Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Digital Spaces: Working Outline

I. Introduction
                A. What is a civilization?
1. "[A] grouping of at least several thousand people with a common culture, usually a common language, usually a geographic locale, some significant (usually monumental) buildings and architecture, and a political structure that is not necessarily unified” (Blaha 2002).
2. "Civilization is fundamentally a cultural infrastructure of information and knowledge that serves survival and continuity. What distinguishes a civilization from a culture is that this infrastructure, having reached a critical level of complexity, becomes autonomous from constituent cities, nations, and empires" (Bosworth 2003). At what point will digital/Internet culture reach its critical complexity?
B. With a majority of the world's physical frontiers having been swallowed up in expansionism, many are looking to digital spaces as a new frontier—a place where they can establish their own culture and stake their claim in a rich and vibrant future within the Digital Age. Whether independent civilizations will emerge from this new frontier is yet to be determined, but already we see the close integration of real and virtual 'civilizations' as we know them, and the future will surely witness further advances in this area. Though at this stage of its progression the Internet and its substituent communities are still very much so dependent on real-world authorities and spaces for their being and maintenance, the foundations are already in place for the eventual emergence of virtual civilizations.
C. Working Thesis: Virtual spaces are becoming increasingly independent, and while they necessarily remain linked to the real world, they nonetheless provide the social underpinnings for the genesis of digital civilizations through their facilitation of virtual government, economy, and culture.
II. Digital Governance
A. The concept of digital governance is already taking root among many Internet communities and has likewise served a model for real-world governance. This suggests that digital paradigms could be applied more broadly as a foundation for digital states.
B. Hybrid forms of digital governance are already in place in a number of online communities, virtual worlds, and video games.
                          1. EVE Online representative council                          
                          2. Confederationof Democratic Simulators
               C. True Democracy / Opt-in Citizenship
                          1. Speaking back: a list of grievances to LindenLabs
            D. Use of digital tools in hammering out real-world governance
                          1. Iceland's use of Facebook to crowd-source its constitution
                          2. Turkey considered doing the same
III.
Virtual Economies
            A. While virtual economies still exist primarily as subsidiaries to real economies, emerging currencies
                and globalized economic paradigms have provided the necessary underpinnings for independent 
                digital monetary systems.
            B. Recent years have seen a number of virtual currencies emerge and fall, but each of these has 
               been a step toward stable virtual economies/currencies (tie into social surplus)
            C. Interconnection of virtual and real markets
                          1. Much of modern trade takes place in digital spaces. In an age where economy is king,                                   digital markets are more agile, competitive, cost-efficient
                          2. Flow of money real money into digital economies: exodus and recession
a. “Potentially, the economic value in free digital goods — regarded as a big “zero” in traditional GDP measurements — is actually worth quite a bit to the economy in terms of advertising (the consumer “attention” factor) and the enhanced innovation delivered across various business sectors. Brynjolfsson pegs this value at about $300 billion a year to the U.S. economy alone.” (Link)
                          3. Hyperinflation, devaluation of yuan, etc. (Reality is Broken)
            D. Bitcoin as a new and potentially stable digital currency
                          1. Gaining legitimacy: first Bitcoin ATM
                          2. Recent trends: appreciation, recognition by U.S. Courts as legal tender, integration
E. Economy/Currency as representative of a nation: “Bitcoin nation – On bitcointalk.org, one Bitcoin user suggested that in maintaining a currency distinct from other world currencies, the Bitcoin community had already defined itself as an independent nation (as distinguished from a state). He wrote, "Currencies have always represented a nation and I think that we ARE a nascent nation, albeit a virtual one, a legitimate one nevertheless." He later called for "native products" and "national industry" as means of stabilizing the volatile virtual currency.

[I'm considering dropping my third section on art, so I haven't formatted it yet and it's not included here. Additionally, the conclusion is more so a conglomeration of ideas that I would like to address but which as of yet lack a clear tie-in to the thesis.]

IV. Conclusion
            A. As new technologies make worlds more immersive, we will increasingly see the overlaps between
                virtual and real worlds, and an understanding of virtual worlds will prove increasingly vital.
                        1. Even taste mechanics becoming possible in virtual worlds 
                        2. Luke McKinney, a contributor on the gaming website Cracked.com, jibed, “If you're
                           noticing wire frame graphics in your peripheral vision, don't worry, that's just the borders
                           between reality and fantasy breaking down.
                        3. Externalization of digital—integration into reality. "The Internet of Things," 3D printing, etc.
            B. William McGaughey: primary institution of power in our modern age is the Internet
            CCall for virtual settlers