Sunday, March 16, 2008

Intellectual Property, Privacy and Identity in Open Virtual Worlds


Intellectual Property, Privacy and Identity in Open Virtual Worlds
Sunday afternoon sessions - Life 2.0 conference.

Speakers (copied from the Life 2.0 web site):

Eben Moglen (SL: EbenMoglen Euler) - Director, Chair and Chief Counsel of the Software Freedom Law Center; Mark Lenczner (SL: Zero Linden), Architect, Linden Lab; David Levine (SL: Zha Ewry), IBM Research; Sean Dague (SL: Neas Bade), Developer, IBM Linux Technology Center, Contributor, OpenSim; Tish Shute (SL: Tara5 Oh), principal, Ugotrade.com; John Jainschigg (SL: John Zhaoying), Exec. Director, UBM/ThinkServices Metaverse.

I arrived a bit late due to RL constraints and when I attempted to load the sound from the website, rather than through SL so I wouldn't experience the problems encountered yesterday, I seemed to need to load uStream TV to get the stream and I had to create an account to do that which slowed me up even further. Still I really, really wish a conference packet would have been generated and distributed so attendees could know what they would, or might, need for particular sessions.

That said, the session, just like yesterday's sessions, were great. This session was a panel discussion where the speaker's avatars were seated on a stage at the "front" of an auditorium filled with seats. Because of this configuration I only took one picture.
The first thing I noticed about the panel should have been of no consequence but it was maddening. The avatars were all sitting in the same position with their toes tapping in perfect synch. Fortunately I was immediately drawn into the panel conversation as well as the text chat which is why I would recommend actually attending such conferences with your avatar online and in the venue where the audience's and speakers' avatars are located. The audience interaction is often more important than the panelists, although that, pleasantly, was not the case with this particular group of panelists. I suspect this will hold true for the entire conference, although it can be dangerous to act from suppositions -- and disappointing -- but I'm really not too worried about that with Life 2.0.

There is no way I can capture the non-stuffy intellectual level of discourse. I will not post chat transcripts as I do not like it when others do, and I think somewhere in the terms of service for interacting in SL I agreed not to do so.

I'm sorry I missed the first part but some of ideas covered in the portion of the talk I did catch included:
  • Code Angels -- bits of code that let you know the potential dangers faced when entering a sim.
  • Informed consent.
  • Rights to information versus avatar rights. (This one tripped me out. Reminded me of the topic of a brown bag luncheon I attended at Purdue decades ago. )
  • multiply-joined immersive spaces
  • history and (versus) judgment
  • negotiated rights
  • social norms vs. social evolution
  • danger of imposing technological constraints rather than allowing social evolution.
  • open sim and avatar transportability
  • markets (grid traction) -- restrictive tariffs are needed -- or all commerce will go on in one place and never in others
  • "people voting with their feet" really can occur in virtual worlds as trade barriers only work in real life as mobility is limited. this isn't the case in virtual worlds as choice and mobility between servers is becoming possible
  • hard to impose strade restrictions on a highly mobile population
  • open sim and avatar transportability
  • payment for service will provide some screening similar to angels
  • uninspected spaces versus inspected spaces
It was at this point that I had to enter the parallel text discourse the "avatar audience" was having.

Who will do the inspecting?

I am not going to go into any great detail from this point on as I only want to convey an impression of what the session was like. Let it just suffice to say that the texting was just as intricate and intellectual as the panel discussion. And... (this is one of the great things about virtual venue conferences) the panel discourse was informed by themes, and specifics, of the audience comments. In this way the traditional channel of formal questions is supplemented by input via text discourse and the type of banter and whether it includes sarcasm, references to other published commentary on the topic, laughter, mockery and the like. While the virtual venue might seem more impersonal, it is more personal than the restrictive nature of RL conferences where only authorized speakers have any voice. Of course in virtual environments one does have to consider that verbal "griefing" could occur. But then interaction between panelists and audience members could too. The folks who were only connected via web streams certainly missed a rich context stream.

Great topics floating around in the audience: Corporate avies that everyone gets used to as the personality of "x" that can be (and are being) possessed by other people in the company. You get used to X - expect X - know X and then one day X does not equal X as the corp has come in and inhabited the shell formerly known as X. If the avatar used by an employee is more than a corporate operative then it seems like the avi should go with the person. But that is not the case, most likely, if one signed over rights to intellectual property in a contract made during the hire.

Many sticky issues such as Free trade versus Fair trade arose. The techies in the audiences seemed genuinely incensed that this larger glocal market could put them out of work via outsourcing. Writers have faced this for ages (literally, think scribes, then printers, then... coders?) and as technology becomes more widespread the value of the technology goes down -- and they no longer control the information disseminated by that technology. This cycle of invention control dissemination used to take generations... now it plays out in a persons lifetime.

I was also impressed that the problem of not being able to follow who is speaking from audio-only cues was discussed and possibly "remedied" through suggestions that could be acted upon such as talking sticks, avatar animations so speakers could stand. One that wasn't thrown out was something similar to the little green voice dot over active speakers in SL.

Overall I would have to say the overall information flow in this session was similar to that in a high level academic seminar with the level and breadth of discourse.

More tomorrow if I can find the time to attend and write up.

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About this blog and Second Ana:

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Ana Herzog, avatar in the virtual world of Second Life, expounds on the semiotics of identity in the metaverse, alternate realities, feminism, artistic expression and the growing use of SL as a a progressive networking tool. Second Ana was born into Second Life on July 8th of 2006. Her island, The Womens Center, will officially open on the Autumnal Equinox. She owns Casita Gaia, an Interior Furnishings Boutique in Barcelona del Oeste. She is the local coordinator for CODEPINK SL. CODEPINK SL is an international chapter of CODEPINK Women for Peace. CODEPINK is also represented by our hut hangout on Commonwealth Island where our neighbors include the ACLU and Green Peace.