Are Virtual Worlds Liberating?

foucault.jpg Terra Nova has a thought provoking little piece up on the liberation (?) of virtual worlds - rather, are they liberating? Or are they just another method for dominant ideologies to be reinforced? Just a new arena for old social superstructures to be played out on a new stage? The notion of "liberation" in some sort of all-encompassing way makes me skittish in most contexts, but there are some interesting points contained within:

In general virtual worlds seem often to replicate structures of labour and production - they even support a class hierarchies based on geography, contextual knowledge, time in the given community etc.

At the same time virtual worlds offer the promise of liberating us. Not quite in the old utopian ideal of freeing us fully from pre-existing notions of self but at least opening up new opportunities for self-exploration. What's more should you have access to a virtual world the barrier between roles of consumption and production seems to have been lowered such that both within the context of a virtual space e.g. as a crafter or builder in second life; or outside it, say as a fan fic creator, many can participate in a mixed traditional, amateur and / or gift economy.

The long (loooong) comments section is good to settle down with and read through, and not one mention of Foucault so far in 100+ comments! Bonus points for that.

Do virtual worlds liberate us? [Terra Nova]


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