Art, AR’s, LL and Avatar Rights

October 15, 2008

Selavy Oh recently posted an e-mail from Linden Lab on her flickr stream revitalizing the discussion on “fairness in handling abuse reports in Second Life”. Following this were posts by Bettina Tizzy, Brooklyn is Watching and in the SL Forums. Honestly I am glad this happened the way it did, of course not out of lack of compassion for those recent victims of LL’s policy but rather because now that people with a larger, more influential network are involved there might just be a chance that this evolves into a solid public discussion. Thus bringing about the necessary public pressure to start changing LL’s policies towards a more “human” direction.
The current discussion touches many problematic areas of organizing virtual communities but two points are most prominent 1) Mixing politics and business, thereby fostering a dysfunctional legal system 2) Avatar rights. For immersion in the latter Terra Nova appears to be the perfect site at first glance. Another topic came up as a separate string of discussion that is whether it is more outrageous if a well known artist is falsely abuse reported than someone who isn’t. Personally I don’t think it is worse if a well known content creator is falsely abuse reported or someone who is not popular in any way and just wants to enjoy his time on SL. But this is not important for the discussion I would like to contribute to at the moment.
Back to business: One thing that always surprises me is how unaware my fellow SL citizens are that LL is perfectly capable of closing down YOUR account and even hardware banning you NOW without any further notice or explanation. No matter who you are or how much love, work, money, or time you have invested into your virtual presence surrounding SL. Which brings us directly to 1) Linden Lab is a profit maximizing company (“ruling” a virtual community btw. I mean think about it. Would you like, say, Walmart to be your government? Ok getting carried away, but the same in theory still) frankly, using more resources on handling abuse reports is nothing but an increased cost factor and it would be highly irrational to increase the cost of the company unless the pressure to do so gets intolerable. And this is where we come in, the consumers, since actually, that is what the citizens of SL really are at this point, at least legally. Yet, as the content of SL is being created entirely by the citizens I am sure there are ways for us to create a better legal system as well. This can be done through broadening awareness, discussion and well dosed pressure exerted on the “regime”.
2) Avatar rights is a little more tricky, especially in SL. The extent to which each player identifies with his or her virtual life differs greatly and may have a lot to do with certain personality traits or general abundance of time…or not. Either way many people who make it beyond Help Island and stay in SL for a couple of months realize that it is a community or rather a collective of different communities and some people actually “live” there. Thus making a fair regulatory system concerning the handling of abuses and disputes absolutely necessary. When I look at the way life is currently organized in comparison to RL societies (as far as that is possible) it resembles more or less all traits of Authoritarianism. In my opinion this is due to a general immaturity of virtual worlds and will regulate itself as it “grows older”, more people participate and through discussions such as the current one. I believe that, eventually it will be inevitable to have some form of participation of the people in SL (or perhaps LL’s successor?) In the end, we are all pioneers of a new emerging world (though flawed it might currently be). How exciting!

See you online…


One Response to “Art, AR’s, LL and Avatar Rights”

  1. The thing we have to remember here is that Second Life or any other “verse” or RPG is a business for someone, not a society. And just like any business in the free world, the owners are the “Kings” and have pretty much a free reign over what goes on in their kingdom. In many of the united states, including the one I live in, business owners have the legal right to not serve any client, or fire any employee for any reason (other than “proven” discrimination) even if it is bad for business.

    And, as we all have found out, during the last 8 years and even long before that, inalienable rights of the people are as much as horse manure when it comes up against big business. The will of the people has nothing to do with the decisions made by “my” government. Oh, we may think we have voting obligations and representatives, and we can protest til our faces turn blue but, in the end, if it doesn’t make dollar sense it isn’t going to happen.

    Linden Labs makes millions a month and I’m sure there are many individuals benefiting from that. So, even though they have the right, I can’t see them indiscriminately pulling plugs. They might as well cut their own throats.

    As far as Avatar Rights… The only body of law that we have any “power” to change is T.O.S. and that would be like telling a business owner how to run his/her business. With 1.5 million customers in stock, most owners would tell an individual or group of individuals to go eff themselves.

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