I have a section in my chapter on Flickr about the structure of the network as an ‘architecture of participation’, where I go through the various levels of engagement that are possible or invited (from exploring to uploading to commenting to participating in group ‘tasks’ and learning communities, and so on). I know I’m not the first person to have the idea of user-generated content communities as MMOGs, and I am very far from being an expert on game studies, but I’ve found it really productive to think about these issues of structure (or perhaps structuration) through a game design model, which also gets us thinking about participation in the network in terms of multiple forms of play. Here’s a bit of the draft to that effect:
Many computer games, at least at the most obvious level, are a specific, structured form of play that has a clear and final result: they define a win and (sometimes) a loss. At the same time not all play, even within game environments, is â€˜ludicâ€™ in precisely this way, instead being characterised by more free-form and player-centred practices that are complementary or parallel to the success imperative. This approach can also be applied to â€˜architectures of participationâ€™ like user-generated content communities and, in this case Flickr, on the basis that participation in these environments, as in games, can be viewed as a form of play that occurs in a constrained environment and that offers both individual and social rewards which can be attributed to the actions of the participants. Accordingly, it is appropriate to view Flickr as an open and configurable, but at the same time deeply structured, game environment where a variety of forms of massively multiplayer online play are possible. The second feature of play that makes it a useful tool for the analysis of cultural participation in Flickr is that it is, as KÃ¼cklich demonstrates, an appropriate model for the structure-agency problem in new media contexts.
The secret is, even though it’s called Game Neverending, it’s not really a game at all. It’s a social space designed to facilitate and enable play. The game-elements are there to provide both the constraints and the building blocks of interaction – since the thing you’ll notice about the kind of play I’m talking about above is that it is the kind of thing that goes on between people. Ludicorp was started because we imagine all kinds of social computing applications that we’d love to use and participate in, and no one else seems to be building them.
Something there about the pervasiveness of the original design philosophy, I think.