Second Life - Philosophical Issues

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Introduction

Interacting within SecondLife encourages us to consider fundamental questions such as 'What is reality?' It also asks us to re-examine things we take for granted in Real Life. Why do we have money? What is the point of shops? Do buildings have to have walls? What is history?
Schome itself provokes fundamental questions about the meaning and purpose of education, which are dealt with elsewhere in the schome community website. This page deals with broader issues which may be only peripherally related to education.

Why money?

If you want to discuss any facet of this then join the 'Why money?' topic in the forum.

Second Life is different from earlier virtual reality environments insofar as an in-game currency plays a significant social aspect of the space. Many for-profit real-life companies have presence in Second Life, and some purely Second Life businesses exist. The in-game currency, the Linden Dollar, can be exchanged for US dollars.

As we are working within this environment, we need to decide how we wish to interact with this financial reality.

Are there reasons why money is useful in SL (particularly thinking of our educational focus)? Some of the reasons for having money in the real world clearly don't transfer. In the real world money offers portability, it is easier to carry around than a herd of cattle. In the real world, money offers longevity, it is useful for a longer period than a harvest of fruit that will rot if not eaten. Unlike gold in the real world, Linden Dollars do not have intrinsic value - they do not have any worth for their own sake (you can't make jewellery or dental fillings out of them...)
What is money for in SL? What would we want to use it for? Is it:

  • A means of distributing power and creating inequalities amongst people who visit our spaces?
  • A means of rewarding appropriate/correct/good behaviour or achievements?

Business Studies
I never did business studies as a subject at school, but I remember those that did engaging in a project along these lines: create your own business complete with business plan/market research etc, run it for x weeks, submit final accounts and evaluation.
The same thing seems entirely possible within SL, and would really challenge people's creative skills. Where is the market in SL? How do you promote a business? How much do you charge? And so on and so forth.
I believe this works as an interesting project that has 'money' at the core. Money is part of life, and if people can work with it/learn through it in SL, theydo so in a 'safe' environment yet have skills that transfer back to RL. The added value of doing this in SL is that the sums of money are much less and there is possibly more protection in terms of identity for teenagers operating in SL than in real life.

Why use Linden Dollars?
If we decide to use money with young people, nothing (but time and convenience) forces us to use L$. Indeed it is feasible to have ones own simulated economy in SL; it would take a simple web application representing a bank (with log-in, etc) and some artefacts to communicate the information inside SL (e.g. a 'schome purse' updating itself from the website, or, arrggh, cash machines). It is not about reinventing the wheel but SL's economy has been made for real-life purposes (i.e. getting wealthier in RL) which are irrelevant for educational purposes and which can maintain inequalities.

I think designing and running a currency is probably a very time consuming process. In SL this would involve some amount of coding surely to allow people to hold 'our currency' within their client side software (unless we're going to write some sort of banking program/scripts to hold stuff in our space? I'm interested in LETS in the real world ( http://www.letslinkuk.net/ Local Exchange Trading Systems) but my shout in SL is we either don't use money, or we think about how to interact with Linden Dollars, that will be brought in by the participants (e.g. we can use or subvert the existing currency). --Mgaved 12:06, 14 January 2007 (GMT)

Money as accreditation
Could money be used as a form of accreditation on Schomebase? If so, how?
Some of us are wary about the idea of using money as means of accreditation or having it as part of our educational space. The primary reason for the existence of money in SL appears to be so that it can be traded for real-world money to make people rich. Do we want to be getting into that territory?

Shops, Stores or Repositories?
Shops
Should Schomebase / Schome Park have shops on the plaza? These could include:

  • freebie shop for newbies
  • items for sale to more established SLers.

These would:

  • provide the teens with access to lots of resources to make Schome Park more interesting (particularly in a context where they are (at least initially) limited to Schome Park
  • be fun for people who enjoy shopping.

Stores or Repositories
Why 'shops'? Could we pick another word which doesn't have the real-world baggage, or are people wanting shops because they want the associations that shops have in the real world? We could have artefact /code /script repositories where we can give away items to people coming to our island.
We have the potential to offer the best 'player'-created items a place in the repository. If, for instance, there were a competition based on clothing creation, the winner's item could be placed in our clothing repository (as part of their prize at least). This allows us to deliver something we couldn't really do in RL. Creating certain items in SL is far easier than in RL and, even with some that are hard to create, at least you still have scope to create items that would literally be impossible in RL. In both circumstances the aforementioned reward would be hard to mirror in a real-world setting.

"Store" and "Shop" have real world meanings and bring with them associated 'cultural baggage' as a result. We're shaped by the words we use I think (Lakoff, G. and M. Johnson (1980). Metaphors we live by, University of Chicago Press). I am interested to explore what we're doing with these 'stores' hence throwing up the cumbersome 'repository' word. Programmers sometimes talk of 'code repositories' or similar, places where code is kept that can be reused in part or whole for a new project - which seems closer to what we want to do with these 'stores' - we are not trying to sell things to generate income, we are (I think) trying to build up a freely accessible resource bank to benefit participants. I think "repository" is a clunky term and I'd welcome a nicer one! I got really excited by finding out Rebecca's done research into the history of the co-operative movement, I wonder if there are some examples we could draw from there? --Mgaved 11:58, 14 January 2007 (GMT)

Open access v password protected

Should we have a password-protected area in the wiki where we can keep our scripts (like the people at the International Space museum do)?
For

  • We need to be seen to be doing something new and fresh, so we shouldn't share it until it has been recognised as ours.
  • People might take our work and pass it off as their own.
  • If some evil person were to change just one element of the code it could take us weeks to debug it. (Though the wiki will preserve the earlier version.)
  • The intellectual copyright on our work may be owned by the Open University, as the OU is paying us to do it.

Against

  • If we have an open scripting area people can see what we are working on, help debug and extend the scripts and can also use the scripts. This would fit with the open approach that we are trying to develop in the schome community - and (if we believe in the benefits of open source) should help us (and others) develop code more rapidly and of a higher quality.
  • Ultimately, we are being paid by taxpayers' money, so the wider community should have the right to make use of what we are doing.
  • There are various models of Creative Commons licencing which could be followed and which we could research. Linus Torvalds did OK out of risking this with his little operating system project (linux). (But are these licences really worth anything?)
  • We don't want to imply that the scripts are the worthwhile and valuable part of this project, which must be protected, whereas the thought and debate presented here in the wiki are of no consequence. If we protect the scripts from 'evil people' and thieves, why would we leave the rest of our work vulnerable? We feel we gain from people adding to the debate and altering pages, why should that not apply to the scripts?

Possible compromise position

Not sure code repositories transpose well since SL scripts are usually related to objects, which cannot be exported... so maybe we should decide what we want to do with our objects; give them for free with editing rights? (which is equivalent to showing the code). It may be good publicity for Schome! --Vladtn 23:21, 7 January 2007 (GMT)
Our current plan is that all objects created by the Schome SL Players should be set so that they can be copied, modified and moved by members of the 'Schome prim trustees' group (which has only a couple of members) and that a copy of each object should also be given to Schomer Pidgeon (again with permissions set so that he can copy, move, edit, etc). PeterT 06:48, 8 January 2007 (GMT)
  • At least for the time being we need a closed space for some of the people some of the time (but with the expectation that we will move stuff into the open space as soon as we can).
  • We tag our scripts in the following way:

-Script title and version number
-Author
-Date
-Part of the schome initiative.
-You may copy/edit this, but please credit us.
-Description of what it does.

What is free software? http://www.gnu.org/ addresses this question. To quote their website:
Free software is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of free as in free speech, not as in free beer.

Free software is a matter of the users' freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. More precisely, it refers to four kinds of freedom, for the users of the software:

  • The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
  • The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
  • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
  • The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits (freedom 3). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

Who decides what is acceptable?

We have been having discussions within the schome SL players group about the issue of appropriateness (or otherwise) of content for inclusion within the schome community website. We are very conscious that this is a public site and that we are keen to engage with folk of all ages and from diverse backgrounds.
Stereotypes

  • The parent of a six year old test. If a 'typical' parent would be happy to share the content with their six year old then it is probably OK.
  • The EastEnders test. If a national tv channel, such as the BBC, would show it on a family programme (like EastEnders) before the 9pm 'watershed' then it is probably OK.
  • The Grandmother test. If you be happy showing this material to your grandmother then it is probably OK.

One problem here is that six year olds, grandmothers and tv channels (perhaps to a lesser extent) are all different.

Schomer /PeterT

Within our part of SL, I guess PeterT as our glorious leader should decide :-) --Mgaved 15:00, 5 January 2007 (GMT)
Not so much leader as provocateur perhaps - but glorious none the less  ;O) - PeterT 12:16, 6 January 2007 (GMT)

Participants
Ask the participants in the teen grid Schome Park to help draft and implement the rules/codes/protocols.