The Science of Virtual Culture Wars
Much of today’s geopolitical conflict is taking place online, carried out in significant measure by volunteers, even as governments seek to emphasize information technology cooperation. Computational social scientists have discovered multiple online environments in which to collect relevant statistical data, including Wikipedia pageviews, archives of government research grant abstracts, and behavior in massively multiplayer online war games. Three very different examples of the dynamics of collaboration and conflict provide alternative perspectives: (1) the Pirate Parties that seem to have been an overly ambitious attempt to transform democracy in the Information Age, (2) citizen science that had some success attracting volunteers to donate labor to academic research projects, but generally avoided controversial research projects in areas such as human conflict, and (3) a genre of online role-playing games that emphasized spontaneous organization of volunteer armies to develop skills and resources for victory. Without claiming to offer strict rules for success, this article considers the organizational structures and practical methodologies that might be adapted for achievement of goals by ethical social movements.
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