Re: [-empyre-] Virtual sweatshops, SL:s dark side?

Hi Ana and everyone,

It seems like its less the code and more the formation of a governing policy that is the issue.

What is at odds is that Linden Labs professes a single sentence as their vision: "To connect us all to an online world that advances the human condition."...and that it is a "digital world imagined, created and owned by it's residents".

Even though people have ownership rights over their land, Second Life acts under unregulated monopoly rules. There isn't any real accountability. Policy decisions on the scripting language, rules on financial transactions, police enforcement and so on. Democracy in any real form doesn't exist...all of which is fine for business models, but when building out a libertarian-style world, it seems like this is problematic.

The rhetoric would suggest otherwise.

Maybe not now, but if SL begins to really take off and is widely used, then I suspect that anti-monopoly issues will be discussed. It becomes a utility, much like the electricity, water, internet service -- people will begin to *rely* on it. If not for social relations, certainly for financial matters. Up until now, we've been using SL under Plato's benign dictator model. What I find unsettling is not so much the lack of democracy but the lack of debate around it, just smatterings of discussion here and there.

I'd like to tie this back to virtual sweatshops and labor value. Is there a feeling that SL is being globalized for labor usage, much like MMORPGs and the widely-reported instances of "gold-farming"?


On Aug 13, 2007, at 1:27 AM, Ana Valdés wrote:

For me it's the same debate than in the realm of the free sofware
versus the owned softare (Microsoft versus Linux etc). In "owned
software" you can't decide the rules or participate in a creative way,
you have a code provided by others, the decisions are taken by for the
corporation's board, etc.
In Linux and other "free software" it's not a board, all is
descentralized and able to generate many nodes in a rhizomic way,
I believed SL was such a thing, and was very glad when Linden let the
code be free.
But they are still controlling the money and the ownership of land.
And that's the real power in SL.
That's the reason why the virtual sweatshops and the sex and gambling
schemes are still giviing so much revenue to the brokers as Ansche
I think the interaction in virtual spaces should be criticized and
watched as other things, and it's ethics and values discussed.
Why should SL, a kind of the Sims dystopia, be free from these
discussion? Only because people are doing art there? And again, art
for whom? Art in which context?


On 8/13/07, Christy Dena <> wrote:
Hello Ana and others,

Help me understand your argument. Is it correct that you are saying that
because SL was created by a company who wants to make money, many people in
SL are engaging in consumerist ideals, it is presented in the media as an
ideal utopia and there are many who undertake unethical practices in SL that
ALL who are in it are therefore one of the above?

Or is it just that because of the hype about SL you're looking for an
alternate dialogue?


-----Original Message-----
[] On Behalf Of Ana Valdés
Sent: Sunday, 12 August 2007 21:57
To: soft_skinned_space
Subject: [-empyre-] Virtual sweatshops, SL:s dark side?

I take here the liberty of "reusing" an old post in Trebor Scholtz
list IDC, regaerding SL. I think it's a real dilemma why people "use"
SL as a research environment or an experimental milieu without
critiizing the grounds which support the mere existens of SL. The
lacking democracy, the control of citizens opinions, the use of
virtual sweatshops to generate added value to the manufactured goods
sold in SL. And I find the argument "fI Residents recreate suburban
sprawl in SL, that is probably for the same
reasons as in real life. People like space and privacy and dont like too
rules (i.e. zoning), these factors will inevitably give rise to sprawl if
is no planning." a bit shallow.

The suburb is not what a resident want but what the resident get from
social planners who think in heteronormative and monogamous ways,
where the "nuclear family" is still the model to reproduce.

It's maybe time to resurrect Engels pamphlet "The Holy Family", still
high readable material.

As I wrote before, gated communities, safe worlds without criminality
are a dream of social planners wanting to create utopies. It reminds
me about Buckminster Full designs, or Le Corbusier hives or Bauhaus
social architecture.

I still wish to read critical approaches to SL "beyond the hype"

Ana imaginary-

That's really interesting and I really wish more researchers could be
engaged in the studio of Second Life's conditions and behaviours.
A world without democracy, where the individual is constricted to
"mature contempt" islands, where the discussion made in official
forums is controlled by the omnipotent and omniscent Linden Lab.
I read the headlines from last week's turbulence in SL. "terrorist
attack in Second Life", "cyberterrorism". What is virtual terrorism?
It reminds me about Julian Dibbell's excellent book "My tiny life",
where a virtual rape was discussed and put on trial.
And about precariety and workers rights we should discuss Anshe Chung,
the real estate broker avatar for Ailin Graef, is known to use workers
from her nativev China to make virtual wares in places similar to
Virtual sweatshops are also used for games as Everquest or Ultima
Online, where macros can be used to generate or reproduce objects who
can be sold or traded in the games or outside the games.
The virtual sweatshops (or more clear, the real sweatshops) are in the
real life and populates av real workers, they make virtual wares but
they are treated as all other precarious workers: they work day and
night in dangerous conditions, exposed to datasmog and radiation of
the screens.
Many of them are in the maquila zone between Mexico and the US, Graafs
are in China.


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"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been and there you will always long to return. — Leonardo da Vinci _______________________________________________ empyre forum

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Skarpnäcks Allé 45 ll tr 12833 Skarpnäck Sweden tel +468-943288 mobil 4670-3213370

"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been and there you will always long to return. — Leonardo da Vinci _______________________________________________ empyre forum

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