Thursday, September 07, 2006

GikII 1.01

The GikII Workshop started with a session on Virtual Property and Virtual Governance, where the first shot was fired by Lilian Edwards and her "Constructing Virtual Properties: What Do Avatars, Feedback and Exploits Have in Common?". There she made a very insightful analysis of the increasing use of virtual realities for entertainment, interaction and also trade. Taking into account that there are more and more people that spend more and more time having part of their life in a world created solely by digital interaction and within those virtual worlds these people get some type of reputation, which allows them to increase the level of participation, is that reputation a property that can be traded or defended? Can you sell your eBay feedback to somebody that just arrived into the "community"? Can you transfer your reputation to other platform? What about your reputation when the owner of the platform decides to take you out of the game/virtual world/auction site? The topic is not ripe yet, but clearly will represent one of those that will give to cyberlawyers a lot to think about in the near future.
Lilian was followed by Gillian Black, who spoke about "“The Evolution of Property"”, and analyzed the question of -what is property? - from a quasi-utilitarian point of view, by saying that the concept should be understood as a social and legal instrument to protect society'’s interests and needs. The scrutinized the commercial exploitation of the persona, especially in Cyberspace, to look for the answer to the question of the ontology and law of property, and she made very valid points about taking property as a dynamic concept that evolves (or should evolve) with society and technology.
The third speaker of the day was Abbe Brown, who presented a paper titled "“Must Worlds Collide? Real and Virtual Property Worlds", where she explained the changes brought by Internet and the legal implications of the creation of virtual worlds. She addressed several questions mainly related to the interaction of real and virtual property and the relation between the possible virtual legal world and the current existing legal systems tied to geographical boundaries. Will the future bring agreements between virtual and real legal systems? Will we be able to enforce in the real world's courts what we, or our identities in avatars, have agreed in Cyberspace?
The first session finished with the presentation by Nic Suzor, who used his not very strong Australian accent to talk about "Governance in Virtual Worlds"”. Nic considered the theoretical basis for legitimate domination in virtual worlds. Since virtual worlds are based on commercial platforms, through their user agreements these companies exercise their domination as some sort of "“benign dictators". Can consensual governance be achieved in virtual worlds? Will they be feasible or legal? The other issue relevant to this topic is the interaction between real-world governments with the above-mentioned potential virtual ones. The issue of legitimacy, legality and enforcement permeates all these on-the-edge questions.
The first session ended and the sensation that something different and unique had started was in the air...

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