Inkwell: Authors and Artists
Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Sat 1 Dec 01 14:00
It helps to remember that the buccaneers were all sailors, and a lot of those benefits applied to King's ships as well: robust partying, shares of prizes, good men could rise through the ranks (some early captains could barely read) and even health benefits.
democracy being a left thing, anyway (ludlow) Sat 1 Dec 01 14:20
The original bucaneers began as guys who hunted feral cattle, smoked the meat, and sold it in port. I think the term 'bucaneer' even comes from the French term for the smoked meat -- 'viande boucanee' -- and the jerky makers were originally called 'boucaniers'. The established important trade ties, both in jerky, tobacco and sugar and not a little contraband. Eventually some of them established raiding parties and the rest is, if not history, then lore. But there's no question that as some of these folks were castaways and deserters from European navies, they borrowed a lot of ideas from their service with this or that royal navy. So I'm not really disagreeing with Brian here. About Al Qaida, it just seems to me that it is one of the first contemporary cyberstates, basically because it is an underground network with robust economic interestes (ranging all the way to honey production), a stong positical/religious ideology, and its own security/military services. There is some dispute about to the extent to which the various cell have used the internet and encryption for communication, but there are reports that they have employed a range of tools including steganography. Fortunately, it looks like Al Qaida's days are numbered, but if they had picked smaller targets or eschewed terrorism altogether they might have flourished. I think Al Qaida is probably just the first of many such networks, and ultimately networks of that character are going to inherit the earth from the nationstates. For better or worse.
democracy being a left thing, anyway (ludlow) Sat 1 Dec 01 14:21
Um, excuse all the typos.
virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Sat 1 Dec 01 21:41
What's the future for nationstates, then? Do they persist alongside these other networks? Do they barely fog the mirror (as in *Snow Crash*)? Do they wither away? To come at it from the front: can the proto-cyberstates, whether Al Qaida-ish or cypherpunk-ish, do their thing without actual nationstates?
democracy being a left thing, anyway (ludlow) Sun 2 Dec 01 12:28
I'm not a futurist, which is just as well because futurists don't have a clue either, but I have to say that I like the _Snow Crash_ scenario in which they barely fog the mirror ("Who's he? He's the President of the United States of America.") But who knows, tribes and city states and monarchies are still with us. It's hard to think of a governance structure that has completely died out.
rankincense and myrrh (vsclyne) Sun 2 Dec 01 14:19
I was just musing, as I read this book, that while some of what makes up cyperspace is not so new (we had a communications revolution around the telephone and around radio), some of it is so very new that there can be no way of knowing how it will all turn out. And in that context, Peter, I think you are doing a masterful job of presenting evidence and analysis on several facets of cyberspace from several points of view without trying to tie all together into answers. Well done!
rankincense and myrrh (vsclyne) Sun 2 Dec 01 19:48
What is interesting me especially as I move along through the book is the distinction between governance of a purely online community, like the WeLL or the LambaMOO, on the one hand, and governance of the Web as it intersects the real world where "nation states" are used to governing. The former is probably a pretty good sociological study and, as such, ought to be left undisturbed. The latter has implications for the society, country, and real world that we live in. I'd be very careful about upsetting the principles and traditions that govern the real world just because we're bedazzled by the possibilities of cyberspace.
virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Mon 3 Dec 01 04:50
About "upsetting the principles and traditions that govern the real world," my instincts are to say that those principles and traditions are of (at least) two types: some are nearly fundamental to our social organization and very nearly not susceptible (or at any rate not likely) to being upset, others are more superficial and get monkeyed with all the time in the real world I want to go back to some questions about enforcement mechanisms for cyberstates. (We touched on this around post 13 or so.) Peter, you said that it's easy to find enforcement mechanisms for cyberstates (toading/account deletion being the example readily at hand). There are two factors that I think make enforcement in complex cyber-situations more difficult than you've suggested. First is the problem of competing jurisdictions. As you've noted, this is also a problem across the VR/RL divide. But in the cyberstate dimension, it also perhaps raises some sort of "international law" or "interstate commerce" sort of issues, since there's a worry about one jurisdiction jumping the gun on enforcement relative to another's preferences, or screwing around with someone else's packets for advantage. Moreover, the MOO-like situation is exceptional in that a wizard controls the actions of the MOO server and so has a monopoly on toading and other actions. Most situations would have more complex interactions of power and code, and would require trust and cooperation across geo- and cyber-spaces to take enforcement action. "If you won't control your users . . ." to keep them from sending Spam, intrusion attempts, running open mail relays, failing to patch holes in Microsoft IIS, or whatever -- then there's a problem. (And we get enforcement efforts with international-law-like issues, such as the MAPS Realtime Blackhole List.) If you need a question . . . enforcement is more complicated than you let on above, so what do you say about that?
democracy being a left thing, anyway (ludlow) Mon 3 Dec 01 10:20
Shannon, I don't really see a clear distinction between laws withing cyberspace communities and laws with "real world" consequences, mostly because I don't see an interesting distinction between the so-called "real world" and the so-called "virtual world". I'm inclined to agree with Bruce that the better distinction is between laws that we are inclined to monkey with and those that we aren't. Probably the latter sorts of laws end up being built into cyberstates without a whole lot of debate. Bruce, about enforcement, there is an issue about what happens between systems. So, an ISP can control its own users but not those on another ISP. I see the intuitive force behind your question, but on the other hand, it is easy enough to say "control your users or...we block your entire ISP". Again, in practice I think that the real danger is that ISP's share information about difficult users or blackball certain users or kinds of users. One classic case of this was the SamIam case, in which a user was booted from MIT's MediaMOO for charges imported from LamdaMOO (this is a case discussed in the Stivale article). So again, I don't see enforcement as a problem. I'd be more worried about overzealous sysadmins.
virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Mon 3 Dec 01 10:46
But if the only possibilities are as harsh as blackholing traffic from some IP blocks, I think that's a problem: it cuts those folks off from traffic from your users, too, and "the Net" deteriorates into an amalgam of more local networks. It seems to me that it's valuable to have mid-range sanctions rather than only more-or-less capital punishments, and that those mid-range sanctions require cooperation of other parties (who may not be so bothered). Your remarks remind me, though, of another issue I wanted to raise from the very first chapter of the book. Barbrook's essay, "HyperMedia Freedom," argues about the consequences of privatization -- and capitalism itself -- for the development of the Net, based on historical and other considerations. Contra arguments about state censorship and the Communications Decency Act, he says that "For many on the left [and I take it that he means to include himself], these multimedia corporations are the greatest threat to free speech on the Net. As happened in radio--and later television--the desire to attract a mass audience can be a far more effective method of inhibiting political radicalism and cultural experimentation than any half-baked provisions tacked onto the end of a Telecommunications Act." and "Freedom of expression on the Net is threatened not only by the state but also by the market." Do you find this way of thinking at all persuasive?
Bob 'rab' Bickford (rab) Mon 3 Dec 01 11:43
re: #35 -- gawd, I wish people like Barbrook would stop and *think* before they rant idiotically. Yes indeed corporatization of the media and the airwaves has been a great inhibition on free and diverse ideas and expression -- but that situation resulted not from capitalism but from the refusal to allow anything like a free market in spectrum to ever develop in the first place. I agree emphatically with him that the multimedia corporations are one of the top two biggest threats to free speech on the Net -- but this has nothing at all to do with anything close to "capitalism" unless you redefine that word to mean something more like "corporate socialism". Geez, people like that could be such great allies if they would just pull their heads out of their posteriors, drop the standard rhetoric, and *think* for a change.
democracy being a left thing, anyway (ludlow) Mon 3 Dec 01 13:47
I tend to agree with <rab> on this one. We don't have anything close to a free market operating in the domain of media. I also have this idea, but not yet a good argument for it, which is that the internet is just not a very good vehicle for the delivery of vanilla content. It is not just an accident that we find so much fringe content on it. I think there is a deep way in which it is optimal for delivering fringe content and that it is with this sort of content delivery that we are going to see some of the more successful internet business ventures. Again, I don't have an argument for this. Just an intuition.
Kirsten Bayes (kirsten-bayes) Mon 3 Dec 01 14:23
Its interesting that some of the most popular "MOOs" or "MUDs" around are the (totally proprietary) Massively Multi-User Role Playing Games...MMRPGs. Another M abbreviation. Participants in games like Asheron's Call or Legend the Bloodpledge are in electronic realms which have their own currency, economic systems, their own armies and police. The penalties are typically confiscation of assets, temporary death (death in the game), or permadeath (expulsion from the game). There is an interplay between what is permitted by the wizards running the game (the CoC or code of conduct) and what the population will tolerate. Sometimes this can erupt into open revolt, such as when online demonstrations were arranged in the Legend world, and people stormed the (electronic) barricades of the game company. At other times, the games wizards can be more lenient than the society they host would like, resulting in frontier justice and people leaving the game (taking their game fees with them). Perhaps the same old RW dynamics of individual as citizen (subject to the coercion of the state...to a point) vs individual as taxpayer (who can move their money, and themselves elsewhere) are reappearing in a new form.
virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Mon 3 Dec 01 16:55
Good points, Kirsten -- and we're back to the issue of what the users choose as determining the order of things. I'm intrigued by Peter's intuition about the inherent fringiness of the Internet. One reason, I suppose, is that "vanilla content" is mass content of the sort that is usually broadcast or mass mailed. Broadcasting and and direct mail advertisers accept that they fail with a lot of recipients, but aim to make up enough on volume that they still have a satisfactory return. The interactivity of the Net works against that by setting up expectations that cost more to satisfy than the costs of a boatload of glossy brochures. The Net's relative "unchannelledness" works against that by increasing the competition for attention. Which is not to say that one or another "interactive television" project or WebTV-like thing might not succeed in the massification of the Internet audience. Even then, barriers to entry may be low enough that "fringe" entrants, who aren't so much motivated by financial return on investment themselves, always have a place (and more effectively than in meatspace). Is that the start of the kind of argument that would please you, Peter? (Oh--and I don't have the book in front of me this time, but I don't think Barbrook said "free market," just "markets.")
democracy being a left thing, anyway (ludlow) Tue 4 Dec 01 07:34
Bruce, that is a better argument for the fringe-friendlyness of the web than I currently possess. All I have is a story about sour cream containers. It goes like this (according to a packaging guy I once met): Years ago the Lilly-Tulip corporation had a profitable (i.e. good profit margin) container that they sold to sour cream makers. Question: how do they sell more? One natural idea would be to sell the container for other applications -- dairy products with more mass appeal (I neglected to mention that this was in the 1950's when sour cream was not widely used -- principly in certain ethnic cooking). I'm told that the Lily-Tulip people did something else; they hired a number of cooks to come up with recipies that incorporated sour cream and then distributed those recipies to "women's magazines". Now what is the moral of this story (if it is true)? I think it is that sometimes, for reasons we don't understand, certain containers are optimal for fringe content and that if you are in business with these containers you don't want to sell them as vehicles for the delivery of vanilla content. So it is with the internet.
democracy being a left thing, anyway (ludlow) Tue 4 Dec 01 07:38
Kirsten, can you say more about the Legend world demonstrations? That sounds really interesting.
virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Wed 5 Dec 01 09:37
Peter, if I remember right, you're travelling today. I hope when you're back online you'll tell us about the Crypto Anarchy and Al Qaida talk you gave. I'm also wondering what advice you have for aspiring anthologists. You've written books and articles yourself -- how different is editing other people's work, as you've done in the High Noon and Crypto Anarchy books? Any pitfalls to avoid, or tricks of the trade you can share?
Kirsten Bayes (kirsten-bayes) Wed 5 Dec 01 10:49
Peter, The Legend demonstration was reported in this Time article: http://www.time.com/time/interactive/entertainment/gangs_np.html Legend is a strange phenomenon: an interactive virtual world based in a real country - Korea - in which a significant proportion of the country's population participates (with some 2 million active accounts of a population of 45 million). As such, items in the game have real-world value, and betrayals in the game can have real-world consequences (which is actually what the article is mostly about). This latter is in part due to the greater "communications spectrum" offered by the virtual game world environment. Not can only can participants read what people say in real-time, but they can also see how they behave in a crisis and the game world gives an illusion of 3D physicality (including gesture). So, people feel closer to each other in the gameworld (compared to say a chatroom), but are still not sitting face-to-face, which means that grave misjudgements can and do occur.
Kirsten Bayes (kirsten-bayes) Wed 5 Dec 01 12:20
Ah, it helps to get the name right. "Legend" is of course, "Lineage". Apologies.
virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Wed 5 Dec 01 12:47
That's a fascinating phenomenon. Thanks. Anyone know of similar goings on in "the West" over MMRPGs? The use of force offline looks like an enforcement mechanism for an emerging cyberstate. Here, again, we see the value of out-of-band communication!
democracy being a left thing, anyway (ludlow) Wed 5 Dec 01 16:45
That Lineage story is fantastic. As far as I'm concerned, if people are willing to pay "real world" currency for virtual weapons, or characters, or information about characters, that is evidence that a real live economy has emerged in that online world. My talk was actually about this phenomenon, Bruce, but also with some stuff about al-Qaida thrown in. I gave a talk at a workshop called CHAOS University, which is run by the Standish Group -- an IT consulting firm in Boston. It was pretty interesting, and there were lots of capable people attending -- mostly CIO's. I was just talking about some of the themes in the _Crypto Anarchy_ book, and about the emergence of cyberstates with robust undergroud economies and sovereign legal systems. One can see how the Lineage phenomenon shows this to be both possible and not too far off. The point about al-Qaida was that it was a kind of prototype cyberstate and that it was just the first of many to come (hopefully future versions will be more benign). I sat in on the whole CHAOS U meeting and learned quite a bit. Disaster recovery was a big theme, as you might imagine. Obviously all data needs to be backed up continuously (is one back-up enough?) and the whole idea of a corporate headquarters is probably going to go the way of the dinosaur. It looks like large corporations are going to have an al-Qaida organizational structure before too long (distributed etc.).
Gail Williams (gail) Wed 5 Dec 01 17:03
Hi, Peter... could you run down how al Qaida is "cyber" and how it is older-style "cell" structured? Or are those the same?
rankincense and myrrh (vsclyne) Wed 5 Dec 01 18:31
>That Lineage story is fantastic. As far as I'm concerned, if people are willing to pay "real world" currency for virtual weapons, or characters, or information about characters, that is evidence that a real live economy has emerged in that online world.< I don't get that. It seems to me players are paying "real world" currency *in the real world* to enhance the entertainment value of the online interactive experience. I don't see that as a real live economy *within* the interactive experience. What am I missing?
Kirsten Bayes (kirsten-bayes) Wed 5 Dec 01 23:13
<<I don't see that as a real live economy *within* the interactive experience. What am I missing?>> Actually, a number of players of Lineage and other MMRPGs do it as a way to supplement their incomes. There is a ready market in hard-to-get items (e.g. look at Everquest items on E-bay), and there is a small number of professional players who specialise in obtaining and selling these items. They do this by any means necessary, not least deception (which is permitted in the game world), hacking the game servers (which isn't), but mainly by trade. In this sense, money in the game can be translated into money in the real world. The purchasers may purchase entertainment, the vendors are doing it for the money. The kind of violence reported about Lineage has not been seen much in the West, thankfully, perhaps because the game is designed to establish feudal states which can impose taxes - whereas most western games don't work that way.
virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Thu 6 Dec 01 05:56
(And, Peter, what about your advice for aspiring anthologists?)
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