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Wednesday, 04 December 2002

What Tom Said

Tom talks about what it means to manufacture scarcity in response to assertions that Scott Reynen made:

  • Difficulty should never be created. All work should increase ease (in a general sense, work should be self-destructive); and
  • When Tom says the lack of scarcity of avatars is a consistent problem for community spaces, he is wrong. The inability to associate avatars with real people is the problem

To the first, Tom's got a great example. There are times when we don't want to make things as easy as possible. Drawing examples from Norman's The Design of Everyday Things, we don't want to make it easy for people to run into the basement in a blind panic when the fire alarm goes off. We don't want dangerous functions of dangerous equipment to be easy to perform. There is a whole area of psychology of design which is focussed not on making certain things easy, but on making certain things hard.

To the second: with all due respect, Scott is wrong. Multiplicity of anonymity is one of the main problems, and that is distinct from not being able to tie an identity to a physical person. One good example is the history of The WELL (the concept of owning your own words). The problem here is that when there is anonymity, there is no responsibility. However, you don't have to have an avatar as a real life person for responsibility to exist: I can have an avatar that for all intents and purposes is untraceable back to me and yet that avatar can easily have a reputation held in high esteem and act in a socially responsible manner (i.e. doesn't find trolling an enjoyable pasttime), yet the allowing real life people to have a multiplicty of anonymous avatars is a problem: it results in the situation where I have an interest in ensuring my avatar has a good reputation and yet those who don't have such an interest are not dissuaded from creating yet more anonymous avatars and trolling.

When you've watched a community slowly go up in flames thanks to one person's anonymous avatar and its multiplicities (you will only practically be able to ban n-1) you realise that one of the problems isn't anonymity, it's plurality.

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