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A failure of convivencia

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Departmental presentation of second year PhD research, Arizona State University

Departmental presentation of second year PhD research, Arizona State University


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  • CDS – 5 regionsAl Andalus – 6 regionsChilbo – ~1 regionVulcano – 1 region(1 region = 65,536 sq.m.)
  • Extropia created 11/2007, still active despite managerial turnover
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    • 1. the undoing of an online community merger & its implications for globalized politics John Carter McKnight Human & Social Dimensions of Science & Technology Second Year Research Presentation Arizona State University September 2010
    • 2.  in2009, two communities in Second Life negotiated a merger with a year trial period forsix months in 2010, the communities factionalized, and bitter verbal conflict escalated inJuly 2010, the governing board of one community voted unanimously to terminate the merger
    • 3.  cross-cultural clash of assumptions over definitions:  democracy  participation  citizen(ship) suggestive of an extreme unpopularity of electoral-governmental forms for voluntary communities overall rarity of “democratic” communities online democratic fundamentalism!
    • 4.  1,903,000,000 sq.m. non-Linden land4 “democratic” communities: ~852,000 sq.m. five one-thousandths of one percent of SL land is democratically governed 78users out of 1.2 million have chosen an elected government
    • 5.  platform architecture: • land “purchased” from Linden Lab must be held in the name of either an individual or a US nonprofit corporation • communications tools default to a sole owner voting with dollars: • 99.995% of SL is *sublet* by people paying for corporate/feudal management instead of self- governance same in *all* game & non-game virtual worlds
    • 6.  Extropia • one vote – to replace the participatory system with a pure managerial one LAW 791, Spring 2010 • law students created a class junta • one student circumvented a month-long debate to name herself Guild Master, create group and bank
    • 7.  “participant-engagement” (Pearce 2009) • 92 forum posts • elected to 13th Representative Assembly • Chair, CDS Communications Commission • post-merger Communications & Culture chair, Al Andalus • host monthly social events • attended most governmental meetings of both groups, many social events
    • 8.  Kendall (2002): “BlueSky” Castronova (2002): Everquest Taylor (2006): Everquest Steinkeuhler (2006): Lineage I, Lineage II Boellstorff (2008): Second Life Pearce (2009): The Uru Diaspora Gee & Hayes (2010): The Sims Nardi (2010): World of Warcraft
    • 9.  ~2500 pages of logged text chat/IMs ~500 screen-capture photographs ~10 hours of one-on-one interviews key threads read from 6 years of forum posts
    • 10. a non-game virtual world in operation since 2003 ~1.2 million regular users interaction via avatars through a software client voice capacity but text chat used exclusively in this context
    • 11.  most are tied to virtual land two sets of governance issues • property: subleasing, aesthetics, security • social: events, cohesion, disputes
    • 12.  The Confederation of Democratic Simulators The Virtual Democracy of Al Andalus131 “citizens” of the merged entity on 4/18/2010, 78 of the CDS post-merger (inclusive of dual citizens)
    • 13.  grew out of a discussion on the SL forums in 2004 on democratic self-governance of regions from 1/3 region in 2004 to 5 on the eve of merger in 2009 small, but long-lasting focus on formal institutions styled on the nation-state
    • 14.  founded by CDS legislative veterans initially an attempt at a liberal global caliphate online, governed by a progressive interpretation of Sharia, under the founder as Caliph after the founder’s departure, re- envisioned as a space for global encounters with religious and secular views and spaces
    • 15.  Al Andalus had successful events but little to no staff CDS had a lot of staff, but little non- governmental activity assumed synergies Al Andalus principals were current or former CDS officials, familiar with the culture
    • 16.  negotiated by a US lawyer on each side “The Wasp Clause” provided a one year trial period, with right of refusal on each side vocal opposition in Al Andalus, less vocal opposition in the CDS
    • 17.  both defined themselves as “democratic” both saw Al Andalus as ad-hoc, vibrant both saw CDS as formalist, divisive, a harder-edged politics some in each group wanted synergy, some feared loss of unique identity
    • 18.  dominated by CDS “old guard” weak Leader of the RA allowed meetings to turn to off-topic confrontations weak Chancellor failed to negotiate operating agreement as called for growing conflict over personalities and politics, along community lines
    • 19.  “Al Andalus will force a sale of the CDS sims to a US nonprofit corporation” “Al Andalus is anti-democratic” • cult of personality around Sultana • representational/participatory customs ≠ democracy “CDS has a hostile & divisive political culture”
    • 20.  7/6 split largely along community-of-origin lines failure to elect a Chancellor led to carry- over of previous Chancellor more civil tone, much greater productivity under new LRA from Al Andalus
    • 21.  referendum • 23 approve, 17 disapprove, 16 abstain/no vote Al Andalus closed meetings • before election, very large majorities in favor of merger termination Al Andalus open meetings • after election, sense of inevitable termination 13th RA would not have had 2/3 majority to terminate
    • 22.  VirtualDemocracy, Inc. board votes unanimously to terminate Al Andalus participation
    • 23.  13th RA passing key reform legislation by super-majorities online forum as confrontational as ever very little change in CDS membership, debate between procedural and substantive advocates continues unabated CDS running active calendar of social events Al Andalus re-launch
    • 24. John Carter McKnight, MIA, JD john.mcknight@asu.edu johncartermcknight.com Blog, CV, presentations + Twitter, Facebook, last.fm LinkedIn, Goodreads, etc. Second Life: Kaseido Quandry