IA Community as MMORPG?

Ok, it could be that my current obsessions are just warping my otherwise good sense (cough), but I couldn’t help but comment on Lou Rosenfeld’s recent post (Developing a Participation Economy) that the participation economy among IAI volunteers he envisions sounds an awful lot like game-thinking.

That is, motivating people to create innovative stuff and work on it to completion — the two places where that seems to happen naturally are in Open Source Development communities and Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games. (MMORPGs) Otherwise known as MMOs or MMOGs.

In the Open Source movement, the incentive seems to be building one’s reputation and authority in a distributed meritocracy of developers. Being a part of that community is very powerful, and so is knowing that you created a tool that thousands of others use every day and think you’re amazing for making and maintaining it… or even being just one of thousands of people contributing to something so big (FireFox, etc) that being part of a combined effort on something that affects millions of users is, again, a huge incentive.

Lou brings up the point that for the IAI, the above incentives don’t seem to be quite enough. I suspect they could be if IAs were making things like software, but it’s much harder with the sorts of things we make. Curricula, methodologies, etc.

Still, the bottom-up mechanisms for allowing collective intelligence to more freely make things would be helpful. IAI doesn’t currently have anything as sophisticated as Source Forge, for example.

But anyway, Lou mentions another way to do this (which is actually not incompatible with the open source approach), a “participation economy” where people actually get a sort of currency for doing things in the community — currency they can then cash in for things they may need later on.

This sounds very much like what happens in MMORPGs like EverQuest and SecondLife.

So it made me wonder if we could learn anything by looking at communities like those and applying the lessons to making a sort of economy-driven community of practice?

Not that I have time to really dig into that right now… but it’s something to think about.

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