Policy and politics enter digital realms…

Posted by Ian on Oct 25, 2008 in blog | No Comments

[Virtual political advertisement in XBox 360’s ‘Burnout Paradise’]
There has been increasing discussion of the politicisation and economic mobilisation of digital lifeworlds. Over a decade ago, Timothy Luke wrote of the impending impact of dromoeconomics (economics modified by speed of information exhange) through the internet (see his 1995 paper Simulated Sovereignty, Telematic Territoriality: The Political Economy of Cyberspace). And only a few years ago, Anshe Chung became the first real world millionaire based on digital real estate sales. And recently, social insurgent groups have formed in digital worlds such as the Second Life Liberation Army, claiming that since they invest a vast amount of their social energy in these spaces, that they are entitled to representation on the governing board of corporations which own the game infrastrucutres – such as Linden Labs. It is predicatable that economics would lead the way in mobilising the exhange spaces of the internet, but recently, law and politics have been making unprecedented forays into these realms.

Barack Obama’s campaign has now confirmed that they did buy virtual advertising space in the Xbox 360 game ‘Burnout Paradise‘ (seen above – and I want to thank Davy Banks at Recessional 08 for tipping me off on this) as well as in a number of other top gaming titles such as Madden ’09.

Also, just this week, Japanese police have arrested and detained woman for murdering her virtual divorcees avatar in the Korean developed online world Maple Story. The police are treating it as a standard IT crime – illegally using her estranged virtual marriage partner’s password and access codes to hack into his computer and delete his carefully created avatar persona.

Legally, it is a fairly open and shut case that only carries a maximum of 5 years incarceration or a €3,200 fine. But it is the motive of the female plaintiff – her emotional attachment to the marriage between the two avatars in the online world and her passionate anger when it was abruptly dissolved.

Following on from Michael Highland’s video and the previous entry, it is evident that ‘society’ or at least the policies and politics of society are playing a game of ‘catch up’ with the rapid politicisation, social organisation and economic mobilisation of digital realms. If Obama is calling for change through forums such as ‘Burnout Paradise’, what are other opportunities for using these social spaces for effecting other forms of social and policy changes?

[For a selection of academic musings on this theme, you can check out a paper that is due to be published in an upcoming volume.]

[For a discussion of the Obama campaign and opening spaces within gaming industries for news media and advertising see this article by Chris O’Brian at PBS.]
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