I found the readings assigned to us this week to be amazingly fascinating and even eye opening about certain aspects of the virtual word that I was unaware of. Very surprising to me considering that I consider myself quite the tech-saavy young individual. First off, the excerpt from Baym’s book was a really great and comprehensive overview of the relationship between technology and the society that both creates and uses it. And it touched upon many concepts that I had previously studied in classes beforehand.
Of particular interest to me are the different views on what exactly drives the uses of different mediated communications methods and whether it’s determined primarily by the technology or the people using it. I sway towards the side of the Social Construction of Technology. I do believe that technology cannot (yet) do anything that people do not choose to use it for. And further I believe that some people will always misuse whatever technology is created for selfish and or harmful purposes, and I don’t believe we should judge said technology or condemn it based mainly on these abusers, who frankly are usually the very small minority in the bigger picture.
I also believe in the validity of the social shaping of society. For instance, in Sanchez’s article describing the rough timeline of virtual worlds he talks about the landmark accomplishment that was Ultima Online and they’re innovative business model of charging an upfront fee and then a monthly fee in order to play after. The decision to start paying a monthly fee for these types of games was partially made due to the game’s nature and the fact that you HAVE to play frequently and with others in order to really progress. But it was also very much influenced by the fact that a large amount of people CHOSE to pay that fee. Had consumers decided they didn’t want to shell out the cash, Ultima Online would have flopped along with that model of monthly payments. But because people saw value in the game, it paved he way for all MMORPGS from then on like WOW. And due to people’s choices in the past, pay to play games have become a normal part of gaming culture. Whether or not it’s a reasonable decision or not no longer matters, as this type of structure has become a domesticated technology that everyone just deals with and doesn’t think about anymore.
The only other thing I wanted to talk about was the CRAZY things that I learned from reading Lauren Bans article about Second Life. Like I had no idea that people actually had virtual sex in SL. Mind blowing. I also had no idea that there was an actually money making sex industry in SL, and that that industry is only a part of an even larger SL economy that actually exchanges money on a daily basis. I didn’t know that people dressed up as virtual tweens and have dubious sexual encounters. I didn’t know that you could buy penises or that you can actually be raped in an online virtual world. My point is that despite how much I believed I knew about technology and even video games in particular, obviously there is an entire subculture and a lot of things within it that I don’t know about. I’m constantly astounded and amazed by the shear amount of new things to learn about in all kinds of fields and I’m excited to see what kinds of new things I can learn from this class.
I leave you with some funny pictures/videos that I believe relate to some other points from the reading that I didn’t get to mention here.