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Sep 11, 2006



I'm not very familiar with First Monday; the link gives me what appears to be a table of contents, except over half of the articles aren't linked. Am I missing something?


The articles are appearing in three sets over three months -- accessible now is the first slate of them; the remaining links will be active in October and November.


Boo. Hiss. Thanks.


Governance, it is always important to remind ourselves, is not reducible to control.

Thomas, have you see Michael Crichton's talk on complexity and management (as opposed to control)? Two links are present here, though the content of that post refers to something slightly tangential.


Thanks, Michael. Good read, although I find it interesting that the same insight into the irreducible complexity of the world has been hit upon by at least 6 different schools of thought over the last 140 years (longer, if you want to count Machiavelli and Vico), but yet it's always presented as local and novel.

The interesting question I would pursue from his focus is that of the roots of the linking of fear and unpredictability. I think (as I said in comments here), that this is an essentially modern problem, where bureaucratic practice, as a core legitimating technique for modern institutions, ends up demonizing contingency; i.e., that which it cannot control.

I like this quote:

What happened at Yellowstone? I would say, somebody really believed the world operated like this schematic diagram. And they acted on that belief.

This is, in a way, what the pragmatists were saying, but it keeps needing to be resaid. Another nice version of this (if you can navigate the writing style, at least in the English translation) is in Pierre Bourdieu's Outline of a Theory of Practice, where he nicely points out the dangers of mistaking our models of kinship for the kinship practices themselves. My approach to games seeks to underscore this same difficulty, and find a pragmatic way around it.

The real challenge, as Crichton's talk makes clear, is how to find grounds to act once we recognize the deep open-endedness, or contingency, of the world (I prefer contingency over complexity, because it points more directly to the root unpredictabilities). For the pragmatists, this meant a somewhat dismissive (from a certain perspective) take on articulated ideals and principles (really, any kind of formalist effort), leading to either a crotchety cynicism (Holmes), or, interestingly, an optimistic faith in collective judgment over the long run (James, Dewey).


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The next set of articles in the First Monday special issue is up! This set happens to be entirely about virtual worlds. Here is the list:

Beyond Management: Considering Participatory Design and Governance in Player Culture
by T.L. Taylor

Why Governments aren’t Gods and Gods aren’t Governments
by Richard A. Bartle

Coding Control: Governance and Contingency in the Production of Online Worlds
by Thomas M. Malaby

Synthetic Economies and the Social Question
by Edward Castronova

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