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Dec 21, 2006





Well, part of the reason is that often groups are not like a guild group but more of a specific interrest group. So if you start asking script questions in a game or rental group that would not be appriciated.

For most things there are specific groups you can join and ask questions in. But i agree it is a hassle, and when you are new it can be hard to find the right group.

People could be more friendly about it though.


Wow, an insightful SL post on Terra Nova, who woulda thunk it!

Bob, you're dead on. The only question I think remains, did Linden Labs do this on purpose in order to ensure their customers could not communicate en masse (ie, take it to the forums - now defunct?)

I doubt it they did it on purpose, though I wouldn't be surprised that they're not in a hurry to fix it beacause the last thing they want is more communication between their residents.


Because most people in SL are either AFK so not answering, or else building/scripting/dealing with customers/having cybersex and get annoyed by the DING DING of group IMs.

I'm half joking. I usually find the "spam" more fun to read than the 20th IM that week from someone in the Builders group asking for a script to give landmarks or whatever. Sellers Guild is a great source of drama and fun, whereas others like Isle of Wyrms will jump on and threaten to ban forever anyone with the temerity to say "hi" as if this was some kind of *social* platform!

Mostly I'd say it's because in MMORPGs, you're only in one guild. You can have 25 groups in SL. They're functional more than social- the social ones tend more to be vanity groups formed by those who like to see they have a nice bunch of groupies to fluff them.

And some groups work a little more like extended family/clubs, where chatter, greetings and wellwishes isn't particularly discouraged, but with so many potential (and different to every avatar) combinations of groups, it gets hard to keep track of. You end up with conversations with a couple of friends in two tabs, a couple more tabs flashing for business oriented groups, and then that DJ/live musician you foolishly gave your card to last year sends you two more IMs (because they pasted your card twice into their mass-IM folder) flashing to remind you they're at Club Meh in 15 minutes. And again in 15 minutes. And again 15 minutes after that.

Never trade cards or friends with a performer. You'll never get any peace again.


I have logged into SL more than once.

SL’s UI could certainly be improved. Though ‘Google for SL’ is their killer needed app if you ask me.

But SL is not a game, groups are not guilds, I don’t go to SL to ‘play’. I’m a member of at least 20 groups in SL, I am the owner of a few. I generally don’t expect people to ‘chat’ on these group channels and the tendency is for people to chat either with the people they are physically with or one-to-one on IM with people they are with or remote individuals. It’s somewhat chicken and egg, but I wonder if the social structures of SL really need group chat, if it was needed I feel it would be used despite the interface.


Hm. Well, the comment about "one guild chat" is interesting - most MMO's don't use tabbed chats, for example or make the chats default to one small chat window, use huge fonts, etc.

My Eve character, by contrast, is in 12 chat channels, 11 of which are nicely tabbed in the screen corner. (And local chat in a seperate window because of the tactical significance of it being allways-open).

I definately think there are deliberate descisions made on the desireable levels of user interactions there...


I’m a rather umm “frequent” user of SL. I don’t “play” it as others have referenced; I use it. I use it to teach, to network, and to learn.
I don’t see the lack of use of “group IM” as a problem with the UI. I see it as a function of the motivation behind the groups that are formed in SL. Unlike a guild, which takes a sort of level of commitment to join, you can belong to over a dozen groups in SL and there are even bots that will automatically invite you to join a group for a club’s VIP list, a merchant’s “best buyer’s” list ect. Imagine that happening in WOW. You walk into a tavern and you automatically get invited to the tavern’s guild. It just wouldn’t happen.
This willy-nilly group formation and membership makes for some groups that just really don’t have any function, and therefore no need for group IMs. Maybe you joined the group to get the cool tag (I have a “Suicide Girl” tag I like quite a lot) or maybe you joined for a single event to be on the list of people allowed to attend. Most groups in SL are formed for reasons like this and these groups just don’t welcome group IM interruptions because, frankly, the members have no reason to communicate with one another.
On the other hand, groups that have a real purpose, like the Second Life Educators (SLED), are a little more welcoming to group IM interruption. I’ll admit that it’s still an underused communication path, though. I’ve actually found that if I open the group IM window and just send out a “How’s everyone?” I usually get rather enthusiastic responses from the newer folk in the list and the more seasoned names “have left this session” before a real conversation starts.
Group IM also functions somewhat like a mailing list, rather than a synchronous communication tool. When an IM is posted, even users who are not online (if they have their preferences set to) receive the message in an email. Thus making group IM great for sending out announcements.
Every virtual environment has its own social norms and mores, usually somewhat dictated by the mechanics of the environment and what is possible there. In SL, folks prefer to meet, TP to one another and talk face to face. That’s not so easily done in most other environments. Perhaps that’s the difference?


I think it helps if you think of SL as incorporating digetic versions of IRC, one-to-one IM, and email, as well as the non-digetic communication methods of blogs, fora and regular old email. Group IM is much like IRC, and often feels like the old AOL chatrooms of yore.

The dynamics of group-belonging in SL are very different to the conventional MMORPG model. MMORPG group communicaion is about progressing groups of players towards common goals. The goals of any given group in SL can be incredibly diverse: there are several different motivations in joining a group, and several of those motivations are about 'affiliation' - it's more akin to friending on MySpace, or badging oneself.

Item Update groups
Some vendors have groups for new item announcements; as these vendors often have little presence outside SL, this becomes the in world equivalent of adding an RSS feed to your reader. Better website integration would change some of this.

Item Support groups
Xcite, for instance. I love the gentle trickle of 'Haylp! My Cock is broken!', they really liven up my evening and provide ample opportunity for oneliners.

Nameplate Groups
Because groups produce the additional tag on the player, it's entirely feasible to join a group just because it has a good joke for your player nameplate. eg. Warren Ellis' group tag currently reads 'ZOMG! Its [Player Name]'. Cute

Attitude/Interest Groups
Joined to make a statement about player interests: a more extensive version of badging; with the additional idea that there will be some commonality between users in a grop. Often don't work to actually forge social ties, due to the nospam etiquette rule.

Work groups
Eg, xXx Fantasy Escorts - serving both as advertising, and a coordinating channel for coworkers. More akin to a WoW guild, in that it serves a double purpose of coordination of goals, knowledge transfer and sociability

Ownership/Permissions groups
eg, all residents of a certain Sim's housing area, to grant object rights and tier to the group. May also be used for announcements

Private Friends groups
Tend to be busy channels - facilitates group conversation at a distance. This is where social group chat happens. I would be VERY surprised if these ever grow above 20 or 30 members

So - that's just the use cases I can think of immediately. You would expect from the differing uses that differing etiquette would apply, and indeed it seems to. Please don't forget that the inclusion of a different usecase chat channel in WoW caused an almighty stink - global LFG caused an outbreak of 'Stop Spamming!' that rumbled on for weeks; you'll often get told to STFU in /1 general, too.

Social glue chat in WoW happens in /guild (and to an extent, /party and /whisper); all other channels are incredibly focussed on the goals of the discrete game world; they're formalised, used accepted and easily scanned formulaic requests and responses. Second Life != MMORPG - the multitudes of motivations for open ended play mean that this 'courtly language' is not as well developed.

In addition, there's the point mentioned above about volume; imagine trying to keep track of 25 different guild chats in WoW. Chat models tend to break down when there are more than 20 to 30 individuals participating, and become impossible to track when you get to the hundreds (I've hosted public chats in the past with 150+ sign ins, and the text literally goes too fast to read). The cognitive burden would become too much beyond a certain level of engagement on each SL group channel.

Perhaps what we have is a problem of continual partial attention; every IM carries apparently equal weight in SL, regardless of source. What SL is suffering from is lack of a slow channel - a usenet analogue. Notecard post is little used; a formalisation of that as a non-immediate, non urgent means of communication might ease group interaction. Additionally, I have already noticed people using group voting functions to send 'reminders' or news bulletins through a third interface (the blue script interaction window) - this feels less 'spammy', and marks them as much more 'general for information' as opposed to the 'for immediate personal attention' of Group IM.

Perhaps what we need is more control at the group level - for example 'Digest this group's IMs and deliver once a day by notecard' 'Ignore IM from this group unless I say otherwise' 'Silence individual user within this group' 'Treat this group as you would personal IMs' - effectively, a ruleset for working with groups where individuals are not personally known to you. It's what we have in other communication routes where managing information overload is a necessity.

I suspect that as it matures, SL will develop new models of interaction that allow sequential consumption of social text-communicaion within the world (not breaking suspension of disbelief / crossing the fourth wall as current web-link models do).

And now I've spent so long writing this I notice I've been lapped by other commenters.
Also, I suspect that at some point, I'll figure out the SL keyboard shortcut to jump between local chat input and IM, and be a much happier girl.


Nameplate culture is interesting.

I almost never change my appearance in SL. My avi looks like me. I have two sets of clothes ‘Roke’ and ‘Jack’ both by Damien Fate. Sometimes I’ll wear a hat, but not often.

What I do change is my ‘nameplate’. And generally when I TP somewhere I’ll do a quick nameplate check and see what’s the most / least appropriate for venue.

Some of the early ones I have are ‘Brits’ and ‘Europeans’ in SL. Some groups regularly change the tag – and this is a form of SL play I engage as I like the randomness of knowing that sometimes you will have no idea of what is going to appear above your head (and not in the usual SL way). I particularly like my: ‘Reluctant Beta Tester’, ‘Stormtrooper’ and ‘Futurist’ tags. I need to join the SuisideGirl group as I want that tag darn it.

I think K above nailed it thought. Groups in SL are a single technology with a wide range of uses only one of which is close to the usual MMO guild structure.


I agree with Ren agreeing with K. SL is not goal driven in the same sense as an MMOG. Without at least passable social software tools, a 30-person raid would be impossible -- and we see these UI tools being designed for MMOGs by third parties when they don't exist in the original code.

The fact that SL isn't a game -- hence doesn't require team communication and coordination -- explains it. Though (this is hard to pin down) there's something sort of empty and private and individual about the SL's whole architecture that I think stems from the philosophy of the company.

I haven't been on There for more than a few minutes, but my sense is that in both there and Virtual Laguna Beach (not to mention Habbo & Habbo-like VWs), group IM is more common and acceptable. SL has a libertarian "differentiate, build, sell, exclude" quality to it. I think it might be reflected in the lack of rich *community* tools and lots of empty edifices.


What do others think?


How is SL group-IM different from traditional MMORPG chat channels? It sounds like we're talking about the same thing.


@Greg: Agreed. The piece I have begins to get at some of these issues about the relationship between Linden Lab's philosophies and practices and what we see in SL, but there will be more of this stuff in the ethnography I'm writing now.


Greg> The fact that SL isn't a game -- hence doesn't require team communication and coordination -- explains it.

I disagree. It's true that you don't need the kind of tight coordination for combat that you need in MMORPGs, BUT you don't use Guild Chat for that anyway. You use Group Chat, Raid Chat and/or 3rd Party Voice apps.

I totally agree that there are some different reasons to communicate in SL than in MMORPGs, but there are also a lot of the same reasons. There are still the generic problems of learning how to do things ("how do I get this new hair out of its box?") and finding people to do things with ("does anyone want to check out the anime sim with me?") in SL. The frustrating part is that if you ask one of your "groups" these kinds of questions, you are likely to be accused of "spamming" the group.

That's why I think it's a UI problem. Since reasonable questions are labeled "spam" there must be another reason that people consider them a nuisance. And I think this must be the fact that messages that aren't directly relevant to you PLUS multiple "X has left the session" messages flood your field of view. And you have no control over it. While I tend to welcome group IM (as a refreshing distraction from my solo shopping), I also often leave the session when I hear the bell for a new group IM session go off so I can avoid a possible flood of messages, especially when it's a group I'm not very attached to.

What would happen to the use of group IM if the messages were NOT disruptive? What if I didn't even notice them unless I wanted to? Would they still be called "spam"?


Egad. Apologies for the link screw-up. :/


I own a company that creates SL content for clients, so much of my time in SL is spent meeting with clients, with my contractors, or creating content -- working, and concentrating. In that situation, if I get an IM that isn't specifically for me (a group IM from anyone but my team), I'll probably just close it. I mean, what would you do if you were in a meeting with a client, negotiating a contract, and someone you didn't know suddenly popped up and said, "Hey, guys, anyone want to do something?"


I have logged in daily for the last 730 days. On 5 accounts, I have probably 100 groups.

I vehemently disagree with this post, which is lame, lame, lame.

It is based on a nearly chance user (can't tell without an SL name or occupation) and his own very little keyhole look on groups that he himself is in.

Groups are the most rich, intense, subtle, nuanced, understudied feature of SL. No, not at all, are they "underused". They are indeed heavily used. Just not the ones YOU see.

To be sure, there are some large rentals groups that discourage chat at the customers' request (I'm one of them). But there is chat anyway, and at least then the daily chat becomes far more signal-to-noise oriented with terse messages like "this sim is on fire with fire-prim bombing get here quick!" or "a guy is here spewing the tub-girl particle picture all over the sim" so that use of the group is pointed.

That's why I simply make other groups like HELP or EVENTS or whatever and they chat there. I have all kinds of groups for issues discussion and action like Mainlanders or Doers (the opposite of Thinkers, which is the more welcome and larger group LOL).

In Dreamland, population 1,000 at least, there is constant chatter, and constant chatter about how there shouldn't be spam and chatter people don't like, but constant chat anyway. It consists of everything from sales ads to griefing reports to long philosophical and intense debates about the protection of minority dissenters in a democratic liberal society under the rule of law (Ok, so it was about whether there should be snow for everybody or only those who want it in Dreamland, but it *was* about that.)

What you're also not realizing is that outside of formal groups, there are the card groups. You can take any or all of your calling cards and park them in folders. So you can make a folder "Close friends to help make decisions with" or "Customers to update model with" or "Friends to go shopping with" or whatever and remove those who hate the "spam". Shuffling the cards and making the Prokofy Neva Cards groups du jour of all kinds is what many, many people do -- and far more richly and more nuanced than I do.

I have seen 2-hour long furious debates about ageplay in groups created out of parts of other groups to have the discussion. The entire STOP COPYBOT merchants' resistance of hundreds of people got formed and active due to the use of two groups for the purpose. Whenever any event or issue or happening is going on, people instantly make a group, if nothing else to have a pointed title or protest slogan on their heads, like "Governor Lindens' Tenant" or "Stop the Bots!!!" at a town hall meeting about price hikes.

Groups are EVERYTHING in SL. To imagine them as silent and inactive is also to imagine that the many empty sims you see in the ocean indicate there is no life. Such life that there is, which is very intense, is done in groups.

Interest groups are hugely diverse. There might be 2000 people for free public sex or capture roleplay. Or scifi geeks or machinima makers or civil libertarians or RL lawyers in SL or the Society for Virtual Architecture which had 42 people meet yesterday to talk about the IBM sims.

There's just an incredible and intensive amount of activity going on in groups and it is all waiting to be studied, but it has to be studied by those who aren't parachuting in and making keyhole observations based on their own little groups and their encounter with a few anal-retentives who scream about "spam" in their groups, but to study people's actual groups at large gatherings, personal meetings, etc.

I'm always amazed that people here, who in their real lives have to do peer-reviewed academically rigorous work can drop in a place, have a chance impression, put it on a blog, and crystallize it and bless it as the Insight of the Ages.

Bob, if you have been in SL for even 1 week, you can see what groups mean on people's profiles.

Such trust and reputation networks as there are now in SL consists of scanning people's groups. A disreputable group on somebody's profile will garner a comment. A newbie will learn which bouquet of groups he needs to put on his profile to look either like he's a club-going sophisticate (Edge VP), a scamming asstard (MoneyTree Finders), an intellectual, sensitive kind of guy (Free Culture, Digital Cultures, Supportforhealing), etc. etc. By their groups ye shall know them.

The sociology/folksomony/whatever-ology of groups is among the most fascinating thing in Second Life.

What I do find despite this furious activity is that there are some serious hobbles.

I myself am an true group tools maven. I was among the first to campaign early, often, loud, and steadily on fixing the very broken tools in 2005 and the Lindens, to their credit, did get rid of some of the worst hippie dope-smoking stuff that was in them (they used to enable any officer of the group to steal the entire group's land out from under them instantly; and to force-distribute all income equally in the group -- today you can shut off that socialism and make capitalism or socialism by choice).

People object heavily to groups that spam because they can't shut the window. That is, they could, and tab it down, but it keeps bumping and lighting up and being annoying. If it were more effortless to get in and out of groups (some need a discretionary inviation each time) people would just leave when there is spam and rejoin when they are ready to hear messages again (that's how I have my groups).

The Lindens should make it an option to toggle off group chat.

Builders and scripters like to be in groups that give them perks like hot news or beta objects but they hate chat. But they are a tiny minority of SL, and no plan for groups or study of groups should be focused soley on them.

There used to be a limit of 15 groups; now there is 25 -- it's never again. However, we hear this is all really hard on the database. SEARCH is busted again, with search only turning up first name of groups on key words, really a drag, it can't go on like that since the whole point of groups is key word search.

Group chat is the single most important thing for news and management in SL. There is nothing else like that. The land menu with its weapon-like code-as-law bans are too rigid and too many switches to turn on for some people.

Group chat is a much more human, malleable, scaleable, participatory thing than the on/off land ban/access stuff.

Whatever democracy and dispute resolution does get done in SL happens in groups.

Example: S.L.A.M. a group that monitors griefers and spreads the word when posses of griefers travel to a sim near you and also enables people to contest bans they feel are unjustified.

There is so much more to say, but I will just urge anybody looking into this topic to do a lot more field research.


Prokofy - Well I'm glad to hear that there is lively group chat going on somewhere in SL. I've played it for over 2 years and have yet to join a single group with any lively group chat. Whereas in the several MMORPGs I've played, I can find lively guild and zone chat much more easily. Given our widely divergent experiences with group chat, I agree that a systematic study of SL groups is in order. (We actually tried to do just that 2 years ago but our agreement with Linden Lab fell through.)


I doubt that Prokofy has played any MMORPGs where there is real, lively constant chat: thus, I suspect that she doesn't know what she's comparing to.


This is a little unrelated, but to me there is a big disjunct between the global group chats and the conversation chats. Some ideas were floated about needing a sort of message board usenet would be an improvement. It sure sucks for IMs to go directly onto your chat channel when you are negotiating a business deal, getting some cyber-nookie, or for me role playing.

But there is a need for group chat. I am not talking about the chat associated with official groups. I am talking about forming small conversation bubbles. I have heard that all conversations break down into diads and triads. In SL, however, there is no way to do this. Thus if you go to a party, you are either stuck howling on the dance floor throwing out conversation blurbs, or you are having a heart-to-heart im session with a total stranger. There needs to be a way to form ad-hoc chat groups within a room, or sim. Also, there should be a way to prioritize room in world chat, group messages, personalized ims, and my proposed small group rooms.

In short, while "group" chat is certainly broken, it is not as broken as the inability to form ad-hoc chat groups, which is lacking all together.


Bleu - interesting point about ad-hoc groups. They certainly seem to be useful in MMORPGs in which you need to coordinate travel and combat with other players (like the military's use of walkie talkies). And There also provides ad-hoc groups in the form of its unique chat circles. So Second Life is certainly the exception for NOT providing ad-hoc group formation.

But I'm not as sure about whether SL needs ad-hoc groups or not. At times when I've tried to fly through a sim with 2 other players, I wish we had ad-hoc group chat to keep track of each other (or maybe auto-follow). Also sometimes in clubs where there are multiple conversations going on, it can be tricky to track them all, so ad-hoc group chat might help in separating conversations. But on the other hand, I also like the ability to walk into a club and overhear the public conversation and join in spontaneously. So I'm not sure what I think about this, but you raise an important point.


There has allways been adhoc group chat in SL, or atleast a very long time. And recently they even made it simpler.

#1 The old way, which still works, exchange cards(doesn't have to be friendship). Open inventory and go to the calling cards folder. Make a folder in it, for your adhoc group. Drag the calling cards of the people for you adhoc group in the folder. Right click on the folder and select IM all contacts in Folder.

#2 the newer way. Exchange friendship with adhoc group persons. open your friends window. Control click the friends you want to adhoc chat with and then press IM.

Two is defenitly a enhancment over one, but the fact that you guys are unaware of it, does proof that the UI isn't perfect yet. For instance a way to add a person to a chat would help, and would probably make it even more clear that adhoc groups are possible.


Oh, i see i repeated some parts prokofy said, i must have missed it the first time.

@Bob, my 2nd anniversery in SL is in January. And i have been in many groups with lots of chat and also in lots of groups that don't want random chatter. So you do might have to put some effort in finding the right groups for you to chat in. Again, the reason for that is because many groups have a single purpose, i think the broader a groups purpose the more chatter there will be.
But you could also just create your own group and invite like minded people. ;)


Just wanted to chime in on this one. There.com's spatialized VOIP is the best in-game communication tool i've ever seen. I'm a member of several groups whose members almost exclusively communicate via voice rather than typing. For me, this lends a much deeper feeling of immersion.

Now if only someone would make a virtual world that blends the best features of SL and There.com... :^/


A big "here, here" to Prokofy's comments on how useful group chat and group membership are.

My primary group is a 2000+ member group for technical discussions. Constant stream of information and questions and answers. If I want to ignore it, though, it's as simple as minimizing the window, or closing the tab.

Another important group is for my favorite nightclub, where events (such as when the live DJ starts playing) are announced and you can ask for a quick teleport.

Several groups are for access to restricted areas. You've see ban lines around some land, or even whole sims? That's what they're for.

And a couple of groups are vanity title plates. My own group lets me say "Ia! Cthulhu fhtagn!" above my name.

Groups are not underused, they're the core social tool of SL.


>I doubt that Prokofy has played any MMORPGs where there is real, lively constant chat: thus, I suspect that she doesn't know what she's comparing to.

*rolls eyes*

Of course I have.

And the SL group chat rolls *just as much* if it is the right group -- a chatting group.

>Whereas in the several MMORPGs I've played, I can find lively guild and zone chat much more easily. Given our widely divergent experiences with group chat, I agree that a systematic study of SL groups is in order

All evening long, I hear the guild chatter on games like WoW or FF or whatever, and I'm unimpressed. There's almost nothing of actual *interest* beyond the bare-bones exigency of the immediate gameplay, which involves a bone-shatteringly dull series of quests and battles. I'll admit WoW has its moments. You hear these 17-year-old guild leaders berating everyone for an hour and hear them all slinking away in shame. Or some stay-at-home mom is bitching for hours about some missed call. It sort of reminds me of Little League games.

Inside of it, if it's important to you, it seems worthwhile and even a subject of study. Outside, it isn't as much. Studying the varieties of chat in SL will take some time to get into the networks.


This is off-topic, but I don't know where there might be another thread (perhaps one could be started) to discuss the ideas in Thomas Malaby's article referenced above.

First off, I'll say that I'm disappointed that he seemed to go for the push-media of LL and analyze all the served-up cultural elements like SLAP, Chinatown, etc. and not examine really what residents did (rather than what LL's chosen ones did).

And I could say A LOT about the atoll continent. In fact there were residents who understood that the Lindens were initiating a kind of thematic and architectural dialogue and responded -- for example the Aztecha Sky Temple and legend built by Foolish Frost which I commissioned to answer the Linden build of the Magellan crash -- and then the efforts to have a dialogue you can see all around the Moth Temple in Iris.

There was one really huge problem with the Atoll kit: the cabins that Eric Linden made for residents to use to make villages had absolutely terrible camera angles so that avatars couldn't live in them; they were also way too prim heavy. In fact, some of us defatted them and raised the roof and modded them in places like Baileya (where one of them is Prok's Seafood). The Lindens never really tried *living inside* of these homes so they could wind up with crappy camera angles. That was what was so telling about this dialogue, Thomas (the sort of thing I don't know will ever find your way into this "ethnography" -- I can't tell which "ethnos" you are talking to outside of the tribe of Lindens themselves). The dialogue shut off because people couldn't live in the buildings that the game-gods made to just pepper the landscape and look cool.

Well there's LOTS more I could say about this going down the entire history of the atoll continent (I should write it up). I think the conclusion I would draw is that when the dialogue -- which was there -- didn't turn out to be at the level -- and more importantly *with the people* they wished -- they dumped it. And then they didn't even put in roads in the down-under southern continent -- which of course was a shirking of their federal government responsibilities. Bah, our tax dollars at work!


Very cool to hear the in-world details about that particular example, Prok. Not sure why you've put ethnography in scare quotes, but I'll reiterate that the book is an ethnography of Linden Lab, not of Second Life, so I imagine that those who know SL very well will always have more to say about how the things I noticed around LL resonated (or didn't) in SL. It's stuff like that that I'm very much looking forward to following. As for "ethnos", the genre of ethnography, despite the name, doesn't imply a faithfulness to some constructed tribal, national, or other identity. In this case, it is the community of practice that is Linden Lab. Like all such communities it is partial and always in the process of becoming. To me, it's all the more interesting thereby.


Well, Thomas, that's just my point. Where are you drawing the bounds of "Linden Lab"? Linden Lab's staff is made up of a third or more of people who were once "residents". I would think you couldn't study "Linden Lab" as an ethnos apart from "Second Life". In fact, I don't see how you could get a critical look at LL without looking at LL through the eyes of the world and its inhabitants.

In fact, one of the controversial topics around LL -- just to get back on topics here -- is the groups that some Lindens join and participate, and the political messages they signal when they do that.


Would you describe your line of work as corporate ethnography?


re: LL ethnography

I imagine one of the hardest things to look into is the increasingly contested and blurred boundary between designer and user that we see across Virtual Worlds (and in other industries I might add).

On the one hand famous players such as Torley (this is a great piece on multiple online identity btw: http://torley.com/a-guide-to-torleys/>A Guide to Torleys) and qDot are now Lindens, thus they have a pre-existing social capital that they bring to Linden.

On the other, as long as I have know SL there have attacks from the player base of Linden acting differently to some users than it does to others; and changing rules to advantage / disadvantage one group or another. Given that economic is the dominant frame in which SL is discussed these statements are generally made in terms of corruption, distortion of the market etc etc.

It would be fascinating to know how Linden cope with this – is it part of what they do to favour some groups over others, are all the stories false, are their internal disciplinary procedures.

Also, the all, what we might call the core Lindens are still around: Philip, Cory, Robin – Lindens have gone, such as Ruben; be interesting to know what this says about their feelings of identity and what life beyond Philip looks like – is there even such a concept?


@Prokofy: Please don't make the mistake of assuming that those of us who do ethnography are still engaged in a project where we claim to be writing about *everything* relevant to a particular group; that is, along the lines of the old "village ethnographies" where every facet of life was somehow supposed to be gathered between the covers of an utterly comprehensive work. No ethnography can do that -- there are no perfect boundaries, and the scope has to be narrower than totality. So, for example, my research interests while doing the fieldwork were not mainly about the political relationship between Linden Lab and its users (although there is some of that in what I have, of course).

It is also not a "corporate ethnography", if by that is implied some degree of sponsorship by the company. It is an ethnography of an organization. It will surely not be the last word on Linden Lab (much less Second Life), but I hope that it will begin prompting virtual world ethnographers (who have rushed to do research *in* these spaces) to understand that we must also do research at the site of their production.


Ren> [what] are their internal disciplinary procedures?

Beatings, especially in development.


Cory > Ren> [what] are their internal disciplinary procedures?

>>Beatings, especially in development.

In the case of SL, that really is life imitating art, or the other way round, or something.

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