« Death of the Auteur? | Main | TN in a nutshell »

Oct 02, 2004



Betsy Book> "Virtual Votes serves as a no-hold-barred forum for real-time political debate in which regular moderation rules will be lifted in order to promote a freer discussion of political issues and candidates."

I've seen U.S. politics discussed on various BBSs and discussion forums for nearly 20 years now, and there's a distinct morphology:

1. When the doors open, everyone rushes in to stake their claim to the virtual turf.

2. Noise. Confusion. Chaos. A Hobbesian struggle for dominance.

3. One of the two major parties will begin to establish a majority population on the site. Those on the losing side control fewer and fewer individual topics.

4. A tipping point occurs at which one side clearly constitutes a majority of the site's population.

5. Those of the minority party (on the site) abandon the struggle as hopeless. Except for a few gadflies, those in the minority decamp en masse to a site that their side has already "won."

6. The usual "we don't like your kind here" discussion tactics and group dynamics are set by the victors to discourage the occasional unwanted visitor.

7. The utility of the site to be anything more than an echo chamber is reduced to near zero.

If anything, the low- to no-moderation rules policy of Virtual Votes will only make this painful process even more rapid than usual, as no one will be enforcing anything even remotely like a code of courtesy (to say nothing of rhetorical or logical sense). The level of verbal vileness allowed by a no-holds-barred policy will, I think it's safe to say, only hasten VV's descent to one-party rule.

Incidentally, both major U.S. parties are pretty well wired at this point -- I expect VV will see "operatives" from both the DNC and RNC posting the day's talking points as though they were just Regular Members. This is an interesting change from the unsophisticated days when people you met online actually believed the things they said, rather than being party activists willing to say anything if it will tip a few lurkers to their side at the polls.

The expansion of political activism into online discussion hasn't noticeably elevated the level of discourse. I suspect that Virtual Votes will not be the exception to this rule.

Still, I'm glad to live in a place where the state isn't the entity setting the rules for all permitted political discussion... even if it does mean the discussion sometimes gets awfully messy.



I was going to check it out, but, interestingly, I can't get the free registration with my Yahoo mail account. I wonder what's up with that? Whos afraid of anonymous political speech?

I'm sure the quality of the discourse would not be much different than you'd find anywhere else in the country -- what I would be curious to see is how/if the environment is used in the furtherance of political speech.

TL talks a lot about VZones in her "Living Digitally" paper -- http://www.itu.dk/people/tltaylor/papers/Taylor-LivingDigitally.pdf


Well, I guess I should say she talks about Dreamscape a lot, but same difference, as you know.



I ran across an article on the BBC news site that seemed relevant to some degree.


The news article talks about a "virtual protest march" organized by Italian activists.

The actual site is


This probably wouldn't be considered a "virtual world" but it might share some characteristics with virtual worlds. The characteristics of the march certainly raise some of the same questions that moving public political discussion into virtual worlds raises. Primarily, do we get something more out of this virtual march other than a glorified petition? The corresponding question raised by Virtual Votes is do we get something more out of it other than a glorified chat or message board?

I don't have all the answers (don't tell my students!) but one thing that jumped to mind was that the visual medium presented the numbers participating much more effectively. On a message board, lurkers aren't seen. Names on a petition does not convey the nunmbers as well as the graphical representation of column after column of little marchers. Does the visual aspect add meaning, does it change the impact on the viewer?


PS If someone wants to email me and tell me how (or direct me to instructions) to make my url's into links, I'd apreciate it. I'm sure it involves brackets and code of some sort, just not sure what it is. Thanks.

The comments to this entry are closed.