Книга: Code 2.0

How Architectures Matter and Spaces Differ

How Architectures Matter and Spaces Differ

The spaces I have described here are different. In some places there is community — a set of norms that are self-enforcing (by members of the community). Features such as visibility (as opposed to anonymity) and nontransience help create those norms; anonymity, transience, and diversity make it harder to create community.

In places where community is not fully self-enforcing, norms are supplemented by rules imposed either through code or by the relevant sovereign. These supplements may further some normative end, but at times they can be in tension with the goal of community building.

If we had to simplify this diversity of spaces by finding a dimension along which we could rank them, one such dimension might be each group’s amenability to control. Some groups on this list can be controlled only through norms — .law.cyber, for example. The only technology for changing behavior there — given my commitment not to monitor and punish bad behavior — was the norms of the students in the law school class. Other groups are amenable to other technologies of control. Indeed, as we move from .law.cyber to CC to LambdaMOO to AOL to Second Life, the ability to use these other technologies of control increases, though, of course, that ability is constrained by competition. If the code makes the place no longer attractive, people will leave.

Thus, in CC and AOL, the architects could use technology to change behavior. But if the change is too far removed from what most members think the space is about, members may simply leave. The threat of that constraint turns upon the alternatives, of course. As blogs have flourished, a space like CC would have relatively little market power. AOL’s market power is more complicated. There are many alternative ISPs, of course. But once you’re a member of one, the costs of migrating are significant.

In LambdaMOO the story is even more complicated. Nothing really binds people to a particular MOO. (There are hundreds, and most are free.) But because characters in a MOO are earned rather than bought, and because this takes time and characters are not fungible, it becomes increasingly hard for members of a successful MOO to move elsewhere. They have the right to exit, but in the sense that Soviet citizens had the right to exit — namely, with none of the assets they had built in their particular world.

Finally, Second Life offers the potential for the most control. Code regulates experience in Second Life more than in any of the other four spaces, and the intimacy of experience in Second Life pulls people into the space and makes escape costly. Again, there are limits to the control, but the controls are more finely articulated here than in any of the other contexts. And if Philip Rosedale, the CEO of Second Life, is to be believed, the control through code here will only become more subtly expressed. As he described to me:

Our feeling is . . . that we should aggressively move into code anything we can, because of the enhanced scalability it gives us. And we should execute policy outside of code only when absolutely necessary or unfeasible. There are things where we look at them and we say, “Well, we’ll be able to do that in code some day, but for today, we’re just going to do it by hand.”[56]

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