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Oct 20, 2007



don't know why i even bother checking in on this blog anymore......


Well, I guess that makes two of us, shard. ;)


Thank you for posting this, Thomas. You don't actually disagree with me that much.


Lol, I agree -- I don’t think we disagreed about virtual worlds’ potential, generally speaking. But I do think that it’s easy to think of constraint as the enemy of creativity when actually I don’t think that’s true. One of Stravinsky’s quotes is apposite: “The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one's self. And the arbitrariness of the constraint serves only to obtain precision of execution.”

In truth, Stravinsky may have gone a bit too far, but the main point is sound -- we are animated as much by the constraints that surround as by the possibilities. Too much of one or the other, and we end up either insensate from routinization or overwhelmed by possibilities. In that respect, I just think SL is interesting not because it does away with a constraint, but because it reconfigures constraints and possibilities in a way that creates fertile ground for the generation of meaning and practice.


I find, out of Cory's case study alone, an interesting comment on entrepreneurship and innovation. He concludes a section on innovation to say that:

"Taken together, these myths hide the reality of innovation as a largely random exploration of design space, a process where breadth of experimentation and communication between entrepreneurs drive the overall success rate."

The myths he refers to are all variations on the "isolated genius" theme, or the older, more 'common sense' notion of innovation. He's right, I think, to say that innovation may stem from collaborative efforts and the ability to sustain failure. In the follow-on section entitled "Failure is not an Option, is is a Requirement", he cites case studies in entrepreneurial success--most of them are littered with past failures. In our mind's eye we see small and flexible organizations as innovators and large and ponderous ones as inertial and risk averse.

I am, however, not sure that the limited stakes invested in virtual worlds adequately represents the limited regard for stakes that is present in some of the innovations we wish to emulate. When I say limited regard for stakes versus limited stakes, I mean that we view entrepreneurs as risk takers in the extreme--stories about people leaving college and mortgaging homes in order to invent the longer lasting lightbulb. The stakes at hand for those inventors are high, but they don't appear so in comparison to the stakes faced by large corporations forced to adopt innovations and to adapt to innovations in the marketplace. Saying that the elimination of stakes produces innovation doesn't follow the history of innovation very well. That is to say, if I have no stake in a VW (I may assume another pseudonym and develop a new idea virtually instantly), that does not in itself constitute a driving force for innovation.

Communication and experimentation surely drive the rate of innovation, but it is not fair to refer to this as a random exploration of design space--the outcome of a stakeless innovator. Our examples of modern innovation derived from collaboration, communication and a lack of stakes most easily from from the World Wide Web. I'll take Firefox as an example, the example could just as easily be Apache, Ruby, Linux, KTM or the Ace library of addons for World of Warcraft. The innovators in the case of the Firefox group found the codebase from the Netscape/Mozzila project in disarray and identified key problems, namely parochial HTML tags, feature bloat and an outdated rendering engine. These considerations were not made randomly, nor were they the result of pure experimentation. The solutions to these recognized problems may have been impossible to enact by designers who had a stake in the continuation of the old Netscape browser (they were clearly impossible or undesirable to the makers of netscape 4.0). those organizational stakes are different from (IMO) stakes in a world altogether, meaning that as long as path dependance exists as a determinant of future project design, designers will not have the incentive to obliterate past work to make way for future work.

The actual medium of design has little impact on this.

Another line of this reasoning is to regard VW's as an enabler of that innovation, vis a vis their advantages AS a medium, apart from any social differences:

"Two have already been discussed: pseudonymity and the need for vastly less investment capital than in the real world. For both of these, less activation energy is required to cross the chasm from idea to execution. When inspiration strikes
within a virtual world, all the necessary tools are available for immediate exploration. No factories need be built, no inventory chain created. Instead, ideas are able to flow directly into practice."

To me, the analogy here is to the introduction of CAD/CAM (Computer aided design and manufacture) into industry. CAD allowed designers to collaborate on blueprints, visualize designs and make changes at a very low cost (rather than drafting whole new revisions to a series of blueprint).

Initially, the benefits of CAD were heralded to be similar to those of SL. In the end, though, the changes became incremental, rather than revolutionary.

Manual revision control and manual distribution became automatic (though the revision control is still distinct from the CAD system in some companies). Collaboration, because of the ease of revision distribution, became smoother, allowing for greater flexibility of constraints on subcomponents (the people making the intake manifold could communicate in real time with the people making the cylinder heads, for example).

Physical benefits resulted, similar to how Ondrejka describes the benefits of SL here:

"In the real world, most projects require the input and coordination of many people as well as significant resources. As previously discussed, Second Life reduces the resource costs associated with experimentation and, when collaboration is required, more connections are accessible than ever before."

Those benefits DID arise from CAD as well, namely in computer simulation of products reducing the need for physical testing. Windtunnel testing for cars and airplanes was an expensive but neccessary physical limitation on design. 1000 cars couldn't be tested in time to bring them to market, so the innovations that have reduced drag coefficients in modern cars (due to computer simulation of design variables) were unlikely to have arisen out of physical tests.

Those benefits produced by the introduction of computers into design had strong limitations, though. Computer simulation could operate as a stand in for testing only so far as theory and computational power allowed. We no longer face this limitation in the construction of cars and planes with regard to material design and aerodynamics, but hundreds of other design facets require actual testing and will continue to for some time. Similarly, advances in CAD outstripped--for a while--advances in physical production, generating products that required new production lines and testing methods. As a matter of fact, one of the new advances in CAD/CAM is a recapitulation of older design practices: rapid prototyping. Designs are drafted and generated in 3D (often physically generated in the case of circuit boards and the like), to undergo traditional testing--all without building an entire assembly line.

This is not to say that all innovation is self limiting, or that the end state of any innovation is a recapitulation of an earlier form. What I am saying in attempting to draw this parallel is that VW's as loci for innovation may not present an unbounded, epochal change.


I'm sure at least some few European Second Lifers are doing an analysis on whether they should emigrate. The looming ogre of VAT has reminded us, if anything, that we are very, very much constrained by our physical geography.

Somebody has to pay the tier on any spot you can create on, and some of them are paying tier + 25%.


Ace - Europeans don't pay tier on land they buy in private estates from non-euro estate owners, like myself. As a result, my estates of Ancapistan have become a 'tax haven' for europeans. Europeans with sims of their own can engage in RL contracts with us to transfer their sims officially to us, while retaining property rights and estate powers within the sim.

European revenue agents are welcome to come try to bully me in RL, as I sit on my porch with my computer and my rifle. I will, for dramatic effect, dump iced tea over the porch railing while they watch.


Dear IntLibber Brautigan (a.k.a Mike Lorrey),
Your comment sounds like the one from the psychopath sheriff you really are.
Don't claim to be a Libertarian, you are an Anarchist when to come to yourself and a Tyrant Dictatorial Fascist when it come to others under the rule of your fake Second Life BnT empire.
You are a despicable human being who lost touch with reality.


Ouch. :(

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