Edward Castronova (PhD, Economics, Wisconsin, 1991) is an Associate Professor and the Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Telecommunications at Indiana University , Bloomington . He is an expert on the economies of large-scale online games and has numerous publications on that topic, including a book entitled Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games.
Economies of Meaning: Property, Value, Exchange
The continuing expansion of virtual worlds in size coupled with their
rapidly increasing connections with other domains of their users' lives
together raise new questions about the bedrock concepts that have heretofore
informed their study. In these domains, we see the rise of both institutionally-sponsored
and grassroots learning, the increasing use of in-world achievements as
resumé-building credentials, and the advent of higher stakes social
networking. To a certain extent, these may be consequences of these worlds'
persistence. Human activity in these worlds creates durable effects beyond
the market itself. But how are we to understand them? This panel inquires
into the limits and possibilities of core ideas in the field, such as
value, property, and exchange, and considers how they may be developed
to engage the present state of digital life. Is there more to be mined
from the intellectual roots of these terms? How may interdisciplinary
readings of them furnish productive new directions?
BOOK CHAT: Synthetic Worlds
Ted Castronova studies synthetic worlds, examining how these places, billed and sold as games, actually offer much more than entertainment. They act as a fantastical alternative to ordinary life, and as such they pose a significant challenge to business-as-usual in ordinary society: markets, public policy, politics, law, romance. In the area of economics, for example, one pressing issue involves the extent to which people are paying real money to buy items for their game characters, thus blurring the distinction between the game economy and the real one. And this is not the only way in which synthetic worlds threaten the lines we have drawn between fantasy and reality. Castronova's book, Synthetic worlds, tries to explain both Castronova's optimism behind the power of these worlds, and concerns that we all should be raising about our participation in them. Castronova has also founded an institute whose goal is to raise awareness of these issues among major decision-makers. The Institute's main activity is to host an annual conference, called the Ludium, where they try to use the technology of games to stoke intellectual productivity. And we're going to talk about it.