The Invisible Currencies of Cyberspace

In Jonny Holmström’s recent seminar in HUMlab some of the issues surrounding the area of value creation in Peer to Peer (P2P) networks were given as an effective function of these networks.

I find the nature and functions of currency on the internet very interesting, especially since my own digital value underwent a recent dramatic downgrade with a hard drive loss, but that’s another story.

Recently an interview was screened on national morning television here in Sweden with the author of a book on digital p*rnography. When asked why people make p*rn available for free he responded that it was in the hope of making money in the future. I actually thought it was an example of the invisible currencies of the net, where credibility, trust or the gathering of information through network contacts has similar value to legal tender.

The prestige to be had by having extensive and specialized file content in a P2P share network also brings with it much credibility. Not only does it allow for actions that would otherwise be considered taking liberties or even breaking the rules of the network, it can spill over into the non-digital domain with friendship, business and co operation.

The recent off-line media account of the jilted girlfriend erasing the in-world avatar of her ex, along with all his hard won credits etc. begs the question; “Is this crime against property or just reputation?”

In China, the murder of Zhu Caoyuan by Qiu Chengwei after Zhu stole Qiu’s Dragon Saber weapon and sold it. The sword was used in the MMORPG Legend of Mir III. This sword came to have monetary value but even after Zhu offered to pay back the money for the sword Qiu was unsatisfied, wanting the sword ‘itself’ returned it seems: “Qiu went to the police to report the “theft” but was told the weapon was not counted as real property protected by law.” (China Daily)

Many theorists delineate these digital spaces as inscripted representations, but with increased levels of non-digital participation and vice versa, it seems the threshold between the two is widening to the point of encirclement.