Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Democracy in Second Life?

So Sparky I've read a number of comments over the years concerning the fact that Second Life is not "democratic". My usual reaction was "Why the hell would it be?" and then I forgot about it. However, you recently posted the following comment directed at Philip Linden (and yes I'm editing for brevity's sake):

In short, Philip, I can only tell you once again: make a democratic and fair world with processes that can lead to governance for a wide variety of constituencies with different needs.

Frankly this was the "proverbial last straw" Sparky. I've been wrong to dismiss the concept. I mean if you think it's important then I have to address this "democracy issue".

I have a problem though with the word democracy here - well I have a lot of problems. First of all you only want "a wide variety of constituencies with different needs" to be included. I'm hurt. Surely equality for all would include all constituencies.

There are various models for democracy - the extreme direct approach would have everybody in Second Life voting on every decision. That's probably workable but only if you have a lot of time to kill. Getting things done would not be a priority.

We could always elect representatives. How and how many would be a couple of sticking points. I suspect identifying population groups to be represented (in terms of geography, culture, language, avatar, etc.) would prove contentious at the very least. I'm sure you have a solution Sparky, you just failed to mention it.

Another option would be to have self appointed representatives. The ones who yell the loudest would be the best I suppose. They've even been known to use the word "we" when making demands or offering opinions - they're practicing for the real thing.

Now let's discuss governance. I have to start by wondering if you were using "governance" in the correct sense or if you were using it in place of the word "government" which many do. Of course the fact that you coupled it with "democratic" would lead me to believe you mean "government" but since that is patently absurd (Second Life is not an independent country. It is a corporation subject to the laws of the various real countries in which it operates.) I'll assume you really do mean governance - in the corporate governance sense since we're talking about a private company.

Electing representatives to be involved in corporate governance is something Trade Unions and Cooperatives have used for a long time. You probably got the idea from them.

Being residents/consumers/customers whatever you wish to call us, our input could only be on an advisory level. Unlike the Board, employees or shareholders we would have no responsibility and, therefore, no authority. Well that's a legitimate part of a corporate governance team but somehow I don't think that's what you want.

What you want Sparky, I suspect, is for Linden Labs to do things your way. Democracy in your case is composed of one vote - yours. I'm convinced that in any other form of a voting system you might be in the minority and that can't possibly be in your best interests.

In spite of your obvious superior intellectual abilities having you dictate LL policies and actions could be a tough sell. So I have a suggestion to make.

You are in charge of a large amount of land and you have tenants/residents on that land. Implement a "fair and democratic" system in your domain with processes that lead to governance for all of its constituencies and all of their needs. Then you can use that model to demonstrate to the rest of us how ideal and workable your system is.

We'll vote on it.


Emilly Orr said...

This is perfect. (She says, running off to her own blog with the link.)

Honour McMillan said...

thank you :)

GoSpeed Racer said...

The only vote you truly have is your wallet, period. The more you pay LL in tier and fees the more you count. The only people they really have to please are island owners. Island owners can do whatever they please as they are the ones who control access to their islands. The power to ban is the power to rule. It doesn't get any more basic than that. If you strip away an island owners ability to control his/her island you sharply devalue it's worth. Any talk of "democracy" in SL or any virtual world is just mental masturbation as long as there is no universal access to all areas on the grid. There can be no true freedom or democracy as long as grid is the way it is, small restrictive fiefdoms and petty kingdoms. It's just the way it is, our 12th century digital world.

I just don't see it changing any time soon. The ability to block ideas, beliefs and people you don't like is easy to do in the digital realm. Would you tolerate something you don't like if you couldn't block it?

I know many of you fellow bloggers dislike Prokofy a lot. Would you trade in your ability to mute and ban him for Democracy? Something to think about.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if a general democracy experiment would be possible, or even good, for Second Life. I think that would become a dictatorship of majority instead of a "real" democracy.

I think that would work in not so big environments where people have similar interests or objectives, maybe a group of sims.

Anyway, i agree Linden Lab should listen and have more contact with residents to know what they customers think. Polls at Log-In, reading only some blogs or speaking only with some people is not the best way, or at least is not a complete way. I miss old Town Halls, but with the actual number of residents they are almost impossible, also most of the meetings with Lindens (maybe you remember the one about Viewer 2.0 in the Burning Life sims) end being a meeting where most shout and few listen.

Thanks for your GREAT post, Honour.

Honour McMillan said...

Thank you Raul! And yes I remember that V2 meeting - it was fine until the shouting started. :)

R. said...

My thoughts on this post, how I hope that Five Islands runs, and open to evidence to the contrary.


Honour McMillan said...

Well I'm not going to argue with you :)

Unknown said...

Silly stuff as usual.

Representative democracy in liberal democratic states like the U.S. or the UK are not based on socialistic (or fascistic) identity politics like "furries over here, Neko Caledonian cats over there".

It's based on geography and population. In SL, I propose, to get started having a constituent assembly, to have only landowners. Those who have other interest groups who want to organize on the basis of Marxist identity politics or fascistic corporativist politics (like CDS ultimately turned out to be) are welcome to do so but I'd ignore them. Land ownership is a good simple way to be inclusive of pretty much anybody with a stake in SL.

Technocommunists *hate* representative democracy because it runs straight against their own illegitimate power base which is essentially the power of weaponry -- code. Not consent of the government and not stake (land).

So that's why they try to ridicule it and claim democracy will dissolve into a million interest groups or try to pillory the small holders concept as greedy land barons blah blah. I'm for ignoring them and start an assembly with landowners. No renters, estate mangers, etc. Must own 512 mainland or more, or be original and full owner of a private island or homestead. That way all the CDS/Islamic caliphate loafers and hangers-on would have to confront the fact that they are all tenants to one landlord anyway, whatever their silly structures on top of that.

One landowners organizer on their various single issues, then they can negotiate with others like no-payment-on-file sandboxers or Xstreet-only-merchants or whatever constituencies make sense for a parliament of such parties.

I don't worry about how you "can't" have democracy in a company town. People in the colony of America said that too, until there was a tea party. And so on. No such thing as "can't" when it comes to more power to the people and their legitimate interests againt tyrants.

Honour McMillan said...

um - just so we're clear :) There's no way I can qualify as a techno anything, never mind a technocommunist.