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The cyberpunk novel Snow Crash talks about burbclaves. In it, Neil Stephenson’s imagines a duality of life in the future, the physical and the ‘metaverse’. He describes how the population has abandoned ‘laws’ as such and services are basically run by private enterprises – people live walled gardens with particular forms of security and social commitments, excluding anyone who is not a resident. Citizens of these burbclaves are free to leave their walled garden to go, use and enjoy anything they like – or they can simply order it and have it brought inside their exclusive communities.

I see increasing amounts of burbclave-mindedness in the metaverse. I can accept it inside a secular organisation, but over the last year or so, as more people get-connected, I get a sense that tagging for exclusive groups, making resources available only those inside a walled garden, or running exclusive webinars is becoming more common in Australia. It seems the general thought from the clergy is that teacher will simply provide, learn and share – inside their oranisation organically. Perhaps this is why some even charge their own staff to attend PD, or provide no specialist PD at all. They are hoping the tide will rise on it’s own – to their advantage – usually for free.

Being keen to serve a burbclave undermines a teacher’s value. The accepted method of promotion is via formal study patterns and time served. Being an informal metaverse hero obviously provides the clergy with kudos and free labour, so they are always going to accept your offerings. Now you are also a stake-holder and a creator, not simply a resident of whatever secular-clave you are employed in – that changes things – or it should.

The publishing industry has made billions from writing and creating content for education, don’t discount the value of your IP any less. ‘Yeah-but’ residents refuse to venture out. There is no imperative for them to leave as “Someone else will bring it and that someone will be from my burbclave. I can afford to wait – as I will be able to use it without effort anyway – why bother?”. This has nothing to do with ICT skills – this is entrenched behavior. But for those teachers doing daily raids into the metaverse … take a moment to think – what are you giving away verses gaining?

Check you burbclave employment-contract, as you might find that all your hard work – after hours – is owned by them and not you – so sharing it might actually land you in hot water. Make an effort to find out, read your contract – and then make informed choices about how you decide to licence it – if in fact are allowed or own it.

Producing resources and ideas that end up inside walled gardens creates greater equity gaps between access rich and poor and reinforce incumbent philosophy. You can’t save the princess, by forming burbclaves. Nor can we afford to enter into a ‘block-war’ mentality, where one faction builds vertically at the expense of others. Tag if it a reference, but don’t then link to something that is behind a wall – don’t form burbclaves.

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