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Multiculturalism and EVE Online

March 7, 2018

EVE Online organizations have different cultures. This is, perhaps, obvious. However, what is interesting is how leadership deal with culture. Whether they attempt to make things homogenous or instead embrace multi-culturalism.


There are, roughly, three ways to deal with cultures – assimilation, shallow diversity and deep diversity. This originates from the writing of Isiah Berlin, who considered the intersection between tolerance and liberalism. He is not infallible, but for the purposes of this article, we will take his categories as right.


Assimilation is the most obvious and, in EVE, the most common. This boils down to a leadership team deciding on values which they want their alliance to have, and then enforcing them. You can see this in Goonswarm – their propaganda and policy advance communal ideas. If you or your corp do not agree with a community-centric stance, you are shown the door. This happens in Pandemic Legion as well. Its leadership advances a standard of individual skill and excellence. If you do not measure up, you are cut. This way, the cultural norms of the organization are homogenous.


This approach has serious value. While it can be stifling, it guarantees unity within the organisation. If everyone has a shared sense of what is right, then divisions are less likely to happen. For example, in Pandemic Legion, you are not going to get an industrialist faction complaining about something. Therefore, it is no coincidence that a lot of organizations employing this were forged in war. Goonswarm, Pandemic Legion, Northern Coalition., and others have fought in and prepared for war as their raison d’etre.


The second approach is one of shallow diversity. This is where the leadership team set absolute values as a framework which other values fit within. This allows for more diversity because as long as you adhere to this framework, you’re fine. For example, an industrial corp in an alliance with minimum PVP values can still exist. They just need to do the odd bit of PVP. An example of this is/was Provibloc. They had certain values – Operation Deliverance, NRDS, etc. If you stayed within that, no matter what else you did, you were safe.


This has some advantages because it permits for a range of different capabilities within an organization. However, it can cause serious problems from a fragility perspective. Without a strong, central unifying narrative, discord can occur. Observe Provibloc – different alliances cascaded away from it because of lack of homogeneity.


The last approach is one of deep diversity. This is essentially where a leadership team declares that there is no unifying culture. People do whatever they want – no one can judge anybody else. This is not a common structure in EVE history. It surrenders too much control away from the leadership. Perhaps some of the early, explicitly libertarian, alliances of Northern Coalition qualified. That said, despite the structure being rare, it is pervasive to EVE. There is no agreed set of standards for what is good in the game. 6th Empire’s attempts at humanitarian intervention are laudable, but ad hoc.


Overall, it can be said that EVE Online reflects the real world in a lot of ways. Some nations – like alliances – reflect a homogenous approach. Many others tend to some form of shallow diversity. Very few nations attempt deep diversity – but any efforts to impose morality over a large area are unlikely and impossible.