Thursday, February 26, 2004

To reply (briefly, efficiently) to responses by Seunghyun, Abhiyan, and Anna regarding social control...

My view on this is similar to Amy's. She writes, 'This leads more into central control with communities. It was mentioned about censorship being a possible issue by online community "gods," but what we seem to skip over is that no matter what we do, there are always underlying rules. [...] we use these rules to engage with people, and each community has to express how to engage with each other. Since the "god" literally created that community for people to voluntarily join, these restrictions are used in a good constructive way (at least I think so). These powers can be abused, yes, but then you just go to another community or build your own.'

I also regard it as a fact of society that voluntarily joining groups usually means acknowledging and observing the rules of those groups (unless you want to crash the party, which is of course lots of fun).

A religious group can racially discriminate in their admission of new members, and I don't like that, but I consider it an acceptable consequence of a free society. I would rather live in a society with exclusionary groups as long as I am free to join or form my own inclusive alternative. Wouldn't it be totalitarian for the government to say, "Hereafter no person shall host a social engagement in which the male guests are required to wear black ties"? Isn't that the only way to limit people's ability to gain power over others in their social groups? To do something like that in the online realm would ruin cyberspace as surely as it would ruin our real-world society.

Is the social control of these online groups even different from real-world examples? Now that I think about it, how many groups don't  have either official hierarchies (CEOs, Chancellors, Chief Justices) or unofficial ones (the head of the cheerleading squad, the resident expert on Cicero)? Many companies are as totalitarian as a MUD could ever be ("You're fired," "Get me coffee," "Black suits, white shirts and blue ties only," etc.), and that's not typically regarded as remarkable...

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