Call for Participation!
What does it mean to own virtual space? Who has the right to determine how a virtual space is used: Is it those who developed it, those who use it, or those who own the computers it runs on? And what does development even mean in this context: Is it raising the funds, doing the coding, working out the bugs, developing content, or developing social and cultural frameworks? Or is it all of these? These are the issues I'm exploring in a project tentatively titled 'The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Community: Territoriality, Intimacy, and Ownership in Online Spaces' that was started 10 years ago on h2g2.
When I first conceived this idea there was only one reason I thought about and cared about these issues – my experiences on h2g2. Who can remember the 'my home' versus 'my space' debates; the commercialisation issue, about adding Amazon.com links to threads; the communitarian versus guide researcher threads; the Zaphodista movement; the FOOP; the move to the BBC and somewhat stricter content guidelines? Moreover, who can forget them? And what of the recent move to Not Panicking? The return of on the ground italics with the Core Team, the attempt to make Field Researchers Limited viable? These and countless other moments have shaped our community and our perceptions of it. I want to push some of these important reflections out into the greater world, to let those who are working on policies and plans to create or govern internet spaces be privy to the particular insights the h2g2 community has garnered through the very experience of being there in the trenches. I'm doing this through an approved formal research project through my work at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada.
So I'm putting out another call for reflections, just like I did in 2005. This is a call for reflections, memories, and poignant moments in our collective history that you think contributed to the ongoing h2g2 dialogue on ownership and community. I welcome those of you who have been around since those early days, and those who joined more recently as well. Everyone’s opinions are important ones. This seems like a good time for reflection – to pause and consider – as this most recent chapter of h2g2’s collective history continues to shape this space, and with a new generation of virtual settlers perhaps paddling along in its wake...
Post your thoughts in the forum below!
Participation in the forum will be taken as consent to participate in the project, and for me to potentially use your h2g2 handle for quotes. But anyone who wishes can email me at [email protected] and will be emailed back a formal participation form (viewable here) with my detailed contact information, further consent options (don’t quote me; use my real name; use a vague reference, e.g., 'one guide researcher said that'), and further details about the project.