Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The community of those who have virtual politics

Another fine piece by Carlos Rojas at The Naked Gaze. This essay discusses political protest and community in the virtual world.
This past July 4 (Independence Day in the US), meanwhile, another Chinese dissident was imprisoned on charges of inappropriate internet-related political expression and unlawful association. What makes this Independence Day prisoner somewhat unusual, however, is that not only was he imprisoned for instigating an on-line protest attended by more than 10,000, but furthermore his own identity is entirely an on-line creation. This is because the prisoner, is actually the on-line avatar of a long-time player on the Chinese massively-multiplayer on-line role-playing game (MMORPG), 梦幻西游 (The Fantasy of the Journey West) operated by Netease. The un-named player was being punished for refusing to change his alias, 干死4小日本 ["Kill the little Japs"], and also on account of the name, 抗日同盟会 [The Alliance to Resist Japan], of the 700 person guild he had formed (one of the game’s largest). As a result of these transgressions, he was locked in the game’s “Great Tang Permanent Incarceration Prison” (大唐永禁监 )...

As these examples illustrate, there is a fluid continuum within MMORPG protests ranging from dissatisfaction with issues internal to the game itself (e.g., the relative power of the warrior class) to issues which are situated almost entirely outside of the virtual space of the game (e.g., the 9/11 vigils), to protests which straddle the boundaries between the two (e.g., whether or not game groups can be identified based on sexual orientation, and whether it is appropriate for games to incorporate corporate branding into the fabric of the game itself).... [continue reading]

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