Thursday, October 19, 2006
previous entry | main | next entry | TrackBack (0)
It's my virtual idea!! Mine!! Mine!!
It's been quite the week for news coverage of virtual world. Today the New York Times dogpiles on, with this story by Richard Siklos about how corporations are making their presence known in Second Life:
This parallel universe, an online service called Second Life that allows computer users to create a new and improved digital version of themselves, began in 1999 as a kind of online video game.If corporations are moving into virtual worlds, it's just a matter of time before there are virtal anti-corporate protestors. And when that happens, well, then there's an opportunity for virtal professors of global political economy to enter the scene!!
Fletcher had better watch out. If I'm offered a virtual endowed chair, with the ability to mutate into any animal on earth, and a virtual Salma Hayek catering to my every whim... [You're going to the bad place again--ed.]
Somewhat more seriously, the growth of virtual worlds suggests an entirely new testing arena for social scientists. For example, the highlighted section suggests an intriguing experiment for a marketing professor: what is the power of branding independent of economies of scale?
An even more interesting meta-question -- does the virtual nature of the world remove ethical constraints that exist in real-world testing? Could someone run a virtual version of the Milgram study?
Question to international relations scholars who know something about these virtual worlds -- what IR hypotheses, if any, could be tested in these virtual worlds?
UPDATE: In related virtual news, the Joint Economic Committee has fired a warning show across the bow of the IRS on the question of taxing virtual profits. In related real news, further progress has been made towards an invisibility cloak.posted by Dan on 10.19.06 at 08:37 AM
I've found that it's hard to test IR hypotheses (particularly systemic theories) in computer worlds. For example, in Civilization 3, you can "win" by being elected Secretary General of the UN, indicating that it was probably not programmed by realists. You could certainly test IR hypothesis regarding the behavior of populaces, but there are certain rules of the universe that may or may not be programmed in. Also, are there even nation-states in Second Life? Or political units of any kind?posted by: Phil on 10.19.06 at 08:37 AM [permalink]
In terms of ethical constraints in the virtual world, there's a famous incident of a "sexual crime" that happened in a virtual world. Here's the wikipedia link:
For example, in Civilization 3, you can "win" by being elected Secretary General of the UN, indicating that it was probably not programmed by realists.
You can also win by destroying everyone else.
I suspect the programmers of Civ 3 do not adhere to any one philosophy of IR (altho it is interesting to see how Communism can run a largish empire into the ground. It is quite obvious that none of the programmers are marxists).posted by: rosignol on 10.19.06 at 08:37 AM [permalink]
ps: the turingbot is still broken.posted by: rosignol on 10.19.06 at 08:37 AM [permalink]
No economies of scale for big corporations in virtual worlds? Just tell that to all the companies cashing in on gold farming in WOW.posted by: asg on 10.19.06 at 08:37 AM [permalink]
Asg, but those companies don't gain any economies of scale by having a lot of gold farmers. If anything there might be declining marginal revenue as more farmers might mean potentially more supervisors to make sure they're doing well.
An interesting online game for IR theorists to look at is Planetarion, where you gain resources and use them to build warships or upgrade technology. Players are grouped into "galaxies" of 25, which was supposed to be the atomic unit of the game (my galaxy against all others). However the creators were very laissez-faire and a very different set-up organically was created. After the first reset (where everyone's planets were shuffled and brought down to nothing) a few top "alliances" made peace with each other and asserted hegemony over the entire game.posted by: Polybius on 10.19.06 at 08:37 AM [permalink]
My virtual idea: Daniel blogs constantly mention Selma Hayek because he hopes the fame that comes from blogging may score him a chance with her.posted by: Jeff on 10.19.06 at 08:37 AM [permalink]
Post a Comment: