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American Blacburn is a mild-mannered college student that considers himself a political junkie. Aside from his abilities to teleport freely from destination to destination on the Second Life grid and fly effortlessly, he is your average college student trying to survive the early years of academia. Technologically inept, he is attempting to adjust to life of the cyber persuasion. His hobbies include heckling Hillbilly Marksman for his adventurous idiosyncrasies on the grid, flying around UK’s island in search of advice, and long walks on the beach.

American Blackburn attempted to test-drive a Mercedes within his first week on the grid, after 10 minutes of attempting to get into the vehicle with to no avail, he decided that Linden created flying and teleporting within SL for a reason. Driving was not to be.

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1/30/2008

Our research group met tonight for the first time on UK Island. Aside from tossing around potential names for nearly an hour and mingling with the other groups that were also present on the island, little was accomplished other than deciding that our name will be Team America: Disaster Capitalists. Below is a picture from our meeting inside the SL version of W.T. Young Library.

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2/14/2008

Well, its Valentine's day... and I spent the early hours of the evening not at dinner wining, dining, and romancing, but on SL. I refuse to fall into the trap of SL's virtual "love" market as a means of replacing what should have been a night on the town, so instead I attempted to find new places on the Grid to explore. There is only room for one lady in the life of American Blackburn, and that lady is Ms. Academia... and oh how she can be cruel.

Jokes aside, I'm still having great difficulty in locating places of interest without the help of others and there is no one to be found on UK Island to give me any sense of direction.


2/28/2008

While taking a sick day from class, it seemed appropriate to at least log some time on SL and continue attempting to adjust to the "second life". Our group, having settled on something in the realm of Lessig's Modalities of Constraint as pertaining to copyright law, has leaned heavily towards the impact of social norms on the issue. I can honestly admit that initially was not 100% sure where this project will take us, but that I have thought about the impact of markets on SL society. Thinking back to a previous post in which I described me testdriving a car in SL, I began to wonder about whether or one would actually need a car within SL when teleporting seems to be the main means of travel, and if the market for cars, boats, etc is really that big.

This thought lead me to think more heavily on the oddity of preferring teleportation over driving when the option is not even a possibility in the real world. As I continued to think about the backwards nature of SL in comparison to the real life that I live everyday, it seemed to click that the lack of automobiles, ability to teleport, ability to edit your avatar's appearance at will (which I have yet to figure out seeing as how a classmate helped me create my avatar), and the overwhelming presence of strange/perverse virtual sex are not just present in SL, but are considered NORMAL!

In terms of the Modalities of Constraint, each of these afore mentioned SL phenomenon is visibly controlled by the Norms, Laws, Markets, and Architecture of SL that allows for these oddities to be sustainable practices on the Grid. The vast amounts of Sex-related endeavors on the grid seem to be supported by societal norms, thrive due to the presence of at least some market for the trade, (hopefully) have such things as content regulated by some sort of SL law (I'm not really sure of SL's policies, but I'm sure that there has to be some policy preventing such things as child pornography), and are surely conducive to SL's architecture.

I'm afraid to continue to elaborate on the subject because the concept of these things in SL is still very new to me, and beyond the above thought, I haven't been able to research the topic further... I'll get back to you.

3/23/2008

Currently, I’m in the process of interviewing people/avatar’s for the class research project. While this post doesn’t contain any information for statistical analysis, I do hope to make point for consideration. In attempting to remain objective in this study of social norms as a modality of constraint and attempting vary my sources for sampling and locations for surveying on the grid, I have constantly come across a factor in my research that, I believe anyways, limits the success of the study. While I freely admit that I possess many of the typical conservative tendencies, I openly welcome differences of opinion and the views of other ideologies. However, my main concern is that this research is sampling a population whose majority prescribes mainly to what is viewed as “liberal”. While I stress the point that the prescription to a particular political persuasion does not influence my objectivity, it does raise a concern that responses are likely to be bias. I came to this conclusion after using the disclaimer that our group decided would dissuade those afraid of our series of questions. When describing the nature of our study and the subject around which our class was centered, the word “politics” became a catalyst for the typical questions about the primaries, elections, and party affiliation. While not seeking to divulge information that would influence the responses of those surveyed, the conversation (on more than on occasion) eventually found its way to the current presidential race.

3/24/2008

Place of interest:

http://slurl.com/secondlife/Rothbard/92/61/31

This place was something like a shopping mall. I found it on accident while wandering around the Ron Paul Campaign Center (trying to diversify my research subjects). While in the stores here I noticed that all of the objects had signs in bold print that either stated they were able to be copied, or were strictly non-copy. Since no one was to be found in the Ron Paul center, I attempted to interview a few people from the shopping mall. However, I would not recommend this technique to anyone in my group, as most people seemed to think that I was some version of the "SL Police" despite my disclaimer. It probably didn't help that the "SL Air Cavalry" was right across the street... Pictures to come soon.

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The presence of the "SL Air Cavalry" sign located near the place where I was attempting to conduct research seemed to have an affect on the willingness of people to participate in my study. While I was never able to get everyone that I encountered to participate in the study, it seemed that a random person standing near this sign elicited comments about "why I wanted to know" about issues regarding copyright and social norms. I found it interesting that in a place where people go to escape real life and express an often alternate side of their personality, they still fear some type of judgment or persecution for things outside of who they are in the day-to-day.

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3/27/2008

An avatar named Misaki Ashbourne (pictured below) was the first person that I encountered willing to participate in the Disaster Capitalist's survey. I stumbled upon her flying around the Ron Paul Campaign Center on a trip back to the Rothbard region. Hesitant at first, Misaki took some coaxing to get to sit still long enough to answer the questions. After the general small talk about the class subject and project, she gave the following answers:
1. What is your RL age? 18
2. What is your RL gender? Female
3. How long have you been using SL? 13 months
4. Are you from the United States? Yes (Charlotte, NC)
5. Are you a student? Yes
6. Do you use P2P software (such as Limewire, etc)? No
7. Have you ever copied a non-copy object in Second Life? No
8. If you had the technology, would you copy a non-copy object in Second Life? No
9. If you knew someone was copying objects in Second Life that were designated non-copy, would you report that activity? Only if it posed a (personal) threat.

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After searching for more possible places to both find volunteers for the survey while simultaneously exploring the grid, I found two female avatars at a beach club who were more than willing to talk and happy to help out. Being that both of them were close enough to read the chat, I used private IM's when asking the questions so as not to influence the answers of the other. Their responses are posted below.

Simplegirl Dawes
1.What is your RL age? 37
2. What is your RL gender? Female
3. How long have you been using Second Life? 1 week
4. Are you from the United States? Yes
5. Are you a student? No
6. Do you use P2P software (such as Limewire, etc)? Yes
7. Have you ever copied a non-copy object in Second Life? No
8. If you had the technology, would you copy a non-copy object in Second Life? Yes
9. If you knew someone was copying objects in Second Life that were designated non-copy, would you report that activity? No

Azura Rant
1.What is your RL age? 23
2. What is your RL gender? Female
3. How long have you been using Second Life? 2 months
4. Are you from the United States? No (Australia)
5. Are you a student? Yes
6. Do you use P2P software (such as Limewire, etc)? No
7. Have you ever copied a non-copy object in Second Life? No
8. If you had the technology, would you copy a non-copy object in Second Life? No
9. If you knew someone was copying objects in Second Life that were designated non-copy, would you report that activity? No

3/28/08

The place seen in the image below was a place that I stumbled on by accident while randomly clicking around the map for places that I had yet visited. The setting was dull, and as can be seen in the images below, was populated by avatars that were all similarly fashioned. While I had encountered people that were less than willing the talk to me for the purpose of the research, I had yet to be met with the hostilities that I encountered with this group. Being new to the SL experience, I was unaware that I had walked into a clash of SL gangs. After expressing my apologies and explaining the nature of my random visit, the "gang" members became willing to speak to me.

The presence of the avatar sitting on top of the copy machine turned out to be the leader of the rival gang to those other avatars in the picture. Having divulged his identity to his enemies and in a rush to leave the scene, I teleported back to his "turf" to discuss the issue of SL gangs further.

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Although not entirely obvious, the rat-like avatar sitting across from me in the photo below is the gang leader that was formerly sporting the copy machine in the above photo. His name was Meif Ling, and he was more than happy to explain the nature of the gang wars.

Meif stated that he was the leader of the "Alliance Navy" and that their gang was currently at war with the gang named "Mercz". He stated that both gangs were two of the oldest and largest gangs in SL and that they had been at war for quite a while. In describing the Mercz, he affectionately stated that they were "copybotting idiots that do nothing but stand around and shoot stuff, and that they have a gay furry for a leader." Meif explained to me that the main issue that the two gangs were at war over was, in fact, the a violation of the SL version of COPYRIGHT!!!! Being ignorant to SL terminology, Meif explained to me that copybotting is the act of using a hacked version of a non-copy object to gain full-permission without the creator's consent! After having searched the grid for evidence of illegal copying of non-copy material, Meif had finally given me evidence that the capabilities exist to crack the encoded software.

Meif explained that he had very strong feelings about the issue of copyright law and that he felt that the same laws should apply in SL as they do in real life. Meif viewed he and his gang as a type of militia that had charged themselves of ridding the Grid of those who copy the work of others without permission, and after completing our group's survey, noted that he had reported many instances of copybotting to the appropriate authorites.

It seems that Lessig's stance on the presence of the Permission Culture has found its way into SL and has those who support the notion. Additionally, it seems interesting that the issues concerning the DMCA and control of non-copy objects in SL have found a common ground in that the stance of those such as Meif having similar views shared with a piece of real life legislation that regulates real life material. While it seems that inforced regulation of such acts as copybotting has yet to be widely implemented in SL, in the sense that it is Meif states that it is impossible to trace unless you catch someone in the act, the movement against copybotting has at least found a base in social norms of a few SL participants.

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4/1/2008

While still in the process of conducting interviews for the research project, I have become frustrated with the comments from other avatars about my bland appearance in SL (I can't believe that I'm becoming vain about my avatar's appearance). According to many people that I have interviewed in the past couple of days, my brown jacket and blue jeans give away the fact that I'm new to the SL community. While the thought seemed trivial at first and my natural reaction was to tell a few of the people to go back to playing SL Porn Shop, it later was the basis of two ideas:

1.) The brown jacket and blue jeans are completely normal attire in the real world (as I dress that way on almost a daily basis), but the obvious social norms in SL are to reject the conformity of real life. Vastly different from the society that exists when SL participants step away from the computer screen, real life social norms don't seem to support the flashy, scantily clad, and quite frankly, generally freakish attire that SL seems to promote. I've decided that individuality is conformity in SL, and its just as much of a cop out.
2.) It might be easier for me to interact in SL if I did conform to the social norm of individuality (out of frustration for not understanding many of the people in SL, I'll admit that I do like highlighting the seemingly backward nature of it all). I will admit that I have noticed that I look out of place in SL, and hence, I present to you the new and improved avatar of American Blackburn that has reluctantly fallen victim to the fashion trends of SL:


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The plaid was a nice touch, don't you think?