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Jan 04, 2009



Can I just ask what in the world business (or authority) does the state have promoting "cultural diversity"? It's bad enough that this politically correct nonsense has permeated our education system here in the US but for the state to engage in any kind of supply-side encouragement of "diverse" UCC in a VIRTUAL world is just beyond horrifying to me. What happened to the vision of limited government, low taxes, and individual freedom?

I went through graduate school at a public US institution and never grasped the "value in diversity" that having a student sit next to me from a nation where indoor plumbing was optional brought. If they can get there by their own accord and self-reliance, then by all means, but for the State to intervene in this matter is abhorrent.

Now we're analyzing the potential effects of State aid in the promotion of culturally diverse UCC - with people's tax dollars! Pure, utter, and unadulterated insanity.

@ the author: Well-written and fully realized article, in spite of my own personal views.


I went through graduate school at a public US institution and never grasped the "value in diversity" that having a student sit next to me from a nation where indoor plumbing was optional brought.

That's a pity... seems like you missed an educational opportunity there. The answer, of course, is broader horizons, a chance for you to come into contact with differing cultures than your own, different thought patterns than your own, challenge some of your preconceptions, etc.

I happen to believe that this is one of the things that virtual worlds do best, and one of the greatest possible contributions they can make to society: the breaking down of cliques of many sizes, and bringing different cultures (again, of many sizes) together to learn from each other.

Whether the state gets involved, however, I see as a separate question. You frame your objections in these terms:

"If they can get there by their own accord and self-reliance, then by all means, but for the State to intervene in this matter is abhorrent."

But one (big) way to think of this is that the state does not get them there for their sake, but for YOURS. The fact that it also helps them is two birds with one stone (after all, that student was certainly there thanks to their hard work and self-reliance, but that alone does not mean that the rest of the world would have cooperated enough to get them into a US grad school).

As perhaps the most telling point as regards preconceptions and limited cultural horizons, "the vision of limited government, low taxes, and individual freedom" is a particularly US-centric way to frame certain ideals. The author of the paper is from Europe.


I'm slightly puzzled as to what is included in this paper's definition of "user created content".

On page 2, it says "we consider only those types of UCC, where the user has added or created something new as an expression of her or how own creativity".

So the main criterion for being considered is that there is some kind of creative expression involved. I'm OK with that, although it opens the door for arguments about exactly how much creative input is needed to qualify. Text chat, instant messages, and blog postings (like this one) clearly can be used for creative expression: so maybe these are within the paper's scope, provided that they are sufficiently creative.

But then we have the "added or created something new" part, and later on "This act and the artefact(s) produced". It makes me wonder what an artefact is in this context, and what kind of things can be "added or created". At some level, it's all just bit patterns in a computer's memory, and there's no real difference between a virtual "magic sword of heinosity" and me saying "Take that, you fiend!" in chat. But the former is representing a real-world physical object, and the latter isn't. Is some kind of permanence a requirement? Do we have to be able to sell the artefact that is created, like a piece of physical property?

Later on, we have ".. in some games, it is simply impossible to create content ... Within this class of games, we do not include only those that are too technically and “ludologically” constrained, such as basic playspaces like Pong or Pac-Man but also more complex game environments, such as virtual worlds, where players’ agency to make and do things is limited by design." Pong or Pac-Man, I'll grant you (at least, players do not usually use these for creative expression). But virtual worlds? Surely most of these are sophisticated enought that you can perform a creative act, even if you're not allowed to upload particular media, such as bit maps, sound samples, or 3D models. Consider, for example, the incident in Club Penguin where penguins lined up to form a Forbidden Dirty Word. Clearly a creative act, and quite a good one, too.


This is indeed very interesting. In an act of shameless self-promotion (and in light of CePWeaday's comment), I'd like to bring your attention to a paper I published some time ago, in which I discuss whether UGC could contribute to improved freedom of speech for users from countries with heavy localized regulation. In short, I argue that the increasing use of frameworks within which Internet users can contribute nontextual UGC constitutes a serious obstacle to government attempts to accurately censor and monitor Internet traffic. This development, as seen in the explosive growth of frameworks such as Second Life, YouTube, and Wikipedia, could lead to a transfer of regulatory power away from heavily regulated Internet Service Providers in nondemocratic regimes, into the hands of intermediaries that are more likely to uphold freedom of expression (compared to certain non-democratic regimes). I analyze this development with regard to its possible implications for freedom of expression, online crime, and the role of private companies in international politics.

The full paper entitled “Global Freedom of Expression within Non-Textual Frameworks” can be found in Information Socity 24(1): http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a789600236~db=all~order=page (or get in touch if you don't have access).


Too bad you can't edit comments here. I meant, of course, that my paper is related to Justin's comment above (not CePWeaday's which according to Google Translate simply means "breathtaking").


It's a little strange to restrict user created content to traditional commodities like virtual goods or virtual services. Obviously, those are a big part of VWs made by Linden etal.

What I encounter more often in the social VWs is user-influenced storytelling. You need social capital of some sort to entangle other users in a story of your own devising. Take an ultra-social VW, say the one offered by the Icelandic company CCP. There, social groups are comprised of anywhere from a handful of individuals, to tens of thousands operating in pursuit of a shared current of goals. Occasionally, those goals go counter to the goals of other groups.

The subscribers or users involved did not purchase those specific experiences. Rather, the emerged spontaneously, largely facilitated by the social institutions that continuously reinvent themselves around those goals. It's worth noting that in a competitive environment, successful social adaptations are emulated. Thus, institutions rapidly become more complex and refined over time.

The classic example is in leadership structure. Because of leadership burnout, two different strategies have arisen. One is a revolving leadership structure, and the other is an ever expanding practice of delegation. The tactics that tend to thrive are the ones that are most facilitated by the environment. The behemoths of CCP's little universe tend to rely on both, but more strongly on revolving leadership for myriad reasons. One is that players are mostly proprioceptively and economically self-sufficient in the immediate sense. The other is that groups are more organized around social capital than any other unit of exchange even where Dunbar's number is vastly surpassed.


Bah, I can't believe I forgot to mention this.

None of these observations are surprising when we consider that the majority of the current crop of successful VWs have economies that are largely based on hunter-gatherer principles.

They are pre-neolithic in a way. Therefore, it's no surprise that virtual commodities have little or no intrinsic valuation.


-Things are rarely valuable unless they are immediately or consistently useful.
-Rarity of investments, or fixation on compounding returns.
-Fixation on domesticating solitary local fauna as beasts of burden, but not herds of fauna.
-No demand for domestication of environments.
-Limited pressure for vertical social organization.
-Perception of reality has greater social importance than things as they are, or aren't - which is really why storytelling and immersion is so highly valued.
-Compressed vocabularies. =)

Obviously, these are moderns occupying roles in pre-neolithic virtual society. Naturally, this creates pressures that are released in the form of emergent organization. But the wetware hasn't changed much. If you could somehow present a human from 10k years ago with a typical gaming console, they could probably adapt to most of it's requirements within a short span of time.

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