Friday, March 26, 2010

Do Taipei Expats = FFXI? Part 3: Temporality and Social Risk

I think it was the lack of a long history of shared experiences with my FFXI guild that accounted for some of the social patterns that I witnessed there. When guildmates arranged meetings with each other they were essentially making arrangements with strangers or very new acquaintances.  Therefore, there were little to no feelings of obligation or any real accountability to encourage people to follow through. Whereas in my WoW guild, there were both obligatory feelings and accountability that could potentially follow a person through the game and beyond.

In Taipei, the vast majority of foreigners I have met fall into just 1 of 2 categories: Chinese language student or English language teacher. The students are mostly here for 1 semester to a year, and the English teachers often sign one year contracts. On occasion someone will stay longer or talk about settling in Taipei permanently, but most often a foreigner’s time here is expected to be temporary. This expectation is reaffirmed frequently in the way in which people talk about “back home.”

The temporary nature of this community then is not unlike the FFXI guild. The guild, being a very new community, lacked deep interpersonal connections. In Taipei there has been an expat community for years, but any one given foreigner is likely to be a new arrival and is not likely to stay. So not only does a foreigner here lack roots, but it is known (or assumed) that they will not stay here to establish roots. This may then explain the lack of a sense of obligation to others in the community and a lack of accountability.  Whatever bad blood may come between two people, the likelihood that either one or both will leave at anytime reduces the social risk to both.

Going back home becomes akin to logging off. At anytime a player can log off and walk away from their computer if they are having a problem. This is not to say that this is how people in my FFXI guild always dealt with their problems, but the possibility existed and was sometimes used. Many of the expats I have met keep just enough money set aside to buy a plane ticket home, thus always having the option to leave. This in turn further supports the temporality of the community. 

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