these divisions do is trap our thinking. They deceive us into simplistic models and we end up treating complex human beings with overlapping interests, interacting in a complex, multi-dimensional overlapping intertwined culture, as if they were descrete things with sharp edges that fit nicely into little boxes.

Even when there are truly binary choices, such as male/female or gay/straight, focusing on them obscures the complexity and fuzziness of the boundaries: it leads to artificial distinctions such as "boy-games and girl-games" or "chick-flicks and guy-movies", as if no man ever cries and no woman ever fixes an engine.

The value of any analysis, in my opinion, is in the illumination it provides, the new understanding it yields.

Other than a basis for dissertations, what actual constructive purpose is served by these artificial
"world" divisions?

Does it help us design worlds any better?

I think not. It gives us convenient lines within which to color, and it gets us thinking in terms of what kind of world are we going to make our players player in, rather than thinking in terms of what kind of tools can we provide to empower our players to play their own games.

No offense intended, since you are merely following in a long tradition of divide-and-conquer. I am not criticizing your particular division, rather the whole need to divide in the first place. Designers are better served by an interdisciplinary, holistic approach, in my opinion.

2.


Ren>

I suggest only that it maybe useful when we are talking about legal, perhaps moral and possibly other contexts.

galiel>
I am not criticizing your particular division, rather the whole need to divide in the first place. Designers are better served by an interdisciplinary, holistic approach

I sense you are both right. But let me ask. Ren - why do you think this taxonomy is useful per contexts Id'd? Galiel - can you tell us why an interdisciplinary, holistic approach is best (beyond the intuition I sense many of us probably agree with)?

As for my personal 0.02, I think taxonomies are useful. But I also appreciate the criticism that they can obfuscate if misapplied. The question is always a min-max one. Is the trade-off to insight worth it.

3.


Nate>
(beyond the intuition I sense many of us probably agree with)

Just to clarify. I empathize with the intuition, but worry it sounds too fuzzy to be useful (the crux of my question to galiel above). Are we back to taxonomies?

4.

why an interdisciplinary, holistic approach is best

1) people are interdisciplinary and holistic. If you design for people, it makes sense to design for how people really are.

2) It trains you to avoid simplistic answers and exposes unconscious assumptions.

3) It avoids the fallacy that you are designing for a fixed system, rather than a fluid one; the latter requires a more anticipatory, facilitative design approach, rather than a dictatorial, rigid one.

4) because experience shows us that, once we adopt these taxonomies, they tend to limit and shape our thinking. Often, they become real only because we culturally treat an artifice as if it were a natural law. In otherwords, one of the greatest reasons not to adopt rigid taxonomies in design, is because they are inevitably abused.

5) It broadens your potential market. I know it is tantamount to holy scripture that we must design for a specific, preferably narrow, demographic, whether we are tailoring a marketing message, a political platform, or a game narrative; I also think that that emperor has no clothes, to mix metaphors.

The most lasting human endeavors, in all fields and media, are those which transcend demographics and narrow appeals to lowest common denominators, and instead appeal to that which is essentially human in all of us.

The greatest aspiration of a world-designer, in my opinion, should be to create universal truths, those being experiences that are enjoyed across traditional market-segment boundaries.

5.

I'm lucky to be working with Ren on an identity workshop for SOPIII.

I emailed him some questions and he suggested that I post them here, so here they are:

I'd like to imagine a metaverse that is all these things. So are you thinking there would be separate domains that have different identity functions within that metaverse?

Jack Balkin has tried to define these different kinds of worlds, and I'm not completely persuaded. How can you know, before you start, what kind of world you've got? Won't the nature of any given world change over time? Won't norms emerge that suit the players?

Doesn't governance (which we could define as "how change happens") end up being the most interesting question, rather than what rules should be applied in the first place?

Another vector: There may be an overlap between social worlds online (which you define as a world) and the geographic world. Nodes and networks are imposed (virtually, invisibly) on the terrestrial world. Offline, how could anyone "own" a social world in the same way a ludic world is controlled?

Social worlds exist terrestrially as well, after all -- social networks are the way the world works. It may be worth noting that within the geographic world all these virtual worlds exist, invisibly.

As far as identity goes, "universal truths" seem tricky. But I'm all ears.

Susan

6.

I think its useful because I read and write about virtual worlds and law. When doing this, there is a tendency to be particular or very general. What I wanted to do was come up with a taxonomy that could add a level of nuance to these discussions. As I note, this taxonomy is not universal, it use specific. It may have more uses than the one I have outlined it may not.

Or look at it like this. One might ask the question: should there be free speech in virtual worlds. In fact quite a few people do ask that question. So we can either talk about, say WoW. Or ‘virtual worlds’. I thought that categories and reasons for those categories might move things forward.

7.

In the context of a free speech discussion, the only relevant taxonomy I can see is commercial vs. non-commercial vs. peer-to-peer open-source worlds.

Just as we allow corporations to substantially suspend our civil liberties between 9:00AM and 5:00PM, discussions about "free speech" in commercial MMOs serve only to obscure the nature of these worlds, and to give the developers some illusions of nobility.

In non-commercial controlled worlds, the degree of free speech is still subject to the whim of the developer, but at least there is the potential.

Only in a peer production, p2p-hosted, open-source environment, where there would free speech have any substance or power. At the moment there are no examples of such worlds, at least not at a level to compete with the commercial worlds, but that is about to change.

Just as "free speech" is bullshit on a Microsoft support forum, so "free speech" is bullshit in Everquest.

But free speech is most definitely not bullshit.

The question, however, is not "should there be free speech in virtual worlds", but rather "should there be virtual worlds free of corporate or private control". There should, and there will be.

This is a case where categories and labels are useful, just as there is a utility to differentiating between a team sport and a solo sport. But, if we were having this conversation five or more years ago, we'd have missed the third category, and thought only about commercial vs. amateur. The emergence of peer production as a third way is instructive as to the danger of these categories.

The further danger is when we start to slice things along axes that don't correspond to any physical limitation.

When we categorize a player as "Griefer", we limit not only our interaction with them but their playing possibilities as well. When we categorize a world as "ludic", we discount the value of social responsibility.

If each choice limits us and perpetuates assumptions, I suggest proceeding with caution.

Again, I did not reject your particular division in favor of another, nor do I reject all taxonomy on some kind of emotional or abstract principle.

I just think we should look at whether a particular set of labels help us develop better world, or understand existing worlds better.

8.

In defense of theory that generates categories. I would say that to essentialize the project of generating useful categories for the purpose of understanding a complex system as an exercise that leads to essentialist relations that obfuscate complexity is well kind… ironic no? It’s kind of the glass is half full vs. the glass is half empty. The purpose of theory is to create manageable models for complex realities, with the implicit understanding that all models are, by nature of the flaws of human representation, rough approximation and thus incomplete. A model that accommodates complexity to an extent that renders it meaningless as a tool to understand coherent and consistent relations between actors in a system is as epistemologically flawed as one that simplifies a social system into caricatures. Categories and their relationships ,such as those Ren presented, are useful as a starting point (yes even dichotomies). They make simple a complex set of relations…from there we can begin looking into the complexities of the system. I would rather have a rough road map than a road map that needs a road map that needs a road map…I understand the problem of framing and construction but one can be mindful of these.

In virtual spaces inalienable rights are exchanged for play freedoms...identity shifting for example…Now, would it not be better to think of these categories as nested…that is….in a civil world no right is exchanged because all are observed (it seem almost a utopia since the laws would adhere to all rights and assumes that none might be mutually exclusive…are some? if so how could such a world be?) In a social world one doesn’t give up rights as much as freedoms…if we are to stick to the jargon of political philosophy…in exchange we get liberty…thus the freedom of identity shifting is exchanged for the liberty that say economic stability can bring…and in ludic worlds freedoms and rights lose meaning since they are all alienable (well exchangeable anyway) for the purposes of play? The nested part comes when I think that a ludic world could not exist without at least the existence of a social world. So these two are related in this manner.

A theme in Ren’s three categories is Identity and how one comes to “own” it and control it …It seems that in Ludic worlds we give up other “rights” so as to be able to do with identity what we please, in social worlds the incentives to maintain stable identity are the preservation of other rights or privileges that would be withheld were we to choose to make identity unstable So, ludic worlds are governed by EULA’s, social worlds by norms, and civil worlds by enlightened law…it seems that ludic worlds are worlds of interminable alienability (again exchangeability) whose governance is structured by a EULA…my question is at what point does one say a EULA does not have authority (in the political sense…where general Will would not hold one accountable to it, or it is not in the Common Good, or not for the greatest good, choose your favorite philosopher)?

9.

The greatest aspiration of a world-designer, in my opinion, should be to create universal truths, those being experiences that are enjoyed across traditional market-segment boundaries.

I cannot express how deeply I admire and agree with that statement.

This stated, I think a compromise can be had (even though Ren hasn't actually responded to galiel yet!). And it's pretty simple.

Ren declared, in his initial post, the presence of an Axis of Identity, along which he defined his theory. galiel asks for a more holistic and interdisciplinary approach, which, while it seems less cogent, is nonetheless Right.

So instead of creating three or four boxes and dropping worlds into them, why not start out with precisely that Axis of Identity Ren spoke of?

All virtual worlds, by Bartle's definition, retain some form of Avatar. The closeness of static relationship between this Avatar and the Player would move a virtual world along this axis. So, in a Civic-World, you'd have an extremely close relationship, whereas in a Ludic-World, you'd have an extremely distant relationship.

I retain the usage of Ren's terminology mostly because there doesn't exist a Civic-World that we know of, and I don't feel capable of stating the extent to which player identity meshes wish avatar identity in games I haven't played, like WoW and EQ.

10.

Ren,
While I empathize with the urge to catgorize, I seems like you're going to run into at least two classes of problems. The first is that worlds of one type may fully contain worlds of another type -- for example, the geographic world currently contains many ludic worlds or mmorpgs build within Second Life. The second is the tension between the world defined by the designers/creators and the world defined by the players/residents -- eg, Sims shadow government in TSO, political debate in ludic games, etc.

I think that your free speech question is particularly difficult in light of these problems (as we've previously kicked around with Professor Balkin). Also, beware the siren's song of identity somehow being less important in Ludic worlds . . .

c

11.

Two more points. (And since I posted, I noticed I posted after a couple other people... damn forgetting to refresh.)

Does it help us design worlds any better?

The thing about Terra Nova is that it is, in no way, interested in actually building a world. It is a forum for the discussion of virtual worlds, and it promotes academic discourse.

I think someone else said it, too, but this might not help us DESIGN better, but it sure might help us TALK better, that is to say, more intelligibly.

I forgot my other point.

12.

One alternative to chopping up descrete chunks along an axis is to think in terms of a continuum.

De Bono would contrast this:

|....|.....|.....|.....|.....|

With this:


X X X X X
<----------------------------->


Or, even better (two-dimensions are always dangerous), with this:


|> X |>
| |
| X X |
| | X
X X X

(supposed to represent a couple of flagpoles, with positions scattered around them. If it were simpler in ASCII, I would have drawn several flagpoles).

This way, a world can have a strong ludic focus with social elements and a touch of civics....

13.

OK, that didn't work and I didn't preview, my bad. I'll try again in a minute.

14.

This:

|_______|_______|_______|_______|

Vs.

<--X--------X----------------X-->

(For the third option, can't figure out how to represent flagpoles in a 2D field with various targets interpreted in terms of each one's relationship to all of the flagpoles. img tag doesn't seem to work here or I'd upload a gif.)

15.

Try [pre] tag, galiel. I think [code] works, too.

In any case, this is what I'm seeing:
Ren's "civil world" is a world with a identities that are static and immalleable on player whim. You are who you are and you can't pretend to be someone else. A "ludic world" is a world where identities can be (nearly) as dynamic as the player chooses, where you can have different genders, races, economic backgrounds, attributes, etc.

There are other axes you might play with, like "freedom/tyranny" and "democratic/dictatorial". Then you can say a particular virtual world demonstrates "dynamic identity, freedom, and dictatorial" characteristics, or another one has "somewhat static, freedom, and republic" characteristics.

16.

Try [pre] tag, galiel. I think [code] works, too.

Brain cramp. Of course, pre...

One of the biggest problems I have with categorization in reference to virtual worlds is that the current spectrum of offerings is sooo limited;

I worry that we will narrow our forward visions by defining the range of possibilities by what we have so far (the danger of labels...)

17.

In other words, when new, truly innovative things come out, we will strain to force them into our existing taxonomy.

Virtual worlds are not fossils.

18.

Michael:
The thing about Terra Nova is that it is, in no way, interested in actually building a world. It is a forum for the discussion of virtual worlds, and it promotes academic discourse.

Ah, here we go with limiting taxonomies :-)

Terra Nova is a mix of world-studiers and world-builders, is it not?

There may even be those among us who do both.

As well, discussion about virtual worlds does not have to be contrained to looking at how they work now, but pondering how they might work differently.

Finally, as I have rather crudely illustrated, there are more ways to identify things than to put them in descrete boxes. There are more fluid, analog ways of viewing the world.

N'est pas?

19.

It might be worth reading Ren's section on "Civil-worlds" then.

They don't exist, as of right now, and it's in his taxonomy.

20.

Nate > As for my personal 0.02, I think taxonomies are useful. But I also appreciate the criticism that they can obfuscate if misapplied. The question is always a min-max one. Is the trade-off to insight worth it.
Indeed and if this one hides more than it reveals then it’s not a good one.

The reason I went with the split along identity lines is that it seemed to me that the ability to identify people seems to be core to much of the practice law and ethics, identities are things that right, duties, freedoms and responsibilities attach to. It also seems that playing with identity is something that is more than just trivially good - hence the scale.

I think the real use will come in the book keeping of the detail. That is when we are asking questions about things like speech in a given virtual world I think that these considerations are useful frames in which to look at the context and the law and assumptions that may or may not pertain.

One outcome might be that the world-frame or specific context has a bundle of rights and duties, or possible goods and harms that don’t fit into pre-existing categories. But then I’ve long argued that trying to fit virtual stuff into our current framework might be a practical way of going about things but probably missed the uniqueness and the value of the circumstance.

Also, I’ve been alluding to pretty much this same argument for about 3 or so years, so I thought I would just write it down for once.

21.

Nate > As for my personal 0.02, I think taxonomies are useful. But I also appreciate the criticism that they can obfuscate if misapplied. The question is always a min-max one. Is the trade-off to insight worth it.
Indeed and if this one hides more than it reveals then it’s not a good one.

The reason I went with the split along identity lines is that it seemed to me that the ability to identify people seems to be core to much of the practice law and ethics, identities are things that right, duties, freedoms and responsibilities attach to. It also seems that playing with identity is something that is more than just trivially good - hence the scale.

I think the real use will come in the book keeping of the detail. That is when we are asking questions about things like speech in a given virtual world I think that these considerations are useful frames in which to look at the context and the law and assumptions that may or may not pertain.

One outcome might be that the world-frame or specific context has a bundle of rights and duties, or possible goods and harms that don’t fit into pre-existing categories. But then I’ve long argued that trying to fit virtual stuff into our current framework might be a practical way of going about things but probably missed the uniqueness and the value of the circumstance.

Also, I’ve been alluding to pretty much this same argument for about 3 or so years, so I thought I would just write it down for once.

22.

Susan > I'd like to imagine a metaverse that is all these things. So are you thinking there would be separate domains that have different identity functions within that metaverse?

Yes.

>How can you know, before you start, what kind of world you've got?
The code, context and services. Ludic-worlds have a fiction that serves the game, they have game features coded into them e.g. characters have levels, there are quests etc.

>Won't the nature of any given world change over time?
Probably, I’m not sure how to handle change, though I mentioned in the orignoal post that I could see a social-world becoming a game-one, I can see it happening the other way round.

>Won't norms emerge that suit the players?
In an in-world sense, yes. Virtual spaces are very norming. However I’m looking at a wider sense about the role of things like the developer, the right of privacy etc., I’m not sure I see these things developing in the same way or at least not at an adequate pace.

> Doesn't governance (which we could define as "how change happens") end up being the most interesting question, rather than what rules should be applied in the first place?
In terms of interest of question I personally think that most interesting one is a philosophical one about what identity is in a digital age; but that’s just me. The important practical question is about governance, yes.

>Another vector: There may be an overlap between social worlds online (which you define as a world) and the geographic world. Nodes and networks are imposed (virtually, invisibly) on the terrestrial world. Offline, how could anyone "own" a social world in the same way a ludic world is controlled?
Professional sports bodies tend to own things in a similar way to ludic-world owners. A bunch of people especially TNs Greg have written about MMOs in relation to sports regulation.

>Social worlds exist terrestrially as well, after all -- social networks are the way the world works. It may be worth noting that within the geographic world all these virtual worlds exist, invisibly.

Noted, but what conclusion does this lead to?


>As far as identity goes, "universal truths" seem tricky. But I'm all ears.
Oh it’s all contingent thus far.

23.

Hector > at what point does one say a EULA does not have authority (in the political sense…where general Will would not hold one accountable to it, or it is not in the Common Good, or not for the greatest good, choose your favorite philosopher)?

Hmmm,thinks,,, I’ll have to get back to you on that one. It’s a very interesting question.

24.

Cory >The first is that worlds of one type may fully contain worlds of another type -- for example, the geographic world currently contains many ludic worlds or mmorpgs build within Second Life.

I’m trying not to talk about Second Life for the moment. The reason being that it is a very interesting case, but, this time I’d like to deal with the general a bit more before the particular.

In short I think that one type of world can exist within another, and I tend to think of this order physical > civil > social > ludic, just in case the structure of both can be maintained, that is if I am in a civil world and I want to play within in, in a ludic-world (of the type I define) then I must be afforded the ability to maintain fixity of identity with relation to civic matters and fluidity with respect to ludic ones. If not then one starts to slide into the other. You can play chess very well in civic worlds as you would trust that the player you were playing against was the same person, as we move along the scale this might become less certain c.f. deep blue at this point.


>The second is the tension between the world defined by the designers/creators and the world defined by the players/residents -- eg, Sims shadow government in TSO, political debate in ludic games, etc.

Yes, this is a big topic. I’m guilty of really not looking into it with respect to these categories.

>I think that your free speech question is particularly difficult in light of these problems (as we've previously kicked around with Professor Balkin).

Yes, which is why I like it as a test case. I think that privacy is even harder which is why I’m working on that in particular.


>Also, beware the siren's song of identity somehow being less important in Ludic worlds . . .

I don’t think it’s less important, it think it’s differently important.

25.

galiel>Why do we need these boxes?

If nothing else, so we can limit what we have to put in our "other worlds" sidebar...

>What purpose do they serve?

These particular proposals of Ren's seem to be proposing a vocabulary that we can use to distinguish between virtual worlds for different purposes. Any new research field needs to develop its own terms in order that researchers can communicate with one another succinctly and less ambiguously. In the olde days, we had "game worlds" and "social worlds"; these still work as terms, but they only work for virtual worlds in which the magic circle holds. Ren is proposing that we need some way of referring to the virtual worlds in which the magic circle doesn't hold, or at least holds to a lesser degree.

>All the divisions: the Four/Six/Eight/Whatever Player Types, the Three/Four/Whatever Worlds, They are all arbitrary, since you can slice up the pie an infinite number of ways.

I can slice up your thoughts an infinite number of ways: does this make them arbitrary?

>They seem to me to all be attempts to force human complexity to fit into personal, idiosyncratic world-views.

The same can be said of generalisations such as the one above.

If you are against categorisation as a concept, you've lost the battle already. Words are categorisations for concepts, therefore applying them to argue against categorisation is to argue against yourself.

What you can argue against is bad categorisation or useless categorisation. If my player types theory split people into types depending on what letters their names began with, that would be a useless categorisation (at least in game design terms; psychologists might make something of it). If my theory were to split people by the absolute level of their main character, that would be a bad categorisation because different virtual worlds have different advancement structures (although it could be OK if it referred to a single virtual world).

What's not going to work is your attack on categorisation itself as a valid tool for investingating virtual worlds.

>Our entire culture is obssessed with dividing and labeling things into non-overlapping distinct categories

Whereas you'd prefer to have it supplanted by one that is obsessed with wild generalisations (such as the one above, again)?

>All these divisions do is trap our thinking.

Well, to be fair, that's not all they do. They also enable us to talk about related concepts in a cogent and well-understood way. Sure, some people without a great deal of intelligence might be unable to think outside these categories, but I feel that in general members of the human race are somewhat brighter than that.

>Even when there are truly binary choices, such as male/female or gay/straight

Huh, the one time you concede that there are sometimes truly binary choices, you give examples that aren't truly binary...

>The value of any analysis, in my opinion, is in the illumination it provides, the new understanding it yields.

So can I take it that you're actually in favour of Ren's categorisation, then, given that it does actually illuminate the current way that virtual worlds are viewed and does yield new understanding?

>Other than a basis for dissertations, what actual constructive purpose is served by these artificial "world" divisions?

Other than getting it off your chest, what actual constructive purpose is served by posting to Terra Nova on this subject? Are people going to think, "Gee, galiel is right, from now on no more categorisations! Spread the word, friends, and let us overthrow this tyrrany!"? No, they're not. They're going to continue to use categorisations that work because, wouldn't you know it, they work.

>Does it help us design worlds any better?

For some categorisations, yes. I don't think Ren's is particularly aimed at that - it's more to do with discussing the way that people use virtual worlds - but my own player types theory does indeed help people design worlds better (leastwise, better than a "let's treat everyone as individuals with deep and meaningful emotional and intellectual needs" approach does).

>rather than thinking in terms of what kind of tools can we provide to empower our players to play their own games.

Isn't your use of the phrase "what kind of tools" an implicit recognition that there are different kinds of tasks that need to be done? And that people therefore have different kinds of needs? And therefore that there are different kinds of people?

You're arguing for player categories, you're just coming at it from a different angle. Tell us what kinds of tools you want, and you'll tell us what kinds of behaviours you're addressing - whether you want to tell us that or not.

I'm happy with the idea that it may be better to describe players in terms of what tools they use to empower themselves, and that players may use multiple tools so they don't all fit in convenient boxes, but presumably this still wouldn't satisfy you because "All these divisions do is trap our thinking"...

>No offense intended, since you are merely following in a long tradition of divide-and-conquer. I am not criticizing your particular division, rather the whole need to divide in the first place.

Well here's the neat thing: this isn't an either/or situation. It's possible for multiple theories to exist at the same time. You can reject the atomistic approach if you want and leave it to we misguided fools who think there may be some value in it. Create your own workable alternative, and watch as people flock to use it.

>Designers are better served by an interdisciplinary, holistic approach, in my opinion.

Which interdisciplinary, holistic appraoch would this be, then?

Richard

26.

Richard, all your points are well taken - as is your taking me to task for a rather sloppy initial rant.

However, much of your critique seems rooted in a theoretical notion that assumes the best and noblest of world developers (an ironic stance given that most commercial worlds are developed from an assumption of the worst and most venal behavior on the part of the players). It is just more of the "benevolent dictator" model which so dominates MMO design these days.

In reality, I see your player type categorization abused all the times in both design and, in particular, maintenance and customer support in commercial worlds, and I see these worlds trapped within assumptions about market demographics, "type" of world, "good" or "bad" gameplay, etc.

I have similar fears with regard to this taxonomy.

I agree with you that general humanity is smarter than that.

In my experience, however, commercial game developers are mostly not. Judging from the actual games produced.

As for "which interdisciplinary, holistic approach," a) I have talked about this often in various Terra Nova discussions, b) the question assumes that there is one correct answer, and that I think I possess it. This is still a top-down, benevolent dictator model, one to which I don't subscribe.

So, practically speaking, where do we start? We start with a basic faith in democracy and a trust in the collective wisdom of crowds (as distinct from a naive and disarmed trust in individuals)--and, to use your assumption, the basic intelligence of general humanity, at least in aggregate.

Since the nearly universal model of reality among game developers is the benign dictatorship model, where the smart developers create mazes for the dumb rats to run through, and where the smart developers smack down any rat that tries to bypass the approved path or even raise its head above the walls and look around, there is little point in a discussion about the actual implementation of a system today's developers don't even acknowledge as legitimate--despite the fact that there are examples of its success all over the place, online and off, just not in commercial games.

If one starts out designing worlds with as negative a view of both human nature and the prospects for democracy as is universally the case in today's commercial MMO companies, is it really any surprise that categories are abused as descrete shortcuts rather than as illuminating ways to look at tendencies and overlapping trends?

(incidentally, failed experiments such as the LambdaMOO independent phase, which are inevitably pointed to to "prove" how impossible it is to trust the players, are instead demonstrations of how even the most brilliant and insightful technical whizes are often clueless about social design and management. That is not a criticism, it is a recognition of the most common fallacy in the tech world, that engineers can do anything--including even design a better society--which is a symptom of the belief that "the art of design" is largely a sham art, which can be reduced to formulas and algorithms, which any engineer can tackle.

In fact, social architecture/anticipatory design are legitimate disciplines that attempt to apply an empirical, pragmatic approach to design and governance. Democracy just works better with people. And, for all the lectures about how different MMOs are, the players are still (mostly) people.

And, since free societies rely more on consensus and intrinsic rewards, while dictatorships, benevolent or not, rely more on enforcement and punishment, it seems to be common sense that in MMOs--where the ability to apply real sanctions and reliable enforcement are weakened by anonymity, pseudonymity, lack of accountability and all those other "problems" developers moan about when they justify the inability to "control" the players--a democratic, empowering approach is cheaper, more sustainable, and "better" from every perspective except, perhaps, developer ego.

I made a point, in subsequent posts to the initial rant, to say that I do NOT oppose all categorization on principle. I merely look at the real world, in particular the real world of commercial game design, and see taxonomies widely abused.

Is that not a legitimate concern, or are we to sublimate all empirical observations in favor of utopian theory?

27.

galiel,

One of the main problems in discussing this field is precisely what has been mentioned over and over again: as an academic field, it is extraordinarily young.

We have the luxury, in other fields today, of breaking out of the older and now dated models that trap our thinking. But the reason we can do this is precisely because we've used those models to the point at which we realize what their limits are, so we know what more can be done, because we've done everything within the constraints.

Consider the field of art. There is art creation, and art criticism. Similarly, there is virtual world creation, and virtual world criticism. The issues are exponentially more complex, but this basic model is correct.

Artists in training are taught art history, they are taught common techniques, and they are taught principles. For instance, the principle of color. Similarly, virtual worlds have history, common things like immersive environments (whether textual description, graphical illustration, or VR experience), and principles. The problem is mainly that we have no useful core to work with. You can't look up Virtual Worlds and come back with a basic set of principles outside of a few paragraphs in the first chapter of Bartle's book.

But I think one of the most unquestionable principles, which IS, as I said, mentioned in Bartle's Five, is that of identity. Thus, it SHOULD be possible to rate virtual worlds with respect to their interpretation of the concept of identity, just as it's possible to rate artwork on its interpretation of the concept of color. Just as we have everything from black/white, monochrome, dichrome, all the way up to photographic detail, we can have virtual worlds that enforce absolutely no constraints on identity choice all the way to virtual worlds that enforce an complete constraint on identity choice.

It does constrain virtual worlds to be conceived of as constructs with identities. And yet, this constraint is part of the current working definition of virtual worlds.

Aristotle was almost certainly wrong about how the universe worked. That didn't make his model useless, just inaccurate. And future thinkers, from Newton to Mach to Einstein continued to rework this model, changing it to fit the new revelations. Wasn't it Newton that invoked the image of "shoulders of giants"?

We can't build a holistic approach from where we stand. A holistic approach, especially now, would constrain us far more than a categorical one, because there would be the implicit conception that that's all there is. A categorical model allows for the possibility of yet another category. You can't build top-down unless you're at the top; we can't come up with a unified theory of everything, because we haven't seen everything.

28.

Okay, yet again, I really should've refreshed. *sighs* Let's try this again. My last post isn't invalid so much as... it feels more irrelevant now.

Okay. galiel, =)

In my experience, the average human being is ignorant and not worth listening to after you realize he is average. I think this is something that can change, but for the present, is true.

Your beliefs appear to be perpendicular to the discussion. That is to say, you don't have any actual problem with Ren's model, but you have a problem with the potential to abuse it, which you expect.

Be fair: intelligent people are far more likely to abuse. The very intelligent people are usually the ones to apply it properly. And they are rare.

Any model can and will be used incorrectly. The result may or may not turn out favorably. But an anti-corporate argument simply does not hold water. So people will use it to turn a profit. People use their knowledge of mathematics to turn a profit all the time. Few people in their right mind would argue against the teaching of mathematics! (This comes from someone sitting here wearing a t-shirt with a proof that supposedly shows 2=1. =)

Science needs to achieve and accomplish despite what has been done with it. We dropped a nuclear bomb and now we're afraid of utilizing the nuclear solution to the oil problem, even though France has done just fine. Correct usage is the job of the law-maker and law-enforcer. The job of the scientist is to figure out the truth, by theory, conjecture, and experimentation.

29.

Fair: intelligence is directly proportional to ethics?

?????

And I enjoy the comparison to nuclear power. I'm no expert, but i have seen some preetty scary statistics on cancer rates around plants and waste disposal areas. I guess you would be the type of person to discount the minority of people who would be unsatisfied in a virtual world because of the constraints on their interactions.

I'm glad there's someone reacting strongly against the idea of this type of categorization, whether the categorization proves useful to discussion or not. I think any discussion of categorization should include arguments against it.

Also, the only thing needed for a virtual world to become technically inclusive of all the types ren layed out, is for WoW to make a virtual general store interface linked to Ebay or something. And how fun would that be, to go shopping in-character with your guild. Personally, I would perfer as much overlap of those different types of interactions as possible.

30.

So like, maybe just call it the 4-Interactions Theory or something.

31.

I'll grant you your points, Michael, as long as you don't try to pretend that there is anything "scientific" about this process.

1. A general theory requires a valid sample. One cannot create a valid model of human behavior just from watching wrestling shows on television, nor can one create a valid theory of evolution solely from studying mules (or a theory of human psychology merely from studying its pathology, which is why so many of Freud's conclusions have been discredited).

2. A theory of actual phenomena requires valid empirical methodology. A hypothesis should have criteria by which it can be confirmed or invalidated. It should have data points that are open for review by all, not proprietary data. Can you honestly say that that characterizes the mainstream of MMO study these days?

3. If today's commercial MMOs are the equivalent of the experimental conditions within which one seeks to collect data and gain understanding, then one should acknowledge that they are deliberately, drastically, and, some would say, pathologically skewed social environments.

4. It is all well and good to maintain an ivory tower isolationist stance, but one should recognize that today's commercial game development industry does not function with a culture of peer review, tolerance of dissent, respect for challenge, and skepticism about sacred cows. It doesn't even have the basic self-preservation of the customer-driven sensibilities common to most corporate fields of endeavor.

Lawrence Lessig currently has Hilary Rosen as a guest blogger. Hilary Rosen! Anyone who knows anything about copyright issues knows that Rosen is practically the Antichrist to folks who follow Lessig. Yet there she is, and a fairly civilized discussion is taking place.

Can anyone here imagine a game developer's forum where, say, a researcher with findings demonstrating a link between violence and videogameplaying would be welcome, let alone given the reins for a few weeks?! Sure, the GDC loves Henry Jenkins. But just look at the tirades and shitstorms by Greg's bitching session at the last GDC, where he dared - Gasp! - to invite Brenda Laurel (who happens to have cofounded the damn thing, be one of the first game programmers at Atari, and be a genuine major figure in the development of VR, BTW, not to mention someone who reaches her conclusions about game design based on, you know, actual *scientific research* rather than Randian cant). The ridicule, hostility and shouting down of dissent within the developer community has been deafening--despite the fact that several people actually attending that session stated that the audience greeted Prof.Laurel's comments with affirmation.

Just look at a representative selection of the recent assertions here by prominent names in the game development community--ALL of which went unchallenged by other prominent developers--let alone "scientists" who should know at least to inject a modicum of skepticism into the discussions:

"There is the old saying "A benevolent dictatorship is the best form of government.""
------

"The fantasy of wealth is one of the most powerful human motivators"
-------

"And if you think it is purely cultural concensus and not the power that issues from the barrel of a gun that maintains civilized behaviour, I suspect you have never seen firsthand what happens when that threat is removed on a significant scale."
-------

" If we gave everyone alive today enough food to eat, wouldn't they just have more babies until they had a shortage again? " (the commenter actually uses as a source of inspiration and profundity a bit of fiction from a 70's RPG.)
-------

"Overall, people will exploit each other exactly as much as they think they can get away with. "
-------

"...if forced, explain my views on resolving the (Iraqi) insurgency (taking a leaf from the Romans and reducing cities to funereal pyres and salting the earth so that nothing else grows there again)."
-------

"the third biggest mistake is not realizing that designing for online is grossly different than designing, say, a real-life government. Concepts like anonymity change all the rules."
-------

"As someone who runs a blog, I spend a significant amount of time each day dealing with blog spam, from people who take advantage of the complete lack of a persistent identity. I also have had to ban IPs from jerks, verify the identities of people who were particularly snarky, delete completely inappropriate content and send stern warnings to people who go too far into the realm of personal attacks. And I have a relatively small, entirely polite little community on my site." (An MMO designer who *manually* polices his own blog, lecturing about how the solutions to misbehavior are purely technical!)"
------

"This is ultimately a lot closer to the fascist worldview of how virtual worlds should be supported, but in my honest opinion, is the best way to run these things."
------

Now, this would be less critical were it countered by differing views within the industry. Hell, many of these assertions might even be defensible on the evidence. But don't talk about "scientific approaches to game study" when you let stuff like this ride unchallenged.

Understand who you are dealing with here. The only academics who get any bandwidth in this industry are ones who reinforce existing beliefs. Everything bad is good for you, etc. Increasingly, the only academics who get any bandwidth in this industry also happen to come from a particular ideological standpoint.

At least here in the US, we live in a society where the academy is increasingly exploited, subverted and converted for reactionary ends.

As such, it is important to have some consciousness about and responsibility for the way your examination of game worlds is framed.

Any categorization that ignores the commercial, corporate nature of the worlds the vast majority of players play in, is not "scientifically pure", it is willfully misleading. The abstract discussions about "free speech in MMOs" are a joke as long as they pretend that MMOs are any more free than corporate offices. Hey, you can always walk out of a corporate job if you don't like losing your freedoms. Yeah, but mostly your alternative is other jobs with similar loss of liberty, just as the alternative in MMOs today is yet another corporate-run MMO.

History teaches us that it is not as simple as "scientists discover truth, politicians use it".

Darwinism was scientific, social Darwinism was not--yet it had, and continues to have, a powerful effect on human history.

(Before the "its just a game!" crowd blows a gasket--- the same crowd that sells its games to advertisers and the military as powerfully influential cultural artifacts, and to corporate trainers and educators as powerful tools for learnging, while simultaneously laughing off any research documenting the effects of our games on our kids---virtual worlds won't be "just a game" for too much longer. How we choose to build them matters, and how we choose to explain them will influence how we choose to build them. This is not theory about how we might, this is based on how we already have.)

32.

I'm not really sure how reposting my attempting to shut down your completely ridiculous attempt to drag the Iraq insurgency into another discussion of design theory by posting my Genghis Khan-esque take on counterinsurgency is relevant.

33.

Understand who you are dealing with here. The only academics who get any bandwidth in this industry are ones who reinforce existing beliefs. Everything bad is good for you, etc. Increasingly, the only academics who get any bandwidth in this industry also happen to come from a particular ideological standpoint.

At least here in the US, we live in a society where the academy is increasingly exploited, subverted and converted for reactionary ends.

Oh, that's why it's relevant. Carry on. Let me know when you succeed in throwing down the shackles of counter-revolutionary oppression that bind academia to capitalism's iron will!

34.

(My last subject-breaking comment on this thread, promise.)

Amusingly, I've found that most game designers are actually liberal in political orientation if not hard core left-wing. Portraying the game design community as a bastion of the right wing is amusing, but wildly off-base. Unless you come from so far off in the left wing that everyone is to the right of you!

35.

Back on subject.

Yes, "free speech" in MMOs is nonexistent. Much the same way as "free speech" in my living room is nonexistent. If someone came to my living room and proceeded to harangue me about how I was stifling free thought because I didn't let them rifle through my wine cabinet at the top of his or her lungs, I'd ask them to leave. My theoretical visitor does not have a constitutional right to yell at me in my own home.

"Free speech" implies that you have the right to make your own speech. You have the right to go in your OWN living room and hold forth however you wish. In MMG terms, if you wanted to make a p2p-hosted Freenet where anything goes in terms of conflict resolution, nothing's stopping you legally.

You still have to actually do the grunt work of making the thing work, and most people don't want to do that. They'd rather visit other people's homes and hold forth there. Which is fine to a point - just because I live in a house doesn't mean I particularly want to build it myself.

As for Ren's original post: it's a good way to describe sub-games, but as almost everyone has said, one of the strength of MMOs is how they can encompass many styles of gameplay. It's still effective in describing, say, the ludic-style game systems of a game and how they can contrast with the social-style game systems, and which styles individual games encourage vs. ignore through benign neglect.

36.

as almost everyone has said, one of the strength of MMOs is how they can encompass many styles of gameplay

Your ideological rants blind you to the fact that you often agree with my essential points :-)

37.

Sure. You can't be a wacky leftist ALL the time!

38.

Scott Jennings > As for Ren's original post: it's a good way to describe sub-games, but as almost everyone has said, one of the strength of MMOs is how they can encompass many styles of gameplay. It's still effective in describing, say, the ludic-style game systems of a game and how they can contrast with the social-style game systems, and which styles individual games encourage vs. ignore through benign neglect.

What I was trying to do was characterise types of virtual space, virtual world if you will; rather than types of MMO or game system. The 3 virtual types I tired to characterise all share some characteristics: the things that make them virtual – being online etc., and worlds – persistence etc. In Prof B’s types there are socialisers; and I think that these always represent a proportion of players in those type of worlds, but they do not make them social-worlds by there mere presence.

But what I’m getting to in this split is the overall purpose of the world – whether this is by design or by consent is an interesting topic. While people may play games in social-worlds that does not necessarily make them game-worlds. Same goes for civil-worlds.

Analogies are dangerous, but here goes anyway. We might play tag in a bank or city hall, they have the physical structure to enable this, but it’s not their purpose and it’s not the rules space are there to facilitate let alone the norms. I don't want the rules of the bank or indeed the banking system to be game-like in the ludic sense of an MMO I want them to be, well, bank like.

39.

I like taxonomies, particularly ones that offer axes where there's lots of open space. Identifying what's been done often prompts recognition of what has NOT been done.

I think using identity play as an axis is not all that useful. It appears too frequently in all the contexts.

And I think that I am growing too jaded with certain discussions to toss in more than these sorts of statements. ;)

40.

I was surprised, on a search of Terra Nova, to find no reference to Schubert's Triangle, with Simulation, Gameplay and Community at the apexes.

Raph, do you still consider that a useful way of evaluating MMOs? It certainly is an example of the "flag-pole" thinking I was talking about, rather than boxes of categories.

I have found it useful, I'm curious if others do - and if Damion still sees it as a valid lens for understanding MMOs, of if the triangle has become another polygon or has a new item/s at an apex/es?

Talk about open space--there is a ton in that sweet spot in the middle...

41.

Galiel>1) people are interdisciplinary and holistic. If you design for people, it makes sense to design for how people really are.<

That seems a bit simplistic itself. Individual humans can be viewed as coherent, holistic entities. But they can also usefully be viewed as a collection of semi-independent sub entities the compete and cooperate to produce behaviour. In some contexts, one subsystem dominates, and in other contexts another. So dividing virtual worlds by which sub systems are likely to dominate seems useful to me. Always modeling humans as a holistic system can be misleading in itself.

Often when discussing Virtual worlds, we are discussing group behaviour, and group behaviour can be quite predictable where individual behaviour isn't. Looking at a group behaviour from the point of view of an individual can I think be misleading. For example, individual Americans have the freedom to vote for whoever they want for Congress. But in practice, the great majority of congressional seats have a predictable result, because the boundaries are gerrymandered to produce a predictable result. In as sense, most American voters are "disenfranchised" at the group level because of the way the voting system is structured. Each individual has a vote, but the system structure ensures changing that vote has probably no effect. Hence the overall election result is determined by “swing” states and districts, and most of the party effort is directed there.

To my mind, a big common thread in TN discussions is “What system structures predictably promote what behaviours?”. This is where Ren’s proposed world types could be useful. And I do like the categorization by identity, it does seem to be a feature that modifies group behaviour. So I would rate it as potentially useful.

I’m very much in agreement with the idea that our society missuses categories. I think it comes from a basic brain feature that attempts to chop any situation into “fight or flight”. Very useful when we were faced with problems that gave us a split second to jump to an answer. But dysfunctional when discussion the complex, probabilistic problems of our modern society. English seems to lack to tools to talk quantitatively about the degree to which categories overlap, or apply to a particular case. There isn't an agreed metric for defining how much a ludic world is also a social world, to use an example from Ren’s categories. But that is a much more general problem than VW discussions. In the meantime, I do think I got something from holding Ren’s template up to my own world design efforts.

42.

There isn't an agreed metric for defining how much a ludic world is also a social world, to use an example from Ren’s categories.

There would be, if we thought in terms of non-exclusive characteristics, and then evaluated a virtual world in terms of its position relative to all of them, as in Schubert's Triangle or in my flag-pole example.

No one seems to have taken up that part of the discussion, rather than the "Categories: Thumbs Up Or Thumbs Down" simplification.

There may be a way to enjoy the benefits of taxonomy without the drawbacks of segmentation. I suggested one, I'm sure there are others.

It is always interesting to me how much more traffic the binary discussions draw vs. the holistic discussions. There is such a strong bias for "OR" rather than "AND".

43.

galiel>much of your critique seems rooted in a theoretical notion that assumes the best and noblest of world developers

Well yes. That's because I don't have a theory of world developers, so I go with the ideal.

>It is just more of the "benevolent dictator" model which so dominates MMO design these days.

So? You say that as if it were a bad thing?

>In reality, I see your player type categorization abused all the times

Yes, so do I. However, except in the case of a really high-class designer who knows exactly what they want and how to get it, I think the results of using the theory (even badly) means we get better virtual worlds than we would if we didn't use them at all. Remember that before this player types model came along, the default was for designers to design virtual worlds for themselves, ie. ones that they would like to play (irrespective of whether anyone else would).

>I have similar fears with regard to this taxonomy.

How come? It looks fairly benign to me, and it isn't aimed at designers anyway.

>As for "which interdisciplinary, holistic approach," a) I have talked about this often in various Terra Nova discussions

Can you point me at some? Google doesn't able to find your use of the word holistic on Terra Nova outside this thread.

>b) the question assumes that there is one correct answer, and that I think I possess it.

Well, it assumes that there is a correct answer, and it encourages you to suggest what it might be rather than merely posit its existence.

>This is still a top-down, benevolent dictator model, one to which I don't subscribe.

Uh? No it's not. I was asking you to outline an interdisciplinary, holistic approach; I wasn't asking you to implement one. Merely describing how such an approach might work doesn't place you in the role of benevolent dictator.

>So, practically speaking, where do we start? We start with a basic faith in democracy and a trust in the collective wisdom of crowds

From there, we rapidly become tyrannical in our defence of democracy in the face of concerted attacks from people who want to ruin our virtual world just for the hell of it, and we transfer our basic faith in the wisdom of crowds to a basic faith in the wisdom of the opinion-formers who rabble-rouse those crowds.

The problem is, we don't have an army. In the real world, if people abuse a democracy then ultimately we can stop them doing so because we have an army and they don't. Within a virtual world, we have better than an army, but outside of it we have to rely on someone else's army to stop people from abusing our in-world democracy. The worst we can ever do to someone is ban them, and keep banning them when they come back with a different credit card until eventually they grow tired and find some other virtual world to spoil instead.

I thought I was idealistic about virtual worlds!

>there is little point in a discussion about the actual implementation of a system today's developers don't even acknowledge as legitimate

They don't acknowledge it as legitimate now, but that isn't to say they wouldn't acknowledge it as legitimate if they saw the arguments. Thus, there is a point in dicussing it.

>despite the fact that there are examples of its success all over the place, online and off, just not in commercial games.

Are there examples of it in any game-like situations? Could it be that there is something about games that make it untenable, or at least more difficult to maintain?

>If one starts out designing worlds with as negative a view of both human nature and the prospects for democracy as is universally the case in today's commercial MMO companies, is it really any surprise that categories are abused as descrete shortcuts rather than as illuminating ways to look at tendencies and overlapping trends?

It's not a surprise, no. However, we didn't reach this point by starting out that way: we started out viewing virtual worlds as places where like-minded people could play together in a shared, imaginary world. It was only through long, hard, painful experience that we got to where we are today, human nature having demonstrated a sufficiently negative side to itself to thwart most of our early idealistic hopes. I think it's still possible to have a virtual world of the kind you envisage, but only by keeping each instantiation of it relatively small and by imposing draconian constraints on anyone who undermines the principles upon which it is founded.

Virtual world developers are dictators (benevolent or otherwise) because they have no choice. They are de facto gods of their virtual worlds whether they like it or not, and any attempt to shift power to the players is only going to last so long as the players behave in a manner that the gods find acceptable.

>even the most brilliant and insightful technical whizes are often clueless about social design and management.

I agree. Then again, even the most brilliant and insightful social scientists are often clueless about how to implement their ideas, or how to react if those ideas are subverted.

>In fact, social architecture/anticipatory design are legitimate disciplines that attempt to apply an empirical, pragmatic approach to design and governance.

They're legitimate, but that doesn't mean you'll get decent virtual worlds as a result. It doesn't mean you won't, of course, but the pain of getting to the ideal, planned community mitigates against them.

>Democracy just works better with people.

It doesn't work better with art, though. A book by a single, accomplished author is always going to be better than a book that emerges from the interactions of ten thousand readers. Virtual worlds design is art, and as with books I would indeed say that one accomplished designer can create a better world than ten thousand players. Now it may be that the designer is designing some open-ended, emerging-content world that will empower players and enable them to fulfil their true potential etc., but that world still has to be designed, and the people who own the hardware are still deities for it.

>a democratic, empowering approach is cheaper, more sustainable, and "better" from every perspective except, perhaps, developer ego.

It's just too easy to take down from within. An organised group of players of sufficient size can seize democratic control and use whatever "empowerments" you've given them to make life a misery for everyone else. What's more, they'll do it for fun. How are you going to stop them? Wave social norms at them and embarrass them into going away?

Richard

44.

Scott Jennings> I've found that most game designers are actually liberal in political orientation if not hard core left-wing.

Heh. I said the same thing in the Diversity Among Designers thread here on TN a while back, but I don't think I persuaded anyone.

Raph> I like taxonomies, particularly ones that offer axes where there's lots of open space. Identifying what's been done often prompts recognition of what has NOT been done.

Drat -- I was just about to say exactly that. Should have known Raph would beat me to it. *g*

So instead let me add: This is why we create taxonomies. Not because we truly believe that some division perfectly describes reality, but because it can be a useful way to identify which spaces are underexplored.

There's room for both reductionism and holism in the process of understanding systems.

Breaking down complex systems down into key functional groups of parts can illuminate what works well and what doesn't. Whether it's a clockwork or a car or a mind or a virtual world, trying to understand it by reducing it to its core components can be an effective approach. The fact that a bad reduction can be misleading doesn't mean that reductionism is always fatally flawed -- it means you have to be careful in how you categorize, in how you group systems, to choose as your axes those subsystems that exercise the most control over the whole system.

But of course there's a place for holistic thinking, too -- sometimes a thing really is something more than just the sum of its parts. Just banging together a bunch of gears won't create a clockwork, any more than banging together a bunch of neurons will generate a mind or banging together a bunch of words will produce a Hamlet. Trying to understand a whole thing requires more than just looking at its parts. For a sufficiently complex system, no amount of studing a collection of parts will allow you to know the behavior of the whole thing in action. Why didn't we get people out of Hurricane Katrina's way sooner? Because complex systems can't be understood solely by understanding their subunits.

As finite, fallible humans, we desperately need both reductionism and holism as processes for trying to understand our world. It's important to recognize the value of both of these approaches, to appreciate their advantages when used well and their dangers when misapplied, and then employ both as appropriate.

In this case, it takes nothing away from a holistic understanding of virtual worlds (especially with respect to their interactions with real-world law) to propose a reductionistic model for study. As long we know to try both ways of looking at these complex systems, each approach will benefit from what we learn through the other approach. The conclusions we draw from using ren's proposed taxonomy (and from beating it like a rented mule to see if maybe there's a better taxonomy) will give us more information that we can use to better understand virtual worlds and legal codes as two complex systems that interact as parts of a yet larger system of human expression.

--Bart

45.

I've found that most game designers are actually liberal in political orientation if not hard core left-wing.

Yeah, and the media are all bleeding-heart liberals, too. Right?

46.

Beats me. I don't go to lunch with the media. I only commented on what I know personally!

47.

i am a strong proponent of classifications. if you can't differentiate, you will never be able to take any actions, make any decisions...

boxes may be contrived, but facilitate mental manipulation of large concepts. clear examples of artificial, but necessary, boxes include the boxes for "freedom," "blue," and "FPS," for example.

the four worlds theory could work, but from what i gather, i see it more as a path of world evolution. one axis. the sliding scales commented earlier make sense. lots of fuzzy gray areas between one stage to the next, just like the fuzzy stages between hunter-gatherer, agrarian, and industrial societies...

and as for the "interdisciplinary, holistic approach is best," "universal truths... enjoyed across traditional market-segment boundaries" philosophy:

without rebutting each bullet point individually, the current market is proof that derivative works will win, because people want gradual evolution, not revolution, and that cross-market games will always fail.

unpopular revolutions will always fail, and "everything and the kitchen sink" design has only worked for the swiss army knife.

48.

The problem is, we don't have an army. In the real world, if people abuse a democracy then ultimately we can stop them doing so because we have an army and they don't.

Sigh. More of the "civilization eminates from the barrel of a gun" doctrine. Since this has the force of dogma, it is immune to both logical and empirical refutation.

And then you compare virtual world design and governance to writing a book...

49.

The current market is only proof of the current design.

50.

Or, as Raph says, in the "Deflation in Wow" thread:

I tend to agree...that the greed is the central motivation explored by developers; the altruistic or communitarian behaviors tend not to get recognized by the game code and often not by the community team either.

51.

Yes, I do still find Damion's triangle useful. Then again, I tend to see all taxonomies, including those usually considered to be truly binary, as actually defining points on a line, plane, or multidimensional space. :)

GNS theory (Gamist-Narrativist-Simulationist) from pen & paper RPGing is also a useful lens.

I also like (of course) the 9-way lens that I put into the book, but actually introduced in a MUD-Dev post years ago.

Mike Rozak's recent pyramid of motivations is also an interesting one.

All of these can be useful to designers, just as this model proposed here might be useful if the axes can be pinned down. One thing that usually bugs me about ersatz models is that they start by identifying an end goal for the model (here, world types) rather than identifying axes of variance first. This one feels like it started from the wrong end to some degree. The changes in value between the boxes seem to me to be on multiple dimensions at once. In model-building, to me, that's a no-no. Change one variable at a time. :)

52.

Richard Bartle wrote:

"It doesn't work better with art, though. A book by a single, accomplished author is always going to be better than a book that emerges from the interactions of ten thousand readers."

Sure, but are games more comparable to novels (which are by and large the product of a single individual) or something like movies (collaborative works involving many, many people)?

"It's just too easy to take down from within. An organised group of players of sufficient size can seize democratic control and use whatever "empowerments" you've given them to make life a misery for everyone else. What's more, they'll do it for fun. How are you going to stop them? Wave social norms at them and embarrass them into going away?"

The question then is what motivates people in the real world to form democracies, as compared to dictatorships? I'm not sure what the answer would be, but surely virtual worlds are one of the arenas where that question could be explored in a more thorough fashion than mere thought experiments.

53.

Mike Rozak's recent pyramid of motivations is also an interesting one.

This one was new to me. Thanks, Raph, as usual your short but pithy posts contain new food for thought.
------

Incidentally, all, I'd like to apologize for a rather, um, contentious tone of late. I'll try to be more constructive (and ignore the frequent bait...).

After all, I only post here, and read here (not in that order), because Terra Nova seeks to break new ground in our understanding of our field.

54.

I don't find that constructing a taxonomy of virtual spaces by degrees of anonymity lends to a greater understanding in the discussion of online legalities; it may even complicate it.

Firstly, actual law trumps all, which is based on jurisdiction - local, provincial, national, and international. From this perspective, there is no such thing as anonymity in a virtual medium - only resolved and unresolved cases of illegal activity. For example, illegal activity, even in a so-called ludic world, can be acted upon by authority, whether public or private, from system administration to ISP to an actual law enforcement division regardless of the degree of _implied anonymity_.

Secondly, most of what is discussed is based on private, rather than public, forums regardless of the so-called type of world. In private forums there are obligations of access which are agreed to prior to access such as end-user license agreements.

With this, the end-user is bound by two legal systems - actual law and contractual obligations of access.

The only time the three-world categories would come into play is when attempting to describe _further_ restrictions on the user bases, patterns of structure in access contracts, or cultural norms qualified by the categories. Although, such restrictions may neither have anonymity as the only factor nor as a factor at all. I would more review such divisions as categories of function rather than anonymity. It may be the function which requires the degree of anonymity, rather than the other way around.

Discussions of rights, such as freedom of speech become moot in a private forum. There is no freedom of speech guaranteed in private forums. Even in public forums, free speech has many limitations. As private forums are deemed equivalent to properties, it is public law and the property owner that deems acceptable use.

If free speech is required in such private forums online, those rights should be enumerated contractually prior to access, regardless of degrees of anonymity. If it was essential, should it not be an essential market influence as well? That is, if consumers found that such essential rights were violated by the current market, would it not stand as a market opportunity? If it is not such a market opportunity, is it not essential?

Further, it is interesting you divide along lines of degrees of anonymity as you also place forward an example of freedom of speech, as those two particular subjects are related. Anonymity is a factor in freedom of speech which can affect how comfortable one may be exercising such freedoms regardless of the degree of freedom or functional domain because such exercise occurs in a public domain. For example, in the actual world, one may wear a mask when legally demonstrating, or place forth a realistic sounding but entirely fictional pseudonym in forums requiring a name. Such activity may not be illegal, but anonymity provides a firewall for leisure abuse of such rights. But, anonymity is also a factor which can hamper law enforcement; that is, committing a crime that is difficult to track to the criminal's identity. Thusly, true anonymity becomes a guarantor of both freedom and crime, both enumerated by law, but only because it provides the opportunity to operate both beyond the law, and beyond cultural norms. In this way, anonymity is a special condition of law, but not central to divisions in law, as your taxonomy implies.

Finally, in all categories, there can exist multiple and simultaneous identities, and the main factor becomes privacy or functional anonymity (e.g. character identities) in particular domains. For example, access to a forum may require a verifiable identity, whereas activity within the forum could allow for absolute anonymity; absolute only within the forum. This same property can exist within all categories. In Ludic, one can be known to the operators of the forum, but anonymous to the users of the forum. Even in the civil, as anonymous operating between enterprises, but having a particular unique verifiable identity within each enterprise relationship. Thus, layers of varying identities can be established for each world, from anonymous to genuine.

55.

Another useful taxonomy might be Yochai Benkler's in re: economic production.

The two traditional, profit-driven economic structures, originally identified by Coase:
1) Employees in hierarchies, following manager directions;
2) Individuals in markets, following price signals;

And a previously unaccounted, value-driven transaction medium:
3) Commons-based peer-production, fueled by a diversity of motivations and social signals.

The first two have obvious mappings in current MMO designs and governance. I'm not sure the third does, yet.

56.

lwey>Sure, but are games more comparable to novels (which are by and large the product of a single individual) or something like movies (collaborative works involving many, many people)?

They're more like movies. That said, a movie directed by one accomplished individual is always going to be better than a movie directed by ten thousand movie critics.

>The question then is what motivates people in the real world to form democracies, as compared to dictatorships?

No, the question is how people who form such democracies defend their democratic ideals from those who wish to undermine them.

Democracy is a great organising principle for real-world countries (although we don't as yet have anything akin to "full" democracy, whereby every governmental decision was made by plebecite). I'm not complaining about democracy as a concept. What I'm complaining about is the inability of virtual worlds to defend themselves from anti-democratic players.

>I'm not sure what the answer would be, but surely virtual worlds are one of the arenas where that question could be explored in a more thorough fashion than mere thought experiments.

It certainly could. It has, as galiel alluded, been tried in one famous case (LambdaMOO) where it failed because of an inadequate "constitution" and the inability of the programmers to give up their world-altering powers even though they wanted to.

I presented a paper that touched on this topic at the Command Lines conference in Milwaukee in April, but they haven't published it yet. In it, I described four ways that virtual worlds have traditionally been ruled in the past, and outlined a fifth that has not yet been attempted on any large scale but which could conceivably work. Here it is:

5. Co-operative of gods. The players are the developers. The virtual world is run as a co-operative. Players vote for their gods (as opposed to voting against them by changing their allegiance to some other virtual world). Real-world contract law is used to frame the electoral system, its appeals procedures and so on, giving it an effective written constitution.

This approach isn't without its own problems, of course, but it could well succeed (more probably for social worlds rather than game-like worlds).

Richard

57.

Raph > One thing that usually bugs me about ersatz models is that they start by identifying an end goal for the model (here, world types) rather than identifying axes of variance first.

Not sure that it’s useful but I can say what the origin of my model was. So, v quickly it was like this:

It started because some years ago I personally felt a simple property description of an avatar did adequately describe what I felt about it. I then started to think about what we mean by identity and dig back into the philosophy or it and the law of it (including laws about the body, organ donation and rights of publicity which concern the commoditisation of persona). So some time ago I started to argue for thinking about things in terms of rights and potently unique virtual world legal models, rather than the nearest best model (for example the EU has a distinct right in databases which is different from that in collections).

Then within the broad discussion of virtual worlds we started to have debates about speech, which brought these issues to the fore. At the same time I started to work in the applicability of the idea and then rights of privacy in virtual spaces. This started to convince me that I when I thought about particular cases then my view of what it was, what set of rights, duties freedoms I was thinking of, change.

Lastly I tried to organise this. My first way of doing things was by avatar, so I had ludic, social, civil and self. Then I thought that what made more sense to people was not an avatar as a loci of rights but the context in which is sat. Hence I wrote this as a world based theory.

The point of the theory was try to take a humanised broad approach to things and ask what is at stake, what is of value and what would we like to protect when we engage in given acts in given contexts. The categories area tool to understand that when one is looking at given legal problem. I did not have the design process in mind at all when I was doing this and never thought that it would be of any use to designers, reflecting on it I could see that there might be uses, but that’s not the primary aim.

58.

I would highly recommend a look at commons-based peer-production projects like Wikipedia, the Open Directory Project, and Open Source projects such as the Apache Project, as well as more structured projects that include peer-production elements along with some editorial control, such as OhMyNews or craigslist, and, finally, the way peer-production elements have been integrated into for-profit projects like Amazon, eBay and Epinions.

Not to mention the venerable tradition of open, collaborative scientific research and peer review.

There is some new thinking about how these phenomena have implications in terms of both design and governance of human societies. They may also suggest a new way to govern game-worlds that goes beyond Bartle's number five.

(Note that I am not talking about peer-production for world design, necessarily, but for world-governance--although I do think it is interesting to explore how to tap into the collective wisdom of crowds as a form of iterative feedback during the design process, without turning it into design-by-committee).

59.

Eric Random > Firstly, actual law trumps all, which is based on jurisdiction - local, provincial, national, and international.

Yes. Not arguing what that. My general point is that I think that the law operates by seeing things through a legal lens, there are lots of ways to describe that, legal fictions, legal ontology etc. That is, there is a set of possible categories of things and an assumption about what category a given thing fits into.

Broadly what I’m question are these decisions. First whether avatars are put into the right category and second whether the right category even exists. At the moment avatars are seen as a type of property. But we might think of an avatar as a form of reputation, or being very much like an organ, or just being like an avatar and we will have create the laws that go along with however we defeine this - which might not be exactly like anything we have right now.

>Discussions of rights, such as freedom of speech become moot in a private forum. There is no freedom of speech guaranteed in private forums.

(sorry i'm rushing here a bit) This is indeed moot. This thread gets into the arguments: terranova.blogs.com/terra_nova/2004/07/chickasaw_in_cy.htmlhttp://terranova.blogs.com/terra_nova/2004/07/chickasaw_in_cy.html

If I understand Jack Balkin correctly, I’m kinda with him on the whole thing about virtual spaces, company towns, public accommodation etc.

60.

>Discussions of rights, such as freedom of speech become moot in a private forum. There is no freedom of speech guaranteed in private forums.

I've seen a lot of words to this effect tossed about. The problem with this is that it's far from clear that virtual worlds are simply 'private forums'. For one thing, virtual worlds seem to be spaces, not simply objects, like forums. And as spaces, even if private, the criteria for when rights such as free speech attach to visitors and to what extent they attach is quite different.

The Marsh (1946) U.S. Supreme Court ruling that established free speech for citizens of a 'company town' stated: "The more an owner, for his advantage, opens up his property for use by the public in general, the more do his rights become circumscribed by the statutory and constitutional rights of those who use it."

According to firstammendmentcenter.org, "The majority reasoned that the town displayed many of the attributes of a municipality; therefore the state-action requirement was satisfied for constitutional purposes of sustaining the rights of free expression."

Similarly, even if there were no right to free speech in 'company towns', it would not follow that other rights (e.g., privacy) would be guaranteed to fail. The fact of the matter is that, just because a particular digital world is privately owned, doesn't mean that its disposition is solely at the discretion of its proprietors.

Ren>Broadly what I’m question are these decisions. First whether avatars are put into the right category and second whether the right category even exists. At the moment avatars are seen as a type of property. But we might think of an avatar as a form of reputation, or being very much like an organ, or just being like an avatar and we will have create the laws that go along with however we defeine this - which might not be exactly like anything we have right now.

I think the problem is that avatars are the wrong vector for getting at the questions you pose.

Rights attach to persons. An avatar is not a person. Rather, an avatar is more like a pair of eyeglasses or a hearing aid. That is they are prosthetic tools that allow one to more effectively interact with the world. In the case of avatars, this interaction is with a digital world rather than the actual world.

People speak of avatars as being part of their ingame identity *not* because avatars *are* that identity but because avatars--in virtue of their dual role as both representation and interpretation--are the means by which a person expresses and experiences their ingame identity. As a result, attempts to define virtual worlds in terms of avatars or, even obliquely, by means of identity won't work.

It's also a mistake, I think, to use estimates of function to categorize virtual worlds. As has been pointed out, the possible functions of a virtual world are nigh on limitless and are not mutually exclusive in many cases. That's part of what makes them feel like worlds, after all!

Instead, I think the solution is to abandon the identity and focus on actual world level properties such as, say

1. Closeness of a digital world to the possible world it seeks to represent.
2. Closeness of a digital world to the actual world.
3. Property of a digital world to pass the Bartle Test (*kinda* like a Turing Test for VWs).


Closeness to its target possible world, for example, lets us determine what sort of constraints, rights and privileges citizens in a given digital world would have if its fidelity were perfect. This property, among other things, helps inform us as to what sort of behavior a player could reasonably expect to engage in, given the 'nature' of the world that is being simulated. In short, people can be reasonably expected to alter their expectations with respect to constraints, rights, privileges, etc., as a consequence of 'willinglly having suspended their disbelief' when they entered the world in the first place. If I accept that I'm entering a digital world that simulates a prison planet, my character could hardly expect freedom of movement. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect me (as a citizen of the actual world) to suspend some of my expectations about rights, privileges, etc. as well.

Closeness to the actual world, otoh, lets us determine to what extent the digital world is bound to RL. If the binding is tight enough that the digital world "displays many of the attributes of an (actual world) municipality," then it seems that the kinds of arguments raised in Marsh would start to apply.

The purpose of the Bartle Test is to provide a means for qualifying the extent to which a digital world is an authentic place, as opposed to simply being an object. This helps laws differentiate among various cultural artifacts and determine which sorts of property rights should apply in a given situation. It also helps establish the extent to which, I, as an RL customer of an RL company (and not merely a character in a digital world) can expect my RL constitutional rights to apply to me qua me (not my characters) while inside a virtual world.

As you can see, these sorts of properties are the kind of properties that actually do work to answer the sort of questions Ren's trying to get at, rather than merely supplying a new set of axes to meditate about. Whether they're the right ones is beyond the scope of this post.

61.

>Discussions of rights, such as freedom of speech become moot in a private forum. There is no freedom of speech guaranteed in private forums.

I've seen a lot of words to this effect tossed about. The problem with this is that it's far from clear that virtual worlds are simply 'private forums'. For one thing, virtual worlds seem to be spaces, not simply objects, like forums. And as spaces, even if private, the criteria for when rights such as free speech attach to visitors and to what extent they attach is quite different.

The Marsh (1946) U.S. Supreme Court ruling that established free speech for citizens of a 'company town' stated: "The more an owner, for his advantage, opens up his property for use by the public in general, the more do his rights become circumscribed by the statutory and constitutional rights of those who use it."

According to firstammendmentcenter.org, "The majority reasoned that the town displayed many of the attributes of a municipality; therefore the state-action requirement was satisfied for constitutional purposes of sustaining the rights of free expression."

Similarly, even if there were no right to free speech in 'company towns', it would not follow that other rights (e.g., privacy) would be guaranteed to fail. The fact of the matter is that, just because a particular digital world is privately owned, doesn't mean that its disposition is solely at the discretion of its proprietors.

Ren>Broadly what I’m question are these decisions. First whether avatars are put into the right category and second whether the right category even exists. At the moment avatars are seen as a type of property. But we might think of an avatar as a form of reputation, or being very much like an organ, or just being like an avatar and we will have create the laws that go along with however we defeine this - which might not be exactly like anything we have right now.

I think the problem is that avatars are the wrong vector for getting at the questions you pose.

Rights attach to persons. An avatar is not a person. Rather, an avatar is more like a pair of eyeglasses or a hearing aid. That is they are prosthetic tools that allow one to more effectively interact with the world. In the case of avatars, this interaction is with a digital world rather than the actual world.

People speak of avatars as being part of their ingame identity *not* because avatars *are* that identity but because avatars--in virtue of their dual role as both representation and interpretation--are the means by which a person expresses and experiences their ingame identity. Again, avatars are tools, not identities. And in any event, identities are always trans-world affairs (at minimum they are trans RL/VW). This makes them particularly unsuitable for categorizing virtual worlds. As a result, attempts to define virtual worlds in terms of avatars or, even obliquely, by means of identity won't work.

It's also a mistake, I think, to use estimates of function to categorize virtual worlds. As has been pointed out, the possible functions of a virtual world are nigh on limitless and are not mutually exclusive in many cases. That's part of what makes them feel like worlds, after all!

Instead, I think the solution is to abandon the identity and focus on actual world level properties such as, say

1. Closeness of a digital world to the possible world it seeks to represent.
2. Closeness of a digital world to the actual world.
3. Property of a digital world to pass the Bartle Test (*kinda* like a Turing Test for VWs).


Closeness to its target possible world, for example, lets us determine what sort of constraints, rights and privileges citizens in a given digital world would have if its fidelity were perfect. This property, among other things, helps inform us as to what sort of behavior a player could reasonably expect to engage in, given the 'nature' of the world that is being simulated. In short, people can be reasonably expected to alter their expectations with respect to constraints, rights, privileges, etc., as a consequence of 'willinglly having suspended their disbelief' when they entered the world in the first place. If I accept that I'm entering a digital world that simulates a prison planet, my character could hardly expect freedom of movement. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect me (as a citizen of the actual world) to 'willingly suspend' some of my expectations about rights, privileges, etc. as well.

Closeness to the actual world, otoh, lets us determine to what extent the digital world is bound to RL. If the binding is tight enough that the digital world "displays many of the attributes of an (actual world) municipality," then it seems that the kinds of arguments raised in Marsh would start to apply.

The purpose of the Bartle Test is to provide a means for qualifying the extent to which a digital world is an authentic place, as opposed to simply being an object. This helps laws differentiate among various cultural artifacts and determine which sorts of property rights should apply in a given situation. It also helps establish the extent to which, I, as an RL customer of an RL company (and not merely a character in a digital world) can expect my RL constitutional rights to apply to me qua me (not my characters) while inside a virtual world.

As you can see, these sorts of properties are the kind of properties that actually do work to answer the sort of questions Ren's trying to get at, rather than merely supplying a new set of axes to meditate about. Whether they're the right ones is beyond the scope of this post. =]

Aaron

62.

Aaron, thanks for the comment. I don’t mean to sound defensive in what I’m saying below, you may well be right in what you say, I just want to explore the limits of my argument a little/.

Aaron wrote
>>Discussions of rights, such as freedom of speech become moot in a private
>>forum. There is no freedom of speech guaranteed in private forums.

>I've seen a lot of words to this effect tossed about. The problem with this is that it's far from clear that virtual worlds are simply 'private forums'.

Yes, this is specifically why I referenced Balkin at the end of the original post. The specific piece that I’m thinking of is this one: http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/jbalkin/articles/virtual_liberty1.pdf>http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/jbalkin/articles/virtual_liberty1.pdf

You should also not Jenkins’s piece http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=565181>The Virtual World as a Company Town - Freedom of Speech in Massively Multiple Online Role Playing Games


>The Marsh (1946) U.S. Supreme Court ruling that established free speech for citizens of a 'company town' stated: "The more an owner, for his advantage, opens up his property for use by the public in general, the more do his rights become circumscribed by the statutory and constitutional rights of those who use it."

>According to firstammendmentcenter.org, "The majority reasoned that the town displayed many of the attributes of a municipality; therefore the state-action requirement was satisfied for constitutional purposes of sustaining the rights of free expression."

As an updated take on http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?navby=case&court=US&vol=326&page=501>MARSH v. STATE OF ALA U.S. 501 (1946) I think people should look at AOL vs Cyberpromotions (I think the full ref is http://www.epic.org/free_speech/cyberp_v_aol.html>CyberPromotions, Inc. v America Online, Inc., 948 FSupp 436 (EDPa 1996)).

>Similarly, even if there were no right to free speech in 'company towns', it would not follow that other rights (e.g., privacy) would be guaranteed to fail.

Yes. That’s why I tend to want to look at both speech and privacy as one gets at some fairly fundamental positive and negative rights by looking at both.


>I think the problem is that avatars are the wrong vector for getting at the questions you pose.

This could very well be the case. I’m look for the most useful axis or set of criteria if any exist so I’m not interested avatars per se. However, I’ll have a go a defending this axis a little more till something better pops up,,,

>Rights attach to persons.
The rights of persons is exactly where I start from.
But as a quick side step - Do legal entities like companies have rights?
Now I don’t want to pursue that line too much, well right here right now, because if we apply it to avatars we start to get into android rights pretty soon.


>An avatar is not a person. Rather, an avatar is more like a pair of eyeglasses or a hearing aid. That is they are prosthetic tools that allow one to more effectively interact with the world. In the case of avatars, this interaction is with a digital world rather than the actual world.

Again I think there are some arguments from contemporary cybernetics theory and some of the more post-modern theories of identity that we could get into here, but let’s step on for the moment.


>People speak of avatars as being part of their ingame identity *not* because avatars *are* that identity but because avatars--in virtue of their dual role as both representation and interpretation--are the means by which a person expresses and experiences their ingame identity. Again, avatars are tools, not identities. And in any event, identities are always trans-world affairs (at minimum they are trans RL/VW). This makes them particularly unsuitable for categorizing virtual worlds. As a result, attempts to define virtual worlds in terms of avatars or, even obliquely, by means of identity won't work.


The connection I’m trying to make is this:

People have rights. Those rights differ depending on context. My example was that people might want to give up their right of free speech in the specific context of a given game, because that giving up that right makes the game better – that would be a rational choice just so long as they were not giving up the right in some absolute sense. Hence I wanted to provide a short cut describing the types of rights / freedoms choices that people were making in different types of spaces. Hence the three types of world.

So when the question is asked from a legal perspective Should person X have right 1 in world A, one can go – well what type of world is A, which would summarise the type of right / freedom choices that A might have made.

But, it might be that one actually has to aks: Does Ren have the right of saying that SOE are a unkind to kittens when he is using the avatar RenZephyr, on Flurry in a cantina. But sheesh,,,

Just to add, the step into avatars is motivated by two things.
1) I take an avatar to mean, just the representation of the individuals in that world, some representation is necessary for us even to get the discussion started.
2) There may be some acts that only make sense in the context of the world, thus in talking about these one is gong to get into talking about avatars


>Instead, I think the solution is to abandon the identity and focus on actual world level properties such as, say

1. Closeness of a digital world to the possible world it seeks to represent.
2. Closeness of a digital world to the actual world.
3. Property of a digital world to pass the Bartle Test (*kinda* like a Turing Test for VWs).


That’s sort of where I thought I was going.

Given (1) & (2) above
An avatar is a nexus for the rights that the person has in the context, the scale I was working on was the closeness of the context to the physical world – in respect of what one can do there and the attendant rights one would then expect.

The further away from the every day the greater the separation between in-world and out-of-world rights. This is what the model is trying to capture.

So I am exactly doing you point (1.) above, I think I’m just expressing it in a way that its not getting over to people, so I need to change that.


>Closeness to its target possible world, for example, lets us determine what sort of constraints, rights and privileges citizens in a given digital world would have if its fidelity were perfect.

Thing is, what do you mean by ‘closeness’ and ‘fidelity’. I’m effectively talking about the degree of gameness, ludosicity, depth of magic circle – this is because typically this stuff changes rights, again, take boxing, this is in the physical world but rights with respect to assault are very different in that context.

So I’m certainly not using thing like look and feel as these are not generally relevant – so what is the axis of closeness exactly?

>This property, among other things, helps inform us as to what sort of behavior a player could reasonably expect to engage in, given the 'nature' of the world that is being simulated. In short, people can be reasonably expected to alter their expectations with respect to constraints, rights, privileges, etc., as a consequence of 'willinglly having suspended their disbelief' when they entered the world in the first place. If I accept that I'm entering a digital world that simulates a prison planet, my character could hardly expect freedom of movement. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect me (as a citizen of the actual world) to 'willingly suspend' some of my expectations about rights, privileges, etc. as well.

Closeness to the actual world, otoh, lets us determine to what extent the digital world is bound to RL. If the binding is tight enough that the digital world "displays many of the attributes of an (actual world) municipality," then it seems that the kinds of arguments raised in Marsh would start to apply.


That’s pretty much what I thought I was saying.


>The purpose of the Bartle Test is to provide a means for qualifying the extent to which a digital world is an authentic place, as opposed to simply being an object.

I have issues with authentic as something can be authentic but not real an in every day sense. This is why I’m kind of asking three questions – how ludic is it? How social capital sustaining is it? How civil is it? I don’t think that a single axis of fidelity or authenticity gets at this, as I say, boxing is very authentic its also highly ludic and it’s this latter feature that is the one that counts when we are applying, at least some, law to it.

63.

One can have any number of identities in each world, and the properties of each world can be attributed to any single virtual world. I can use my real name in a ludic world, and a pseudonym in a civil world, and perhaps in both, each identity is tied to a legal entity, my person.

The construction of these categories based on identity, though, implies that, perhaps, a real identity and a virtual identity (as embodied in an avatar) have a difference in legal consideration. That is, as identities are added, legal consideration changes. From my perspective, there is only one identity of legal consideration, and this is the identity of the legal entity, the person. The service contract, which specifies the function of the service and the conditions of its use, along with actual law, provides the context of the legality of an act by the legal entity.

So, ultimately, what you may be doing is more an ordering of the service contracts, as associated with function.

I think where misunderstandings may occur, is that in the normal determination of freedom of speech, one either has freedom of speech, or one does not. Further limitations upon speech or expressed rights become specific rights rather than general rights, albeit contextually may be considered general to some sub type, and that you are attempting to establish the sub-types to determine where specific rights belong. But again, this cannot be determined on identity, and further, by simple general use or function, but specific contexts of acts in which law should apply. This again, returns to considerations like laws of innuation, in which common acts occur across separate worlds, like commodification. But, unfortunately, there is a great number of legal acts which can occur, or even yet to occur, online or on a computer, and virtual worlds can embody many such combinations of them. This is ultimately why I find that laws of innuation, specifically for virtual worlds, is something which defies grouped attribution and, further, singular application to virtual worlds alone.

Having said that, there are clearly some acts which generate legal consideration between an actual person and their virtual identity, such as cases involving acts of slander, libel, and character defamation, and, regardless of world, may require in depth contextual analysis to understand and rule upon. That is, there exists some acts which can occur within a ludic context, but are themselves, not ludic. I discussed a few of these in Bartle's Censorship article, by illustrating when virtual worlds can become covers for illegal acts.

I don't find that there is something about virtual worlds, in particular, that require special legislative attention. It's moreso that virtual worlds include many legal considerations due to their general abilities. For example, I do not need a virtual world to deal with virtual commodification, but laws dealing with virtual commodification will certainly apply to virtual worlds. Could not Balkin just as easily discussed Rights of Design and Rights of Use in consideration of a blog publishing service or sales of virtual trading cards? The virtual world, in a way, becomes a particular presentation, or manifestation, of an otherwise established legal context. The convenience of a virtual world, though, is that many such cases can be applied and illustrated in the same construct.

/subtracting my own tangential talk on Free Speech, public forums, and virtual worlds as a public access or carrier access service...

I don't think we are talking specifically about Freedom of Speech, but more specific rights in context of service, like consumer protection laws. This is particularly why I mentioned that Freedom of Speech is moot in private forums, as I find we are discussing, particularly, rights in private forums. That is, in consumer protection law, if a business is providing this service, it must abide by these regulations and provide these rights to its customers which results in protection of both the business and consumer.

64.

galiel>I would highly recommend a look at commons-based peer-production projects like Wikipedia, the Open Directory Project, and Open Source projects such as the Apache Project

There have been virtual worlds developed under such systems, but I don't know of any that have been governed the way that these are governed. Managing a project isn't the same as managing a world, especially if the people doing the management have a conflict of interests (ie. they're playing the game competitively at the same time they're managing it).

>as well as more structured projects that include peer-production elements along with some editorial control

This is a better way to do it; although I suspect most content editors would rather be content developers, it ought to be possible to find some people who do prefer the intellectual stimulation of sifting through other people's creations to that of manufacturing such creations themselves.

>the way peer-production elements have been integrated into for-profit projects like Amazon, eBay and Epinions.

This has been discussed to death on MUD-DEV in its innumerable "reputation systems" threads. The short answer: it doesn't work for virtual worlds, because it's just too easy to exploit.

Richard

65.

This has been discussed to death on MUD-DEV in its innumerable "reputation systems" threads. The short answer: it doesn't work for virtual worlds, because it's just too easy to exploit.

Having lurked on many of those discussions, my perception is that they focused almost entirely on the developer's point of view. In many other industries, approaches bent on "exploiting" the crowds have failed, while approaches that stem from a genuine appreciation for the wisdom of crowds and a willingness to ceded appropriate control, have succeeded.

You suspect that "most content editors would rather be content developers", and, in this industry, I suspect you are right; but that is a developer-centric attitude--of course one can't implement systems driven from the edges if one is committed to centralized control; such attempts have failed in every online arena, from politics to ecommerce.

And yet, peer-driven systems have thrived, in many fields where conventional wisdom said they could not, from encyclopedias to enterprise-class software. It makes sense to me to examine, empirically and with an open-mind and few assumptions, what makes some systems work and others fail, and then to see how to apply those lessons to our field of endeavor.

The idea that these systems are "easy to exploit", in my experience, stems from a lack of understanding about how the social design of these systems affects their internal culture, which in turn makes or breaks their validity and viability (which of course brings us back to the blind-spot with regard to the effect of design on behavior).

Exploits in these systems is not something unique to virtual worlds, and a lot of thought and experimentation and learning has gone into working on solving that problem.

Of course, these attitudes that democracy is impossible do not change until someone goes ahead and does it, anyway :-)

So, we'll revisit this discussion in a few years.

66.

Ren>That’s pretty much what I thought I was saying.

I think you were indeed intending something quite similar. However, I think that it's not the status of identity that matters in these cases but features of the worlds themselves. And with respect to the worlds, I don't think that these issues fall naturally out of an analysis along ludic, social, and civil worlds.

Ren>I have issues with authentic as something can be authentic but not real an in every day sense.

I hear you; that is precisely why is used 'authentic'--'real' is a term i think best reserved for everyday talk, where it means, essentially, 'actual' or 'existing in actual fact', where 'actual' is a pointer to our world.

I don't think that makes 'authentic' problematic though. By 'authentic', I am just referring to the fact that technology is developing the ability to generate constructs that can 'fool' aspects of our cognition into treating them as 'real' or 'actual'.

The point is, if a digital world walks like a place, talks like a place and (most important) people think of it as a place, then in some sense that I think should carry legal weight, it IS a place. This is what should distinguish forum boards from Second Life, for example. Naturally, this property is not binary, though any arbitrary threshold criteria (i.e., one set by jurists) could be used to make it such.

Ren>Yes, this is specifically why I referenced Balkin at the end of the original post.

Yeah, I caught that, which is why I mentioned it without introduction.

Ren>Again I think there are some arguments from contemporary cybernetics theory and some of the more post-modern theories of identity that we could get into here, but let’s step on for the moment.

Agreed, but I will say that I think I know where you were headed with that. And I'd point out that even glasses have a distinct influence in the construction of wearer's identity. I'd just deny that the glasses themselves were part of that identity. Anyhow...

Ren>Thing is, what do you mean by ‘closeness’ and ‘fidelity’. I’m certainly not using thing like look and feel as these are not generally relevant – so what is the axis of closeness exactly?

By 'closeness', I'm referring to the relative position of some digital world to the target possible world it seeks to represent in the space of all possible worlds. This requires the temporary assumption that the digital world is a possible world, for the sake of analysis. In this case, 'closeness' is determined by things like truth conditions for propositions, particularly counterfactuals, about those worlds, metaphysical features, human responses to homologous events in each world, etc. These are the sorts of things I think are important when discussing justice in digital worlds.

Alternatively, you can think of 'closeness' as a kind of metaphysical verisimiltude between a digital world and the possible world it models. 'Fidelity' is the degree of closeness between the two.

Look and feel can be very important to determining questions of justice as well, and it's why I didn't exclude them. The look and feel of a world, for example, has a large impact on whether a digital world could pass a Bartle Test. Since something like the Bartle Test is critical to evaluating whether a construct should be treated as a PLACE rather than an OBJECT by the law, which in turn affects what rights, responsibilities, etc. attach to those who use the construct, look and feel should not be neglected, imo.

Aaron

67.

In thinking about the comments here, it seems to me that we may have consensus on one or two things:

1. Categorizations are worthwhile in many respects. One key benefit of line-drawing about identity is that it helps in thinking about what's missing in design -- where the blank spaces are. Another good thing about categorization is that it helps us clump concepts together so that we can have more useful discussions.

2. But, as Raph points out, there aren't many blank spaces when it comes to identity. Identity issues are pervasive. And the clumping that these categories provide is potentially both over-inclusive (because each category involves putting many variables together at the same time) and under-inclusive (because there are so many grey areas and overlapping and evolving kinds of worlds).

3. It's worthwhile to avoid the practical legal questions for the moment ("what terrestrial law applies to this particular world?") because they are ultimately either unanswerable or too easily answerable, and we can't predict which beforehand.

4. Ren is posing a set of very worthwhile questions: if we assume that "real" legal regimes will defer (as they should) to rules established by well-constituted and well-governed metaverses, what kinds of inquiries/rules/axes should the metaverses make available? What kinds of norms do we want to encourage when it comes to identity? It's a call to make lists of functionalities that feed into identity in the future.

5. Surely, as part of this inquiry, it's a good idea to come up with notions of sub-worlds that might have diverse approaches to these various functionalities. That's what I think Ren is pointing to (but forgive me if I have misunderstood).

We might as well proceed, intellectually at least, with the assumption that both "real" lawyers and game designers will be interested in learning about and deferring to the various axes and functionalities that we think are relevant.

Sure, it might be hopeless in the end as a practical matter, but you never know.

68.

Ren, to clarify, here's what I'm suggesting:


1. The Bartle Test must be applied to determine the degree to which we're talking about a construct that is Object-like or more Place-like. (This is pretheoretical in your model, since you start from 'worlds', but the RL moral/legal distinctions between property rights over objects and rights in private places are sufficiently distinct to demand clarification of a construct.)

2. The Diegetic Test: This test is applied to determine what the moral state of affairs would be for someone who lived in the possible world that a given virtual world models.

3. The Mimetic Test: This test is applied to determine the extent to which a given virtual world could be construed as a model of the actual world. That is, the Mimetic Test is applied to determine what the moral state of affairs would be if the virtual world were taken to exist someplace in the actual world.

4. The RL Test: This test is applied to determine the moral/legal state of affairs, given the assumption that the digital world exists only as a construct in the actual world, where the focus is on the Real-Life relationship between some RL government, the owner of the digital world, and one of its users.

The outputs of these tests are balanced with respect to the right, grievance, responsibility, moral obligation, deontic status, etc. that is being considered.

These tests do not represent quantities that are readily unified in a coordinate system of axes. However, I do think they better elucidate world-level features that must be considered when contemplating the law/ethics/morality of digital worlds.

While I think we're after much the same thing and are drawing on the same intuitions, I'm not sure that the Four Worlds Theory does the trick. Maybe we can hash something out between us. =D

Cheers,

Aaron

69.

galiel>Having lurked on many of those discussions, my perception is that they focused almost entirely on the developer's point of view.

Yes, but the developers' point of view does include considerations of what the players would make of it (indeed, it's what the players would make of it that killed most of the suggestions).

>In many other industries, approaches bent on "exploiting" the crowds have failed

The problem here is that the crowds exploit themselves. The reputation becomes just another gameplay device that can be exploited. For virtual worlds without gameplay, OK, a bit of bad information here and there doesn't hurt: so long as you can trust the reputation most of the time, that's usually enough. For game-like worlds, though, why would players not exploit it if it gave them the slightest advantage? And if it gives no advantage, why have it?

>It makes sense to me to examine, empirically and with an open-mind and few assumptions, what makes some systems work and others fail, and then to see how to apply those lessons to our field of endeavor.

You're right, that does make sense. I think it would be a bad idea to try implement such a system in a game-like world until we have such an analysis available, though. Although we don't know much about how this might work, we know enough to suggest that it probably won't work as things stand.

>The idea that these systems are "easy to exploit", in my experience, stems from a lack of understanding about how the social design of these systems affects their internal culture

No, it stems from the failure of these systems to have worked in practice. It may be that a deeper understanding of social design might offer new insights, but the idea that these systems are easy to exploit has come from the fact that all the ones that have been built so far have been easy to exploit.

>Exploits in these systems is not something unique to virtual worlds, and a lot of thought and experimentation and learning has gone into working on solving that problem.

I suspect that the more people who participate in a system, the better it will be. It'll still be exploitable to some degree, though.

>So, we'll revisit this discussion in a few years.

If we still have virtual worlds worth playing by then (sigh).

Richard

70.

Susan said,

http://terranova.blogs.com/terra_nova/2005/08/the_four_worlds.html#c9029838>3.It's worthwhile to avoid the practical legal questions for the moment ("what terrestrial law applies to this particular world?") because they are ultimately either unanswerable or too easily answerable, and we can't predict which beforehand.

The papers Ren cites discuss practical issues both current and looming. Are we not ultimately attempting to determine a framework to help understand and answer those practical legal questions, as well as predict those questions beforehand? If not, what is this all really about?

I think this conversation would benefit greatly from specific examples. Perhaps we can examine, particularly, any legal questions associated with virtual worlds that benefit from this framework.

One example that gets tossed around is boxing. There is a specific set of laws that deals with boxing as a professional sport. Even though one can say boxing is a sport, which is a type of game, and has been called ludic in this thread, one can also review the laws, and determine that it is laws regulating a set of professions, and laws regulating a business. As a matter of fact, if one knew nothing of Boxing itself, a reading of the law would create the impression that it is nothing more than a business. From Game Theory and its applications in Economics, Business, itself, perhaps, could be considered a game. This begs the question, where exactly are the boundaries of these categories? Does the boundary of ludic end when the motivation for participation is no longer considered leisurely entertainment? Perhaps it is somewhere between children playing in the street and a major league baseball team.

http://terranova.blogs.com/terra_nova/2005/08/the_four_worlds.html#c9029838>if we assume that "real" legal regimes will defer (as they should) to rules established by well-constituted and well-governed metaverses, what kinds of inquiries/rules/axes should the metaverses make available?

Just to point out a parallel with boxing - the law recognizes a boxing Commission (at the state level I believe) and the role of a Commissioner, which, as a body, establish many standards in boxing. There are some cases where the law may expressly defer to the commission in particular cases, but none in which the Commission can supersede law. A Commissioner, though, is clearly someone whom the law can call as an expert to understand the intricacies of how and why particular standards are set. Further, the commissioner is only discussing boxing, and, perhaps, only in the context of the State in which they are employed as such. That is, it is not a meta-sport commission, and it clearly has jurisdictional boundary. Who, then, is the commissioner in virtual worlds? By default, it seems to be the operator (and/or designer). They determine the standards of use in the virtual world, and may provide particular powers to users to establish their own, but still within the context in which law may allow. These standards are normally expressed within a contractual agreement based on service and use.

And finally, let’s take a different approach and ask specific questions about this framework, such as…

Can a world exhibit the attributes of ludic, social, and civil simultaneously? Yes.
Can a world exhibit an identity either genuine or relational regardless of world category? Yes.
Can a world not exhibit any attributes of ludic, social, or civil? Yes.

I should note that Susan, in a previous entry, touched on the very same questions.

From my perspective, it may be best to simply look upon each particular world from a legal perspective. That is, as the legal community does it - based on acts, like intrusion, copyright, commerce, menacing, etc., as each world may have its own particular issue with it. Further, it may be useful to look particularly at two groups, such as laws that relate to the business, or the operator, and laws that relate to the consumer, or user. Certainly, as well, general contexts should be understood, such as those relating to computers, to software, to video games, to online activities, to business, and those relating to the intersection of such contexts. From this perspective, one can further understand what laws not particular to virtual worlds will affect them, and what laws, that may attempt to affect virtual worlds particularly, will affect that which is not.

71.

Eric, I think much of what you say is exactly right. But we (or at least I and a few others) are considered with morality in addition to legality. And I don't think that the legal framework you suggest, while probably adequate for many issues of jurisprudence, is rich enough to cover that much broader and logically prior domain.

In addition, as you know, I'm very much an advocate that the moral, legal and ethical issues surrounding virtual worlds turn to a great extent on whether they are construed as authentic PLACES in some regard or another. The legal framework we have now in most RL systems is silent on this issue. That silence severely hinders its ability to make the jump to the virtual sphere, imo.

Aaron

(P.S. I'll get back to you when I return. I have been out of town for months now, and haven't had a chance to give your queries the attention they deserve. =)

72.

Law is us. Law is a cultural conversation. Law changes all the time.

I personally find it less interesting to examine how terrestrial law might apply to virtual worlds (anything can happen, judges do all kinds of things) than to think about what the spaces can and should do for themselves. Why can't we take seriously the idea that there is law (that doesn't come from sovereigns) in place in virtual worlds that should be respected and deferred to -- much like sports rules?

Then the next question can be: are there particular virtual abuses or problems that make it necessary for terrestrial law to enter in? When do we need sovereigns to notice virtual worlds? Speech and property issues may call for this kind of entry.

But the starting point for me is taking virtual worlds seriously as law-generating networks. Virtual law, not "real" law. But law just the same.

So when Eric R. says he wants to look at worlds from a legal perspective, I urge him to look up rather than down. (He may be thinking this way already.) There's law inside the worlds already.

Susan

73.

Susan said,

http://terranova.blogs.com/terra_nova/2005/08/the_four_worlds.html#c9108368>So when Eric R. says he wants to look at worlds from a legal perspective, I urge him to look up rather than down.

The only reason I am discussing virtual worlds from a legal perspective is simply because I was under the impression that was what was being discussed. When Balkin is cited and actual court cases are quoted, I made the assumption that the discussion includes, as you call it, terrestrial law.

It's clear when exploring this subject, one must distinguish exactly what one is talking about. I am attempting specifically to explore the validity of Ren's schema, and further, understand exactly what scope it may apply to. This discussion clearly suffers from issues of scope.

When one constructs a schema in which to structure a set of cases, one must first survey the relevant cases or subjects to observe criteria in which to base structure upon. There are many levels of minutiae which can be explored in a particular case, and many cases in which to explore, and thus some determination of relevance, or scope, must be made in both breadth and depth. This scope provides the neccessary relevance in which to determine and qualify the cases to observe. One now has a set of observable cases, and a standard in which to observe them. From this set of cases, a challenge or problem can be identified that may be resolved through the creation of a schema. This problem is the context of the schema.This challenge is then used in the selection of the criteria in which to base a structure upon. Once a structure is determined, it can then be tested using cases within the specified scope. If a case is identified within the scope that the schema does not apply to, there is an issue with the schema, but the solution may exist in modifying scope, criteria, challenge, or structure.

The schema proposed by Ren is addressing the challenge of difficulty in discussing the set of cases. That is, discussing the set of cases with the schema is, in some qualitative manner, easier than discussing it without. The scope are cases involving virtual worlds in relation to "legal, perhaps moral and possibly other contexts." The criterion is identity. The structure exhibits a continuum of identity based on the relative "distance" between the virtual world participant's actual and projected identities.

My legal perspective was simply attempting to illustrate that the structure does not fit the criterion. There may, indeed, be a continuum, but such a continuum may not order in the manner Ren has suggested. Further, terrestrial law, as I understood it to be within the scope of legal context, may not recognize a continuum, but only the absolute of legal entities. It is further clarifying that this schema suffers from lack of adequate scope as there are clearly perspectives which can operate to the exclusion of others.

http://terranova.blogs.com/terra_nova/2005/08/the_four_worlds.html#c9108368>the starting point for me is taking virtual worlds seriously as law-generating networks

There is no question that virtual worlds exist both as laws and with laws. By "law-generating" do you mean generative of terrestrial laws or only generative of virtual laws? There is no question that virtual worlds are generative of virtual laws. The computer, the Internet, and technologies based on them are clearly generative of terrestrial law. That is, they generated a particular need for the creation of new laws.

http://terranova.blogs.com/terra_nova/2005/08/the_four_worlds.html#c9108368>there is law (that doesn't come from sovereigns) in place in virtual worlds that should be respected and deferred to -- much like sports rules?

I assume you are illustrating some form of jurisdiction. That is, that the virtual world should be afforded some jurisdiction over its "residents." Deferral can occur when the law does not provide for such acts, or when the law explicitly provides for external definition and resolution of such acts. Currently, terrestrial law applies for a degree of both. First, it may not provide in law for a particular act, and secondly, it may defer to the context of the service agreement.

http://terranova.blogs.com/terra_nova/2005/08/the_four_worlds.html#c9108368>the next question can be: are there particular virtual abuses or problems that make it necessary for terrestrial law to enter in?

I understand this question and do not exclude it, but my reasoning does extend it. Would such terrestrial law apply to constructs not associated with virtual worlds? This questions the difference between a web page and a virtual house, or clicking a submit button on a web forum or expressing an idea with /say. How can such a legal distinction be made? If it cannot, we are not just talking about virtual worlds. This consideration is of importance to your question in referencing the term "particular."

In a previous post, I subtracted a point I wanted to make about the parallels between a carrier service and a virtual world. Hardware and a set of protocols can be classified as a carrier service depending on its function. In the same sense, a virtual world, due to its potential capabilities, could be considered as a carrier service, albeit using a high level protocol, similar to early high-level protocol gateway approaches to Internet access. Because of the interfaces which can be available with this presentation, it may be reasonable to assume that a virtual world engine could become an operating system, per se, for a future Internet, as has been discussed since, at least, the 1980's. This distinction, though, is not based on whether or not it is a virtual world, but that it is legally considered as a carrier service.

74.

Eric>Because of the interfaces which can be available with this presentation, it may be reasonable to assume that a virtual world engine could become an operating system, per se, for a future Internet, as has been discussed since, at least, the 1980's. This distinction, though, is not based on whether or not it is a virtual world, but that it is legally considered as a carrier service.

I completely agree. The problem is that I don't see how Ren's schema allows the kind of multiplicity that we need. The moral and legal questions that arise with digital worlds have many aspects that may be in play singly for a given situation yet changeable for another, or they may also involve weighing several aspects at once. That is why I resort to the philosophical device of finding a set of tests/thought experiments that press the relevant 'original positions' into service. The goal is a theory-neutral way of presenting 'what must be reckoned' with respect to morality, ethics, and digital worlds.

Aaron

75.

Eric R wrote:

> One example that gets tossed around is boxing. There is a specific set of laws that deals with boxing as a professional sport. Even though one can say boxing is a sport, which is a type of game, and has been called ludic in this thread, one can also review the laws, and determine that it is laws regulating a set of professions, and laws regulating a business. As a matter of fact, if one knew nothing of Boxing itself, a reading of the law would create the impression that it is nothing more than a business.

I’m not sure which set of laws you are talking about. But certainly in the UK you statement depends very much on what you many by ‘a reading of the law’.

A month or so ago I went to an all day event organised by the UKs Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) about law and sport. Part of this was a workshop on violence. The questions there were:
1) Is act X an offence?
2) Should it be prosecuted?


The way that the CPS makes prosecutions and the case law that was referenced very specially took into account the ludic nature of what was going on. That is, if you look just at a given act from a purely physicalist (I’m not being philosophically rigorous in the use of that term btw) perspective then on can easily find identical acts. But that’s not how the law operates, it takes into account the context of the act. And the context is not just that of being a business e.g. right now I’m sitting in an office and I’m being paid to do it, this does not give me licence to hit or tackle people around me. No. Lawyers, specifically prosecutors in the UK take into account the ludic nature of what is occurring – moreover they do this in at least three ways:

1) That physical sports make for allowances in what constitutes an offence and / or what can be prosecuted
2) That sport sites in a wider social context where players of some sports are role models
3) That some sports have governance structures

Lastly we must note that not all sports are professional.

So, I think that one could look at applying a taxonomy to the way that these determinations occur e.g. I think that street fighting, ‘organised’ bare knuckle boxing and governing council regulated boxing fall into broadly different categories. As there is a body of case law around these things, maybe I should have started there rather than being inspired by this and diving into virtual worlds.

76.

Susan wrote:
>I personally find it less interesting to examine how terrestrial law might apply to virtual worlds (anything can happen, judges do all kinds of things) than to think about what the spaces can and should do for themselves.

Eric R wrote:
>The only reason I am discussing virtual worlds from a legal perspective is simply because I was under the impression that was what was being discussed. When Balkin is cited and actual court cases are quoted, I made the assumption that the discussion includes, as you call it, terrestrial law.

Yes, they reason I started this thread and the intention of the schema is to aid in discussion of terrestrial law and indeed morality.

Here I differ a little with Susan. As a non-Lawyer I’m all for getting into legal texts and case law; Susan de-emphasises this and focuses more on governance.

I think that governance is an important angle. As I was noting above in respect of sport – one axis that prosecutors seem to take into account is the degree of organisation that a sport has. That is if it has well understood rules, and a consistent method of enforcing those rules that seems to have worked over a period of time – such as amateur sports and professional sports have, then there are seem to be areas that the law is happy to leave be, though there are limits – so I’m sure that you can commit assault in a boxing ring. I think that cases to look at would be things like PGA, Scouts association etc.

77.

Aaron > The problem is that I don't see how Ren's schema allows the kind of multiplicity that we need.

Well as I stated right up front “Here’s a broad theory for people to shoot holes in.” I’m not much bothered if we end up with 4 fine tuned worlds n axies / questions that we apply to any give case - just so long as we endup with something useful. In fact I’m liking the set of test approach though I’m not to sure about the overall metaphysic of the details of each or the tests, but I’m all for a fuller list. So you had:

1. The Bartle Test
2. The Diegetic Test
3. The Mimetic Test.
4. The RL Test

One more is:
The Governance Test: something that looks at the effectiveness of governance within a world. This would take into account things like purpose, consistency, transparency etc.

78.

Aaron > The problem is that I don't see how Ren's schema allows the kind of multiplicity that we need.

Well as I stated right up front “Here’s a broad theory for people to shoot holes in.” I’m not much bothered if we end up with 4 fine tuned worlds n axies / questions that we apply to any give case - just so long as we endup with something useful. In fact I’m liking the set of test approach though I’m not to sure about the overall metaphysic of the details of each or the tests, but I’m all for a fuller list. So you had:

1. The Bartle Test
2. The Diegetic Test
3. The Mimetic Test.
4. The RL Test

One more is:
The Governance Test: something that looks at the effectiveness of governance within a world. This would take into account things like purpose, consistency, transparency etc.

79.

Ren, I agree with the entirety of your post and do not dispute those notions.

The way that the CPS makes prosecutions and the case law that was referenced very specially took into account the ludic nature of what was going on.

In my previous post I referenced the establishment of the Boxing Commission and its relation to law, which is related to the concepts you were illustrating about the CPS event. There is no question there is a ludic context in Boxing, and such context needs to be, and is, understood in law. My point was moreso it is largely a civil construct with a ludic core. Also, my perspective was in reference to United States Federal Acts concerning the recognition of Boxing as a commercial sport.

I think that governance is an important angle. As I was noting above in respect of sport – one axis that prosecutors seem to take into account is the degree of organisation that a sport has.

Involvement in Boxing has a very contractual nature. That is, to participate, you must agree to specific contractual obligations. If these obligations are violated, there is contractual remedy, such as penalties determined by the Commission.The Commission, though, is bound to a particular scope in which it can establish standards as recognized by law. For example, a Commission cannot simply change the sport of Boxing by replacing gloves with machetes, and law enforcement need not defer to a Commission ruling if a boxer uses a machete in the ring. That is not saying, though, that law does not recognize the difference between assault and sport or that it does not defer to Commission recommendations, as it can and does.

Previously, I equated a Commission with the operators of virtual worlds. Although Boxing and Football are both sports, a Boxing Commission clearly cannot rule on acts in Football. Virtual worlds may, too, be as dissimilar to one another in their ludic natures. This is not to say there are some Universal distinctions. That is, there are no professional sports in which the goal is to kill another human being. Also, in sports that can result in injury to participants, there are a plethora of regulations concerning how and what medical services are made available as well as numerous types of insurance, although such considerations seem to be applied on a per sport basis. Now, this is obvious, but the reason why I note this is because these considerations are made on acts and effects that can and do occur, and considerations for the acts and acts themselves become ordered. This happens regularly in law. Thusly, I believe there is required an exploration of acts that must be considered in the determination of a schema. Each act, of course, is afforded some context, which can then allow for determinations to be made on acts concerning all contexts, and thus establishing univeral consideration.The only reason why I put forth such an elemental suggestion is because your initial challenge, to make discussion easier, is, in effect, a discussion on how to have a discussion. In that light, I make this consideration.

As a non-Lawyer I’m all for getting into legal texts and case law; Susan de-emphasises this and focuses more on governance.

I think, perhaps, what both you and Susan are attempting to establish is that when a large number of legal entities organize themselves and establish community laws, in what contexts should such laws be recognized, respected, enforced, deferred, and superseded. For example, consider that in the United States, Congress can make no law which prohibits the free exercise of Religion. Religion is an establishment of an organization that is deferred to by, and in some cases, can supersede law. I don't presume to equate religions with virtual worlds, but establishment of religion is an act, just as organizing for the establishment of laws is. If this is indeed your central question, perhaps you should explore the contexts of this act particularly. Therefore, the initial perspective becomes - in what contexts are such establishments recognized and then expand further to determine the potential limits of recognition.

80.

Ren>The Governance Test: something that looks at the effectiveness of governance within a world. This would take into account things like purpose, consistency, transparency etc.

I like that. What do you see as the moral/legal/normative consequences of, say, a world where there is no transparency in gov't versus one that offers transparency. I take it something like ATITD would count as the latter.

And yes, of course, if I'm to be taken seriously I owe some explanations. =D

Oh yea, and btw i wasn't meaning to take shots at you. I think what you're onto is really important.

81.

This thread may have sunken below everyone's attention, but I'm doing a senior project on virtual worlds, and ran across a paper that tangentially addresses this particular issue. You can find it here:

http://hypertext.rmit.edu.au/dac/papers/Klastrup.pdf

In the process of defining a "poetics" of virtual worlds, Klastrup touches in ideas about different kinds of virtual worlds. It's not particularly different from ideas that have been brought up here, but she does situate it in a broader context that is (as far as I've seen in my lit review so far) one of the few academic pieces that addresses head on the issue of games as creative works, which I found interesting.

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