Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Cliques and Claques: Much Musing About Nothing

One of my morning pleasures is reading the real estate section of the Caledon news organ, the Forums. Perhaps it allows me a moment of fantasy about becoming a land baroness as properties become available in Regency, Mayfair, the Highlands, Cape Wrath, and so on. I can fantasize about the possibility of seaside property, or a posh mansion, or a mountainside retreat, all for the cost of the latest issue of the Forums and a cup of coffee.

The number of properties offered for sale (yes, yes, I know, offered for “sale,” as the Guv ultimately owns Caledon; let us not quibble) waxes and wanes over time. I presume this reflects new land coming onto the market periodically, including that offered by the Guv as well as other, similarly-themed lands, as well as the ups and downs of the broader real estate market. In other words, supply and demand. New residents arrive, old ones leave or reshuffle their portfolios. None of this is remarkable.

However, in seeing much recent land shuffling – and here I’m thinking of some of the recent acquisitions in Steam Sky City by Miss Gray and Mr. Volare, and Mr. Nix Sands’ sale of a number of his properties, among other examples – I started thinking about Caledon’s own land barons and the remarkably small core group of Caledonians. At last glance, Caledon had in the vicinity of 800 citizens – admittedly, some of those are likely to be alts, some are primarily residents of other nations (often within the Realm of the Roses) who like to keep up with the events in Caledon, some (shockingly) have lives outside Caledon or the Realm, and some are people whose typists have largely retreated from our world – but appears to be dominated by perhaps two dozen of its most prominent citizens. The same names keep appearing as owners of void sims, as substantial landowners in various full sims, as builders, as shop owners (and most often creators of merchandise), in ISC chat, and as developers and hosts of the majority of group activities. Let New York society have The Four Hundred; Caledon has The Two Dozen (Give or Take).

I have mixed feelings about this state of affairs. It is wonderful to see those individuals devoting so much time and energy to what is clearly a labor of love to them. (I will assert with confidence that no one is getting rich.) It is also true that other citizens make smaller, but still valuable, contributions, and in aggregate are an important source of the vitality of the community. I do not mean to impugn or disrespect their contributions in any way. I benefit from this work every day as I explore the ever-changing environment that is Caledon. At the same time, having such an obvious core of prominent citizens might create a perception of a ruling clique that is (naturally) polite but not warm to everyone.

Two modest digressions: first, the nature of ISC chat helps foster both the egalitarian aspects of Caledon – anyone can jump in with a comment (though chat lag may result in the comment arriving several minutes late and/or out of order) (and invariably swallowing my best jokes) – and the perception of an in-group – discussion about, say, an upcoming event may be intermingled with discussion about a typist’s children. Chat is like having a group conversation in which private asides are broadcast at the same volume. Second, some time ago during ISC chat, one citizen who shall remain unnamed objected to the use of various aristocratic titles. She preferred not to have to call people “Duke So-and-So” or “Baroness Such-and-Such,” as this created a society stratified by class. Of course, one can break down the use of titles into the honorific (service to the Guv, whether through ownership of a void sim or work for the betterment of the community) and the jokes. In the first case, the titles are earned but are mere recognition of the service, rather than a statement about class; in the second, the joke is usually widely-recognized, and thus is again no statement about class. But there is a deeper truth to the lady’s objection to titles, which is that both uses of titles are a reflection of the often insular nature of our society. (I simply can’t keep track of everyone’s title – Lord Primbroke? Oh, you mean Mr. Pearse? – so don’t think I’m rude or that I won’t play along. Just another example of CRS syndrome.)

Is this a good thing or a bad thing? If the latter, what, if anything, can be done about it? The answers are not clear. Some people can spend much more time in-world than others. Some are more highly motivated to participate than others. No Caledon-erected barriers exist to prevent people from joining the core group over time. Ultimately, the community is entirely voluntary, from the amount of time individuals spend in-world, to the activities they host or participate in, to the friends individuals make.

So where is this going? Nowhere, really. Just Tuesday morning musings after reading the Forums. Perhaps I should switch to decaf.


Hotspur O'Toole said...

In Reality so it is in Virtuality; people participate at the level they are interested in and comfortable with. In the case of many, how much they can afford to pay every month. The people who can afford to devote longish hours and a lot of money in Caledon will naturally wish to see this investments pay off, and push for events and activities. They will likely also be involved in commercial activities (such as shopkeeping or deejaying or some other service) to assist paying off those tier fees. As in our first lives, it takes all kinds to make the universe spin round. There are many reclusive types that emerge from hibernation once a month to pay their tier fee, only to vanish into the aether until the next bill is due.

Titles are considered a gesture of respect for many, and part of the general atmosphere. The anonymous lady in ISC chat you mention should know that use of titles is purely voluntary. I came to the conclusion some time ago that a title granted simply because an individual is willing to pay a sim tier fee is not automatically a guarantor of respect from the populace. As in any society, there are people one is willing to respect, and people one is not inclined to be that charitable to. To be 100% fair to everyone, I have dropped titles altogether, and greet everyone by their first name (if an old friend) or "mister or missus someone" if a polite acquaintance. That is assuredly a gesture of politeness that I believe EVERYone should be owed, even the jerks.

I was greatly amused by this post, Miss Jameson-- the thread of cliques, claques, 'Mlords and Ladies" rears its ugly head from time to time, here and there. :-D

Rhianon Jameson said...

Words of wisdom, as usual, Mr. O'Toole. I'm afraid I came across as a little grouchy, which was not intended. I greatly respect people who give generously of their time to make our world a better place, even as I wonder how they do it.

And I find the titles to be a hoot. I just can't remember them all. At least no one has threatened to throw me in the Tower for my lapses.

Hotspur O'Toole said...

Oh, it's early yet. If you are ever fortunate enough to meet a certain Mrs. Dogsbody, you might wish to bring the subject up.

- grinning -