Computer underground Digest Sun Apr 11 1993 Volume 5 : Issue 26 ISSN 1004-042X Editors: Ji

Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

Computer underground Digest Sun Apr 11 1993 Volume 5 : Issue 26 ISSN 1004-042X Editors: Jim Thomas and Gordon Meyer (TK0JUT2@NIU.BITNET) Archivist: Brendan Kehoe Shadow-Archivists: Dan Carosone / Paul Southworth Ralph Sims / Jyrki Kuoppala Ian Dickinson Copp Editor: Etaoin Shrdlu, Senior CONTENTS, #5.26 (Apr 11 1993) File 1--Re: Debating the Virus contest - clarification File 2--"The Logic of the Virtual Commons" (Research Report) File 3--CUN News: Online Defamation Alleged / Pentagon Piracy Cu-Digest is a weekly electronic journal/newsletter. Subscriptions are available at no cost electronically from The editors may be contacted by voice (815-753-6430), fax (815-753-6302) or U.S. mail at: Jim Thomas, Department of Sociology, NIU, DeKalb, IL 60115. Issues of CuD can also be found in the Usenet news group; on CompuServe in DL0 and DL4 of the IBMBBS SIG, DL1 of LAWSIG, and DL0 and DL12 of TELECOM; on GEnie in the PF*NPC RT libraries and in the VIRUS/SECURITY library; from America Online in the PC Telecom forum under "computing newsletters;" On Delphi in the General Discussion database of the Internet SIG; on the PC-EXEC BBS at (414) 789-4210; and on: Rune Stone BBS (IIRG WHQ) 203-832-8441 NUP:Conspiracy in Europe from the ComNet in Luxembourg BBS (++352) 466893; ANONYMOUS FTP SITES: UNITED STATES: ( in /pub/cud ( in /pub/CuD/cud in /pub/mirror/cud AUSTRALIA: ( in /pub/text/CuD. EUROPE: in pub/doc/cud. (Finland) in pub/cud (United Kingdom) Back issues also may be obtained through mailservers at: or COMPUTER UNDERGROUND DIGEST is an open forum dedicated to sharing information among computerists and to the presentation and debate of diverse views. CuD material may be reprinted for non-profit as long as the source is cited. Some authors do copyright their material, and they should be contacted for reprint permission. It is assumed that non-personal mail to the moderators may be reprinted unless otherwise specified. Readers are encouraged to submit reasoned articles relating to computer culture and communication. Articles are preferred to short responses. Please avoid quoting previous posts unless absolutely necessary. DISCLAIMER: The views represented herein do not necessarily represent the views of the moderators. Digest contributors assume all responsibility for ensuring that articles submitted do not violate copyright protections. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Date: Sun, 04 Apr 1993 16:35:11 -0500 From: Charlie.Mingo@P4218.F70.N109.Z1.FIDONET.ORG(Charlie Mingo) Subject: File 1--Re: Debating the Virus contest - clarification >> Surely, Mr. Ludwig would not hold me responsible for the destruction >> of his home caused by someone who decided to implement the plans I >> presented purely for "scientific research purposes". > To date, no case has been carried against a publisher for > this kind of material. {Soldier of Fortune} magazine was struck > in a case for libel regarding publishing an ad for Murder for > Hire services. I am not sure of the status of the case. It wasn't libel (after all, no one was defamed), but negligence. The plaintiff argued that the magazine had a duty not to carry solicitations for criminal acts. The jury agreed, and found SoF liable for a verdict of several million dollars. The award was upheld on appeal to the US Court of Appeals. The case was ultimately settled for undisclosed terms. SoF's defense was that it couldn't be expected to screen every ad to detect an illegal purpose behind them. However, this particular classified ad was so blatant, that it was obvious that a gun was being offered for hire. ------------------------------ Date: 09 Apr 93 19:33:41 PST From: Subject: File 2--"The Logic of the Virtual Commons" (Research Report) ((MODERATORS' COMMENT: Marc Smith, a sociology graduate student at UCLA, recently completed his M.A. thesis, which examined The Well as an example of a "virtual community." In our view, he nicely pulled together data and theory to argue that electronic communities, like their more corporeal counterparts, are formed from a complex process of social interaction that gives character, shape, and structure to a given cyber-community. We have extracted a few of the core ideas below. The entire thesis is about 155 K and is available on the CuD ftp sites. Marc also has established a news group for the discussion of of "virtual community," and he can be contacted for more information at: smithm@NICCO.SSCNET.UCLA.EDU)) +++++++ Voices from the WELL: The Logic of the Virtual Commons Marc A. Smith Department of Sociology U.C.L.A. ********************** Introduction: Social Dilemmas in Virtual Spaces A virtual community is a set of on-going many-sided interactions that occur predominantly in and through computers linked via telecommunications networks. They are a fairly recent phenomena and one that is rapidly developing as more people come to have access to computers and data networks. The virtual spaces constructed by these technologies are not only new, they have some fundamental differences from more familiar terrain of interaction. Virtual spaces change the kinds of communication that can be exchanged between individuals and alter the economies of communication and organization. As a result many familiar and common social process must be adapted to the virtual environment and some do not transfer well at all. One aspect of interaction remains constant however; virtual communities, like all groups to some extent, must face the social dilemma that individually rational behavior can often lead to collectively irrational outcomes. The purpose of this paper is to begin to examine how community and cooperation emerges and is maintained in groups that interact predominantly within virtual spaces. As yet, virtual communities are somewhat esoteric and have attracted only limited attention from the social science community. Many questions about virtual communities remain unanswered, and many more unasked. No detailed work has yet addressed the questions, for example, of how virtual communities form and mature, how relations within these communities differ from relations in "real-space", or how the dynamics of group organization and operation in virtual communities differs from and is similar to communities based upon physical copresence. But like their real-space counterparts, virtual communities face the challenge of maintaining their member's commitment, monitoring and sanctioning their behavior, ensuring the continued production of essential resources and organizing their distribution. The dynamic and evolving character of these groups provides a unique opportunity to study the emergence of endogenous order in a group. Simultaneously, the novel aspects of interaction in virtual spaces offers an illuminating contrast to interactions that occur through other media, including face-to-face interaction. Many communities have the potential to organize their members so as to produce a collective good, something that no individual member of the community could provide for themselves if they had acted alone. Some goods are tangible, like common pastures or irrigation systems, others are intangible goods like goodwill, trust, and identity. However, this potential is not always realized. As Mancur Olson noted, "if the members of some group have a common interest or objective, and if they would all be better off if that objective were achieved, it [does not necessarily follow] that the individuals in that group ... act to achieve that objective." (p. 1, 1965) There are many obstacles that stand in the way of the production of collective goods and even success can be fragile, especially when it is possible to draw from a good without contributing to its production. Nonetheless, despite arguments to the contrary (Hardin, 1968), many groups do succeed in producing goods in common. And, as Elinor Ostrom's work illustrates, some communities have succeeded in doing so for centuries (1991). The question this raises is: what contributes to the successful provision of collective goods? How is cooperation achieved and maintained in the face of a temptation to defect? Virtual communities produce a variety of collective goods. They allow people of like interests to come together with little cost, help them exchange ideas and coordinate their activities, and provide the kind of identification and feeling of membership found in face-to-face interaction. In the process they face familiar problems of defection, free-riding and other forms of disruptive behavior although in new and sometimes very unexpected ways. The novelty of the medium means that the rules and practices that lead to a successful virtual community are not yet well known or set fast in a codified formal system. Cyberspace and Virtual Worlds Virtual interaction is often said to occur in a unique kind of space, a cyberspace, constructed in and through computers and networks. This term was coined by William Gibson in his visionary novel Neuromancer. Gibson described a new technologically constructed social space in which much of the commerce, communication and interaction among human beings and their constructed agents would take place. In the novel Gibson gives his own description of cyberspace, "Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation... a graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding" Gibson's cyberspace remains in part in the realm of science fiction. But much of what he described has already taken on very real form. The global interconnection of computers via phone and data networks has created the foundation for a seamless system of communication between machines designed specifically for the storage and manipulation of signs. Cyberspace, then, can be understood as a vast territory , a space of representations. While human beings have inhabited representational spaces for a very long time, we have never been able to create representations with the ease and flexibility possible in cyberspace. This is important because with each new development in the technologies of representation, from the printing press to satellite communication, there has been a reworking of the kinds of representations and social relationships that are possible to maintain. Gibson envisioned cyberspace as two related technologies, the first provided the individual connecting to cyberspace with a complete sensorium, enclosing the user in a totally computer generated reality. Connected directly to a computer, wires connected directly to the nervous system, an artificial set of sense data would be constructed and delivered to a credulous mind. The fact that no such technology yet exists does not invalidate Gibson's vision, mistaking far less sophisticated representations for reality is already common and does not require such complex technology. Nonetheless, research and development of this kind of technology is advancing rapidly, compelling visual cyberspaces (often termed "photo realistic") are available now and will become widespread after the further refinement and decline in the cost of processing power. Direct contact between a machine and a human mind may be a bit further off, but is a subject of research that has promising and disturbing implications. In contrast, the second element of Gibson's cyberspace is very much a reality. This is the matrix, the densely intertwined networks of networks, lines of communication linking millions of computers around the world. While sensual cyberspaces may have profound effects on our perception and understanding of reality, even when limited to the comparatively pedestrian medium of text, the matrix is already having visible effects. Computer networking was pioneered by the United State's Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) which funded the development of the first wide area network (WAN), the ARPANET, in 1969. The ARPANET has since grown exponentially and inspired many additional networks. It has since been integrated into the INTERNET (1983), a globe spanning "network of networks" supporting over fifteen million users. The ArpaNet/INTERNET was joined by the USENET (1979), the BITNET (1981) and the FIDONET (1983). These large scale networks are supplemented by the proliferation of independent Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs) run from individual microcomputers and medium to large-scale information services like Compuserve, GEnie, and the WELL. While not all of these networks are unified or managed by a single regulating body, many are interconnected: users on one network can often utilize many of the resources available on the others through gateways. This list does not exhaust the number of networks in existence, John Quarterman's 1990 book on the subject, The Matrix, lists over 900 networks. That number may already be surpassed. Within these vast networks interconnections of another kind have formed: social networks of people who have come together virtually, that is via computers and networks, to interact with others for a myriad number of purposes. A number of methods exist to facilitate communication between individuals and groups via these networks. The simplest is electronic mail (email). Email allows for one-to-one or one-to-many communication between any individuals who have a valid email address on the same network or on a network that can be gatewayed to. Effectively, this means that some 15 million people are accessible to one another instantaneously and without regard for distance. Using tools to enhance email, some groups have created "lists" than ease the process of collecting email addresses. Some lists provide a single address for mail that is to be forwarded to every member of the list. The largest of these lists have as many as 15,000 subscribers located all around the planet. At last check, there were more than 2,400 lists carried on the INTERNET alone on subjects ranging from dentistry to religion to quantum physics. New lists are created on a daily basis while some old lists fall inactive. Conferencing systems, information services and BBSs fill out the range of virtual communications. These systems share a great deal in common, differing mostly in terms of size, commercial status, and focus. These systems tend to be centralized, that is supported by computers at a single location although accessed by computers all over the world. Conferencing systems focus on providing the tools for the facilitation of discussions. BBSs and information services do this as well, but additional emphasis may be placed on services like software libraries, weather and stock reports, and airline reservations. Often information services are operated on a for-profit basis. Whichever system people use, they frequently develop relations with other users that have some stability and longevity. This should not be surprising considering the ease with which network systems allow individuals to find others with like interests. Networks are in many ways dynamic electronic "Schelling" points (Schelling, 1960). In The Strategy of Conflict, Schelling developed the idea of natural and constructed points that focus interactions, places that facilitate connections with people interested in a participating in a common line of action. The clock at Grand Central Station is an example, as are singles bars and market places. Each is a space designated as a point of congregation for people of like interests. Networks enhance the flexibility of Schelling points by radically altering the economies of their production and use. Members of these virtual social networks frequently identify their groups (and groups of groups) as "virtual communities". The use of the term "virtual" may be confusing for those who do not know its use within the computer literate community where "virtual" is used to mean "in effect", a surrogate. For example, virtual memory is not memory in the conventional sense, it is not composed of memory chips, but is instead the use of a hard drive to simulate chip-based memory. In the context of community, then, the term is used to emphasize not the ersatz nature of the community but rather that a seemingly non-existent medium is used to facilitate and maintain one. Virtual communities are communities "in effect". The use of the term "community" to describe these social formations may be contested, but it is the argument of this paper that virtual communities are indeed communities. Virtual communities developed soon after the first computer networks were created in the late 1960s. But it was not until the wide proliferation of microcomputers in the late 1970s that there were enough computer owners to create collective organizations outside of the defense and military establishment. Often fairly small, many groups used Bulletin Board Systems run as non-profit collective goods to facilitate their interactions and exchanges. In addition to local non commercial or semi-commercial BBSs, large systems, used by tens of thousands of individuals, most notably Compuserve, GEnie, Prodigy, America On-line, and the WELL have been created and run for profit. Despite the fact that both kinds of systems provide mostly the exchange of unadorned text, users of these systems have come to feel that they participate in a community that fulfills many of the roles more commonly found in traditional face-to-face communities. Interaction in virtual spaces share many of the characteristics of "real" interaction, people discuss, argue, fight, reconcile, amuse, and offend just as much and perhaps more in a virtual community. But virtual communities are also starkly different. In a virtual interaction nothing but words are normally exchanged. Interaction involves the creation of personality, nuance, identity and "self" with only the tools of texts . But the differences may not be as sharp as they first seem, as Erving Goffman showed, real life too is an act of authorship, of constant image management and careful presentation. Face-to-face interaction is a rich canvass with which to paint, but it is one loaded with the indelible "stigma" of social identities. In a virtual world participants are washed clean of the stigmata of their real "selves" and are free to invent new ones to their tastes. Escape is not total, however, participants are revealed in virtual communities, they "give off" as well as give signals as happens in face-to-face interaction, but with a far more reliable mask. This is just one way in which virtual interaction and virtual communities differ from "real" ones. These differences do not necessarily exclude virtual communities from the category of legitimate communities. While interaction with a virtual community is peculiar in many ways, this does not mean that very familiar kinds of social interaction do not take place within them. Rather, it is the ways that common and familiar forms of interaction are transplanted into and transformed by virtual spaces that is of particular interest. ********************** The Character of Virtual Space A virtual space has some generic qualities that distinguish it from the space of face-to-face interactions. In many ways virtual communities are modern incarnations of the committees of correspondence of the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Like those groups formed around the political and scientific interests of the day, virtual communities are composed of groups brought together by a common interest and separated by potentially great distance. However, unlike the committees, virtual communities are not limited by the speed of man on horseback or even the steam engine, but are granted near instantaneous communication by the speed of computers and data networks. The increased speed and the unique qualities and powers of computer network based communication makes the dynamics of virtual communities distinct from committees of correspondence. The differences in the medium of communication have effects on the kinds of interactions that can take place and how the interactions that do occur can progress and unfold. For example, slow media that introduce long delays into turn-taking reduces the interactively of an social exchange and can lead to more cautious (and thus, perhaps, more detailed and exact) messages. Media can vary in terms of the ambiguity they introduce to the messages passed through them. Some media provide a certain audience, that is the target of a message can be selected without fear of additional surveillance. If you do not know who might be in the room it makes sense to watch what you say. Further, some media prevent the identity of message creators to be known with certainty if at all. With so much variation in different kinds of media it is not hard to imagine that their character alters the kinds of messages that are sent through it, and, by extension, the kinds of social action and interaction that will develop around it. This is not technological determinism, but rather a solid materialism: technologies change the fabric of the material world which in turn changes the social world. The terrain of interaction in virtual communities is different in some powerful and subtle ways, some forms of interaction translate well into a virtual space, others do not. In all cases, people are actively drawing upon their understanding of interaction and improvising in the gaps, some of which are cavernous. There are six aspects of virtual interaction that have a significant impact on the kinds of interaction that can take place within them. First, virtual interaction is aspatial, increasing distance does not effect the kind of interactions possible. As a result the economies of copresence are superseded and assembly becomes possible for groups spread widely across the planet. This may have profound implications on the organization of space; just as the telegraph enabled the construction of the modern multi-national corporation by solving the problem of control from a distance, virtual spaces may undermine the economies that lead to the development of cities. Indeed, there is a growing movement for the relocation of many business activities to rural areas. This is made possible by the ease and economy of electronic communication that makes any space as good as any other. As a result criteria other than proximity can determine the selection of sites for various activities. Second, virtual interaction via systems like the WELL is asynchronous. While not all virtual interaction is this way (notable exceptions include the IRC system and the growing proliferation of MUDs ), conferencing systems and email do allow interaction partners to participate in a staggered fashion. One person leaves a message and at some other time another reads and responds to it. This has a major impact on the coordination necessary for the assembly of a group. Face-to-face interaction requires a high level of coordination since all participants must be copresent in both time and space. Conferencing systems, by contrast, allow people separated by time zones, work schedules, and other activities to interact with minimal coordination. Despite the lack of immediate interaction, the interactions created in many conferencing systems do exhibit a high level of responsiveness and dynamism usually associated with real-time interaction. The current text-only nature of most virtual interaction leads to another unique aspect: without copresence, participants are acorporal to one another. This may have profound implications since many of the process of group formation and control involve either the application or potential for application of force to the body. In a virtual space, there are no bodies. As noted before, while the communications "bandwidth" of most communities is quite rich and capable of nuance and fine texture through the use of communications devices like voice, gesture, posture, dress, and a host of other symbol equipment, most virtual communities allow their participants to signal each other only through the use of text. The absence of the body in virtual interactions might lead some to dismiss the possibility of virtual community. Indeed, interaction in a virtual space has been described as "having your everything amputated" Rather than preclude the formation of community, however, the effective absence of the body in virtual interaction simultaneously highlights the role of the body in real-space while liberating the individual from many of the restrictions inherent in bodies. And while telephone conversations are also acorporal, virtual communities also have the capacity to facilitate the interaction of large groups of people, far beyond telephone conferencing could reasonably support. Further, as noted above, because participants are not limited to real-time interaction, the task of coordinating interaction participants is greatly eased. In addition, the qualities of being aspatial and potentially asynchronous expands the pool of potential participants of virtual communities beyond that of most space-bound ones. It is not uncommon to settle into a long and satisfying discussion with someone who lives on a different continent while in a virtual community. But without the power of presence to enforce sanctions and evoke communion, written and virtual communities face unique challenges, a point I will take up again in this paper. Closely related to the acorporeality of virtual interaction is its limited "bandwidth" . Most users of the WELL and other virtual communities use computers equipped with telephone-line interfaces (modems) that allow for the exchange of information at speeds of 2400 baud (bits-per-second) to 14,400 baud. These speeds effectively limit the quantity of data that can effectively be transmitted. As a result interaction in virtual communities remains firmly entrenched in a text-only environment. This has some interesting effects. The first is that virtual interaction is relatively astigmatic. As Goffman used the term, stigma are markings or behaviors that locate an individual in a particular social status. While many stigma can have negative connotations, stigma also mark positively valued social status. Without the ability to present ones self to others in virtual interaction, many of the stigma associated with people are filtered out. Race, gender, age, body shape, and appearance, the most common information we "give-off" to others in interaction, are absent in a virtual space. The result can be both positive and negative: the information we give-off helps to coordinate social interaction, identifies likely interaction partners, and may serve to minimize conflict by identifying likely antagonisms. Without such signals additional work must be done to enable interaction and to signal status and location to other potential interactants. At the same time, this limitation makes discrimination more difficult. The result may be that participants judge each other more on the "content of their character" than any other status marking. Finally, the preceding five characteristics combine to make virtual interaction fairly anonymous. This leads directly to issues of identity in a virtual space. In many virtual spaces anonymity is complete. Participants may change their names at will and no record is kept connecting names with real-world identities. Such anonymity has been sought out by some participants in virtual interactions because of its potential to liberate one from existing or enforced identities. However, many systems, including the WELL, have found that complete anonymity leads to a lack of accountability. As a result, while all members of the WELL may alter a pseudonym that accompanies each contribution the make, their userid remains constant and a unambiguous link to their identity. However, even this fairly rigorous identification system has limitations. There is no guarantee that a person acting under a particular userid is in fact that person or is the kind of person they present themselves as. The ambiguity of identity has led some people to gender-switching, or to giving vent to aspects of their personality they would otherwise keep under wraps. Virtual sociopathy seems to strike a small but stable percentage of participants in virtual interaction. Nonetheless, identity does remain in a virtual space. Since the userid remains a constant in all interactions, people often come to invest certain expectations and evaluations in the user of that id. It is possible to develop status in a virtual community that works to prevent the participant from acting in disruptive ways lest their status be revoked. ********************** Towards a definition of community Cooperation, communication, duration, stability, interconnectivity, structure, boundaries, intersubjectivity, and generalized accounting systems, however inexact, are all certainly characteristics of community and at worst are useful guides to their identification and evaluation. Nonetheless, even the unanimous presence of each of these characteristics does not ensure the success of a community. I noted earlier that a community could be considered a failure when it is incapable of fostering any level of cooperation among its members. Such a community is perhaps one in name only. A successful community, by contrast, is capable of directing individual action towards the construction and maintenance of goods that could not be created by individuals acting in isolation. There are many familiar collective goods; common pastures, air and watersheds, and fishing groups are common examples. But, despite the existence of many notable exceptions, collective goods are difficult to maintain and are often short lived. The continued production and availability of any collective good depends upon the existence of a sufficient level of commitment of the community's members and the application of appropriate systems of monitoring and sanctioning. But every collective good is plagued by some form of a collective action dilemma, a situation in which actions that are rational for individual members of the collective are irrational, that is either less beneficial or even tragic, when repeated across a collectivity. At each moment of their participation in the production of a collective good individuals face the, sometimes latent, choice to commit to some aspect of collective action or to defect from participating. This choice is framed by the fact that the reward for defection is often greater than that for cooperation. The result is a pervasive temptation to escape the demands of collectives while remaining within them in order to reap their rewards. As a result, communities can be fragile things. Collectives must exercise two forms of power to maintain their common goods, first, they must restrain and punish individual actions that exploit or undermine collective goods through monitoring and sanctioning, and second, maintain the commitment of members to continued participation and contribution through rituals and other practices that increase the individual's identification with the group and acceptance of its demands. Since neither form of power is easily achieved or maintained a number of theories have developed to identify and explain the reasons some communities are successful and others fail. The Elements of Successful Community While there is fairly wide-spread agreement that these two forms of power are the definitive elements of successful communities, there is far less agreement as to how to create and most effectively wield these forms of power. Mancur Olson, for example, stresses the importance of group size on its likelihood of success. He argues that size is inversely related to success, as a group grows the costs of communication and coordination rise threatening the existence of the collective. This is an idea that has attracted a great deal of criticism. Michael Taylor (1987) argues that "Olson's first claim in support of the "size" effect... is not necessarily true. It holds only where costs unavoidably increases with size or where there is imperfect jointness or rivalness or both. Most goods, however, exhibit some divisibility, and most public goods interactions exhibit some rivalness." (p. 11) As a result, Taylor believes that "The size effect that I think should be taken most seriously is the increased difficulty of conditional cooperation in larger groups." (p.13) Small groups do possess a special quality that enables them to maintain themselves with greater ease than larger groups. In particular, small groups are usually able to provide high levels of communication between each member of the group while maintaining high levels of surveillance of each members activities, especially his or her contributions and withdrawals to and from the group's resources. This "small group effect" is a powerful one, but it does not exclude or even explain the possibility of successful large groups. One significant aspect of virtual communication may be the way in which it alters the economies of communication and coordination, thus making it possible for larger groups to "succeed" with less effort and difficulty. ************************* The Character of Collective Goods Michael Taylor's work (1987) expands on Hechter's system by describing the kinds of collective organizations that are possible and their relations to the goods they seek to control. He examines the type of goods groups can produce, categorizing them on the basis of the type of boundaries that can be placed around them and the manner in which they are produced and consumed. For example goods can be excludable or not. An excludable good offers the collective the power of denying access to anyone who does not contribute to its production. Goods can be rival or not: some goods are diminished by their consumption: two people can not eat the same bite of food. Further, some forms of consumption reduce the value of the remaining resource (for example adding pollution to a stream.) But not all goods are rival and some are even strongly anti-rival: information can in some cases be like this. [Ex: the more widely accurate knowledge of AIDS is distributed the more developed the common good. Further, a newspaper, once read, is not necessarily diminished in value.] Similarly, some goods are divisible: it is possible to quantize the good, electrical power is an example, while others are not, public safety while expressible in terms of a crime rate is not easily decomposed into units of safety. Some goods are exhaustible and others renewable. Fossil fuels are a primary example of the former. But many goods have rates of sustainable use, fisheries, pasture land, and pools of credit can regenerate themselves. Nonetheless, even a renewable resource can be exhausted by overuse. Some goods require active production while others require regulated access. Resources are not only collectively drawn from but also collectively contributed to. A common pool resource can be more than physical resources like fish or pasture-land. CPRs can also be social organizations themselves. Markets, judicial systems, and communities are all common resources. These kinds of resources have the added element that they must be actively reconstructed, where fish will remain in the sea whether they are fished or not, a judicial system will not persist without the continued contribution of all of its participants. Further, institutions are just one form of a social common pool resources. The far less formal settings that enable particular kinds of interaction are also common goods. ************************* Obstacles to the provision of collective goods For all the positive goods virtual communities like the WELL are able to produce there are equally challenging obstacles to their continued production. The obstacles to the continued existence and development of the WELL involve maintaining membership, expanding that membership, socializing new members, maintaining the infrastructure of the community (the computer's hardware and communications systems), and dealing with the potentially disruptive actions of its members. If members find the cost of participation, for whatever reason, is too great, and subsequently withdraw, the community and the goods it produces will collapse. Alternatively, if members find that they are able to enjoy the benefits of the collective good without contributing to its production, then, too, the community may collapse for want of active participants. Virtual communities are no exception to this dilemma. The continued existence of the web of social networks, upon which the other collective goods are built, depends upon a number of factors. First, members must come to the WELL. The WELL is a quintessential intentional community. Unlike communities that form as an accident of place or circumstance, individuals must take a series of complex and very intentional steps to go to the WELL. It is unlikely that anyone would arrive there even accidentally. Therefore, individuals must find something of value in the WELL. Given the wide availability of other virtual communities, this challenge is even greater: no borders constrain nor does any personal influence or sanction compel individuals to participate in the WELL. Indeed, at $2/hour, a fairly effective fence blocks casual access. And while technical advantages may draw some users to some systems, for example America On-line, a competing information system, offers an elegant, appealing and intuitive graphical interface to its community and its information services, the WELL, by comparison, offers no windows, mouse support, icons, or graphics, only pure ASCII . The continued success of the WELL can be explained only by the one thing that it has exclusively: its members. Individuals may not come to the WELL because of the people who are already there (although personal referral is a common route for newusers and the reputation of the WELL is widely known in the on-line community) but they often stay (and leave) because of them. Many of the subjects discussed on the WELL (although not all) can be found elsewhere, but the discussions often merely act as a structure around which lasting relationships are built. ********************** The most interesting questions about virtual spaces are not directly related to technology. Despite the intimate relationship between the tools and the actions built from or with those tools, it is the social understanding of a tool that determines its use. The distinction between tools and their use is sometimes not apparent, when tools become complex, and their name shifts to technology, the role of social interaction is often overlooked. The result is technological determinism, an unwarranted focus on the tool in place of its user. Therefore, it is important to locate a discussion and study of the ways in which new tools create new terrain for social interaction in the realm of social knowledge and interaction. Despite the unique qualities of the social spaces to be found in virtual worlds, people do not enter new terrains empty-handed. We carry with us the sum-total of our experience and expectations generated in more familiar social spaces. No matter how revolutionary the technology, our use of virtual spaces is evolutionary. The point of greatest interest, then, is that at which an old expectation collides with a new material force and new social structures are born through improvisation and negotiation. The medium is not the message, but it does shape and channel the kinds of messages it carries. But when a medium is very flexible and capable of some complexity, the ways in which a medium effects its contents can become less fixed. New technologies are sites of rapid creation, the event horizon of the social. Furthermore, the act of creation is rarely an individual one, without a collective effort the task of creation is often an overwhelming task. ((The full text can be obtained from the CuD ftp sites or from Marc Smith at: ------------------------------ Date: 09 Apr 93 23:20:38 EDT From: Gordon Meyer <72307.1502@COMPUSERVE.COM> Subject: File 3--CUN News: Online Defamation Alleged / Pentagon Piracy Medphone, a health technology firm, has filed a lawsuit for defamation against an investor for allegedly making false statements about the company on Prodigy. Medphone says the comments, made in the "Money Talk" area of the online service, caused its stock price to fall. Prodigy is not named as a defendant, but reportedly fears that it might be if this action sparks similar suits in the future. (Information Week. March 29, 1993 pg 10) Piracy at the Pentagon ====================== Information Week cites a story in Government Computer News (3/15/93 p1) reporting the results of a Department of Defense software audit. The DoD found that over half of the approximately 1000 computers audited were using an average of over two pirated software packages. (Information Week. March 29, 1993. pg. 56) Idle Minds ========== International computer crime units are trying to nab hackers in the former Soviet bloc who are menacing computer systems worldwide. Some of the more insidious viruses are reportedly now coming from Russia. One of the newest is called LoveChild - a wicked virus designed to wipe out all memory when an infected computer is booted for the 5,000th time. Explained one weary constable from Scotland Yard: "You've got a lot of frustrated programmers in the East who have turned their attention to creating viruses." (Reprinted with permission from Communications of the ACM. 4/93 pg 14) Virus Survey Results ==================== In October, 1992 PC Sources magazine conducted an online/mail/fax poll of readers and their experiences with computer viruses. Some of the notable results were... "How often do you check your computer for viruses?" 55% - Every day 22% - Once a week 3% - Never "Has your computer ever been hit by a virus?" 62% - No (all respondents. Answer varied depending on the the response method chosen by the respondent.) Of the 20% of the users that don't, or won't, use virus protection software, PC Sources found that their reasons fell into four broad categories: xenophobia, penny-wise/pound-foolish, underinformed, and trusting. See the February 1993 issue (pg 329) for more information. Email As Evidence ================= Siemens AG will be using email messages in its $50 million dollar suit against Arco. Siemens says the messages, which are between Arco employees, show that Arco knew their solar energy division wasn't commercially viable. Siemens claims they were defrauded when they purchased the division from Arco. (Information Week. April 5, 1993. pg 8) ------------------------------ End of Computer Underground Digest #5.26 ************************************


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank