The Tyranny Of Those Who Show Up

At a recent Zero Linden office hours, someone asked of Saijanai Kuhn what body had elected him to be in charge. Never being one to hold back just because a question wasn’t addressed to me, I said that it was because Saijanai had stepped up and volunteered to do things like collect and post chat transcripts, write various Wiki pages, try to coordinate meeting schedules, and stuff like that.

And it occurred to me after I said it just how awful and elitist this sort of thing is! Why should someone be allowed to carry out sometimes difficult and often thankless tasks, just because they’re willing to? What about all those people who aren’t willing or just can’t be bothered; why should they be excluded from what might turn out to be a position of power, or at least one that someone might remember to say “thanks” for once in awhile?

The initial suggestion, that some body might elect people to be in charge, doesn’t solve the problem. Elections are decided, after all, by those people that vote. What about the non-voters? Elections and “democracy” are, at bottom, just ways of hanging onto power by those people that lots of voters like; hard to imagine anything more elitist!

This sort of problem is pervasive in Second Life. The Lindens hold “open” office hours, but are they really open? Of course not! The only people who can speak at these “open” events are the people that bother to show up! And that’s a vanishingly small fraction of the population. Even among those who do show up, only a fraction of those people actually express an opinion. And there is the great fallacy behind all this talk of “openness”: those in power are listening only to those who take the trouble to speak up. How can that be fair?

The AW Groupies group is another example: three people are the “admins” of this “open” group, which means they’re the ones that allow in anyone who asks, only banning (and only in theory, apparently they’ve never done this!) people like porn spammers. And why do they have the privilege of adding the dozens of people who IM them wanting to join, and of maybe someday having to ban a porn-spammer? Because they volunteered! They signed up! What about all those thousands upon thousands of SL residents who didn’t volunteer? Why shouldn’t they be doing this as well?

The problem is everwhere. There are “open” forums where “anyone” can post their opinions about the policies of various organizations and estates in Second Life, but are they really open? No! The only people who can speak in these “open” venues are those who take the trouble to do so. How can we call this “openness”? All of these so-called “open” mechanisms in fact just define an elite, of people who take the trouble to find out that they exist, and then to express their opinion. This elite (which I call the “Self-appointed Volunteer Posse”, or SVP) are the only ones whose opinions count, the only ones who get to provide input!

Even with those surveys that the viewer pops up on the screen at logon time; are they open to all? No! Only those who bother to respond, and who are therefore members of the SVP, will have their voices heard. This is the tyranny of those who show up!

So what is the solution? Dominance by the SVP is clearly elitist. Voting just creates another elite, consisting of the friends and sidekicks of those who bother to vote (SVP again, you see?). The only solution would seem to be a strict rotation: every week, say, a different set of Second Life Residents (and Linden employees) should be put in charge of a different aspect of the world. For that week, only the opinions of that set of people will be heard, and they will be heard whether or not the people in that set care to express them (details are still to be worked out). This is, it seems to me, the only way to get the SVP out of power. And I sure hope someone steps up to implement it soon!

Advertisements