I was cracked up by this video, found via Karen Schneider’s blog. I’ve only bumbled around briefly in Second Life and, I have to admit, the point of it escaped me. It seemed to be Wal-Mart with pervs. It’s a weird parody of our capitalist society – “you get to buy a shitload of stuff, and it isn’t even real! How cool is that!” At the moment, as the government throws money at a recession that seems to have been highly influenced by a losing gambling streak of a single French banker, making his bank scoop up its chips and leave the market fast, the economic system looks like a proprietary virtual reality game that, sadly, has real consequences in First Life.
Of course, what this video is really addressing is social networking that is about the commons, not about commerce. Proprietary systems only thrive if the members give up their creativity freely to a corporation that can exclusively and secretly mine information about social relationships and individual expression in order sell us more stuff. (This is how Facebook and Google work. We provide the content, they take notes on what we all do with it.) What the video suggests – and I hope it’s right – is that the commons will triumph. But given the power of corporations like Facebook and Google, and given how firmly commerce is embedded in our understanding of self and society, I’m worried.
We’re at the crossroads, and we got ourselves a guitar. Unfortunately, we didn’t read the terms of service very closely and didn’t even realize who gave it to us.