Do Not Feed the Troll – Griefing and Normative Order

As a final post on the topic of griefing, this blog is going to briefly address some of the few and far between positive aspects of griefing. While it clearly is an outlet for aggression and unpleasantness, at times griefing can provide some positive aspects to society at large if not to the virtual environments where they occur.

Within the framework of legal theory, one concept of society and law is known normative order. Normative orders are the beliefs and concepts that govern a group or society without codification. Ideals such as the evil inherent in murder and rape and the wrongness of theft from others are concepts that, while codified in the US and much of the world, may not necessarily require such codification for societal prevention and enforcement.

Attitudes towards pedophilia are an example of one such normative order. Western society at large does not tolerate pederasty. An individual from halfway around the world would likely understand society’s assertion of the inherent wrongness in sex between a toddler and an adult regardless of any language or cultural barriers. Police enforcement can be used to prevent pederasty in large, formalized societies, and less formalized and aggregated groupings may choose exile or other organic forms of law enforcement when encountering such behavior.

The Internet can readily be considered as a prime example of a society with few codified laws and yet a robust body of normative order. There are things one does not do while using the Internet as it offends the sensibilities and day to day concepts of a clear and effective society. Griefing in its most brute forms often offends this concept of organic law, working to disrupt and offend other users who wish only to have a standard experience in their virtual environment.

But what about the times that griefing works to enforce normative order, or expand the online experience? In “Griefing for the Greater Good,” found at http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/issues/issue_19/122-Griefing-for-the-Greater-Good , Laura Genender addresses this very issue. The online legal system found in the game A Tale In the Desert had allowed a monopoly to form, and the owner of the monopoly was exploiting other users for his goods and generally reducing the total enjoyment derived by all players from the game. Griefers, through indirect means, attempted to loosen the monopolist’s stranglehold on the in-game resources and even bring about a dialogue that would result in an alteration of the game law allowing for more proactive law-making. In the end, the griefers failed and were themselves banned, but the lesson remained.

Another manner in which griefing can enforce social norms is when it targets errant organizations on the Internet. As addressed previously in this blog, virtual environments such as Second Life and the Internet at large allow individuals who may have offensive common ground to collect and work together. Both pedophiles and white-supremacists collect in forums and within Second Life, creating communities wherein the users are able to enforce their deviant beliefs through the legitimizing effects of groupthink.

When griefers target these more unorthodox organizations, they are effectively acting to enforce the normative order present on the Internet. While it is a treacherous road to allow vigilantism or to endorse the hostile actions of a group merely because they are in alignment with societal norms, in the untamed environment of the Internet such behavior can be taken as a positive angle on griefing and related behavior. Every cloud has a silver lining, and as the present situation on the Internet does not point towards a reduction in griefing, it is at least somewhat comforting to look at this slightly positive aspect of the behavior.

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~ by scottyufl on December 11, 2010.

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