«Principal Editor Professor Brian Fitzgerald Head of School of Law, Queensland University of Technology, Australia With the assistance of Jessica ...»
The first point to say is that they do not really connect at all. National innovation agendas, as constructs of public policy, conspicuously absent the whole area of creative content from their purview. At best, the humanities and creative arts areas, disciplines, are seen as mere handmaidens, afterthought hand-maidens, to the power houses of new sciences as they drive innovation and research and development agendas. The best that the human sciences can hope for in this context is, usually, that they are seen as ways of understanding and managing the consequences, as one policy document says, “manage the consequences of moving to a knowledge-based economy” but, of course, implicit in that is that they could never be seen as a driver of that growth economy.
This hand-maiden model that is so endemic to national innovation thinking is patently inadequate to capture the growing contribution of creative content industries and the social phenomena that we have been looking at around the games phenomena, the social phenomena that have rapidly grown around them in contemporary society. Creative production and cultural consumption are an increasingly integral part of growth economies, not merely part of analysing and managing it. The creative industries, it goes without saying I suppose for this audience, are a significant sector of many, if not most, advanced economies.
In US copyright industries, as they are usually called, are worth $791B in 2001, representing 7.75 percent of GDP. They employ 8 million workers in the US. The share of US exports was $88B, almost $89B, outstripping the chemical, motor vehicle, aircraft, agricultural and electronic components and computer sector industries in the US exports. In the UK it is a little bit less, £112B, employing 1.3 million people, £10.3B in exports in 2001, over 5 percent of GDP. They are big, growth sectors of the economy, but they are also drivers of the knowledge economy in general and enablers of other industry sectors, especially through the provision of digital content, which is increasingly translating directly into competitive advantage and innovation capability.
In the light of that you would wonder why they do not occupy a much stronger place in innovation and R&D thinking in Western countries. Most R&D and innovation priorities reflect the science agenda at the expense of these growth sectors, but when we look more closely we see, as Jeremy Rifkin says in The Age of Access, that the broad content industry sectors that we’re talking about here, business, education, leisure and entertainment, media and communications, represent 25 percent of the US economy, as an example, whilst the new science sector, the sector that has been the recipient of most innovation and R&D investment – that is biotech, fibre construction, materials, energy, pharmaceuticals – accounts for only 15 percent of the US economy.
Most OECD countries are increasingly consumption driven in their economic shape, 60 percent of GDP in Australia, 62 percent of the US GDP is consumption driven, and the social and cultural technologies that manage and stimulate consumption all derive from, or mostly derive, from these disciplines of humanities, creative arts and the human sciences. There is an argument that I am trying to make here for a very significant gap between where innovation and R&D thinking is at present in most OECD countries, and where creative content is going.
How does that relate to the games sector? I see the games sector as a prototypical case of an innovative, R&D driven, or an R&D intensive, sector that should be integral in any country’s innovation and R&D agenda. Consider, when you think about the history of electronic games from the 1970s you have had a massively rapid and intensely innovative cycle of innovation in terms of shape, architecture, inventiveness and rapidity. This has all happened in slightly more than 30 years of history.
The games sector is an intensely research and development driven, very innovative sector and some of the writing of the kinds of fields that I am familiar with, not being a lawyer, in the media, cultural studies, communication studies, areas, some very interesting work that has been done on innovation in the games sector. A writer that John Banks referred to earlier, Henry Jenkins from MIT, has written very interestingly on games and their relation to the history of aesthetic innovation in the 20th century.
He says that games have been created without the safety net that inherited modernist rhetoric provides for established art forms and talks extensively about the way in which games are re-creating the template of what aesthetic innovation is, and in some of the work of JC Hertz, particularly in a piece called Harnessing the Hive, she brings the notion of innovation of games to centre stage, particularly emphasising the issues of collective IP, that Lawrence Lessig has just raised.
Hertz addresses collective IP at a user level, collaborating with games developers and the challenges of producing, of capturing the dynamics of collective IP. She talks about the way in which innovation is content driven rather than technology driven in games. Hertz says that innovation is anthropological rather than technological in games. It is about the network effects of social networking and that this is the most advanced example of network effects (with massive multi-player, online games) that we have seen so far in virtual environments. The case for innovation and R&D in games is, it seems to me, a very powerful one. Perhaps the biggest issue here is the way in which, particularly the online games world, is producing a new template that is highly recursive, that breaks the linear value chain, and is opening up a whole set of highly disruptive challenges and opportunities in re-thinking the relation between proprietary and nonproprietary, amateur and professional, and so on. There are huge issues that are going to become driver issues arising out of games, but impacting on a number of other areas over the next generation of innovation in this sector.
I am going to shift the focus just a little and come back to something Professor Lessig mentioned, which I don’t agree with entirely. In massive multi-user online games, people are creating communities inside of proprietary spaces, and this throws up some issues that are not to do with property; they are to do with community management and they are to do with the fact that a games company that is publishing an MMOG (massive multi-user online game) has also now taken on the role of being a community manager, and that is not a role that is a familiar one to any publisher.
Most publishers do not have to manage communities. They do not have to intervene in their consumers’ disputes. They do not have to manage their consumers’ bad behaviour. They do not have to manage conflict resolution between their users. This is all stuff that MMOG publishers have to do. It indicates we have seen a shift here from a publication model to a services model, and that the MMOG represents a hybrid of the two. It is not so simple as to say that is an uncomplicated hybridity because publications and services operate with different institutional practices.
Usually, with a single player game, players will play until they have mastered it. Once they have cracked it, they move on to the next one. What happens with a MMOG is players become enmeshed in social networks inside the game and they will play for years beyond their mastery of the game. Because they are run on a subscription basis, and players pay a monthly fee in order to access it, the longer you can keep a player accessing the game, the longer you get their subscription fee. If you are relying on them staying inside the game because of the social networks, it means really that the social networks have become integral to the business plan. They are part of what drives profit. To say that if the contracts that determine the terms of service under which those players play, the EULAs (the End User Licence Agreements), are unconscionable, players should just leave, is to ignore the very social nature of what keeps them in the game, that the stickiness of the game is the socialness of it, and thus the switching costs are terribly high.
If you have been playing a game for three years and you decide that you have been treated unconscionably by the customer service team, it is not a matter of just upping stakes and moving to the next game, because all your friends are inside the game that you are in. So the switching costs have become very high. It is not as simple as changing products. It is not a matter of just choosing between alternative products and, “oh this game sucks and I have been treated poorly so I am going to move on to the next game”. Unless you can convince all your friends to come with you, that is not a very valid proposition.
The other value involved in social networking is that if you stay inside a community for a number of years, then you build a reputation and status and you would have to rebuild that inside a new game. These social aspects are ignored by always focusing on the property elements inside games and that property is the important aspect. Property is the aspect that is associated with the publication model, but we need to start taking account of the services model and we need to start understanding these things as social with social consequences. One of the results that I see is that we need to have some kind of measure of accountability for the corporations that run these places in their community service management strategies, which are enabled through EULA contracts.
The game I studied is called EverQuest. In the EverQuest end user licence agreement it says they can ban me for any reason that they choose, and I have no recourse to any appeal mechanism. If I play against the spirit of the game, ‘spirit of the game’ is not defined particularly well anywhere – it is a very nebulous kind of concept – I could find myself banned from the game, and lose all my friends and lose all my in-game accumulated wealth. I have nowhere to go to actually appeal that decision, and the consequences for me are not only material, in that I lose the possible real world value of the property inside that game, but they are social. I lose the access to my community. The contracts are becoming the mechanism that determines access to social relations, and that is material that we have not yet really engaged with to any great extent, and something that I hope we soon will engage with.
PROFESSOR LAWRENCE LESSIGProfessor Lawrence Lessig is Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and founder of the school’s Center for Internet and Society. Prior to joining the Stanford faculty, he was the Berkman Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. He was also a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, and a Professor at the University of Chicago Law School. He clerked for Judge Richard Posner of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and Justice Scalia of the United States Supreme Court.
More recently, Professor Lessig represented web site operator Eric Eldred in the ground-breaking case Eldred v. Ashcroft, a challenge to the 1998 Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. Lessig was named one of Scientific American's Top 50 Visionaries, for arguing “against interpretations of copyright that could stifle innovation and discourse online”. He is the author of The Future of Ideas and Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace. He also chairs the Creative Commons project. Professor Lessig is a board-member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a Board Member of the Center for the Public Domain, and a Commission Member of the Penn National Commission on Society, Culture and Community at the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Lessig earned a BA in economics and a BS in management from the University of Pennsylvania, an MA in philosophy from Cambridge, and a JD from Yale. Professor Lessig teaches and writes in the areas of constitutional law, contracts, comparative constitutional law, and the law of cyberspace.
RICHARD NEVILLE (FUTURIST)Richard Neville has been involved with challenging and changing the ways we think, ever since his student days in the sixties when he published and edited the magazine, Oz. It landed him in jail and gave Australia its nickname. Since that time, he has achieved prominence as a social commentator and best selling author, his subjects range from cyber-sex, smart drugs and serial killers, from globalization, the reinvention of work and the consciousness movement to the new role for business in the 21st century, the Creative Economy and the revived focus on human potential.
In his professional life as a futurist, Richard talks with audiences in Australia and Asia on a range of issues that affect the way we work, play, learn, heal, think and decode the world. He does not try to predict stuff, except when it slips out his ‘big mouth’ (“Philosophers will be the Rock Gods of future”). Instead, he offers lots of tricks, tools and techniques for audiences to take away and apply, to help make their own assessment about the changing shape and feel of what’s to come.