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Accepted Paper:

On Digital Resources and Processing Resources in Virtual Space  
John Dulin (Utah Valley University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the difference between digital and processing resources as sources of stratification in the VR Chat platform. They create different dynamics because the value of digital resources is rooted in exchange value, while the value of processing resources is rooted in use-value.

Paper long abstract:

VR Chat enables users to create avatars and traverse worlds in virtual reality. Given how dependent VR Chat is on user-created content, it is an example of what Boellstorff (2008) called “creationist capitalism” (206). However, it has not incorporated blockchain into its platform, so it does not serve as a marketplace for NFTs. Avatars are one source of prestige in VR Chat, and therefore they are a potential source of stratification. Yet avatars can be endlessly copied with the user’s permission. Hence, user permission serves as a gatekeeper of the equal or unequal distribution of digital resources. The ease of copying avatars keeps the desire for exclusivity from generating nascent forms of stratification that center on anything resembling an NFT. I will compare avatar distribution with another, more stable source of stratification in VR chat: processing power. While many worlds can be accessed by users of the low-cost Oculus Quest, the more complex worlds require a higher-powered PC to access. I argue that digital resources and processing resources both provide sources of stratification in virtual worlds, but reflect distinct dynamics due in part to their distinct relationship to the non-virtual material base of users. The value of digital recourses centers mostly on exchange value, while the value of processing resources remains rooted in use-value.

Panel P10b
Exclusion by design: technology and the shaping of inequalities
  Session 1 Wednesday 8 June, 2022, -