According to a breathy report on CNN / Business 2.0 Google are getting into the Virtual World business. In short the idea seems to be to map 3D models as custom layers to Google Earth and make them public.
Talk about collision of rights issues and a large bucket of fun – where do we start?
Writing about the project on Googleblog, Brad Schell, Product Management Director, Google SketchUp enthused: “Visionaries, utopians, virtual world builders: your time has come.” And I'm sure that there will be business in creating things like a virtual Royal Academy over the location of the physical one in London’s swinging West End.
But our experience of VWs so far suggest that virtual utopias always come with heavy dose of distopian practices known as greifing. As every new virtual form is invented a new and unusual corruption of that form quickly follows. For a lesson in what might happen one need look no further than your average virtual utopian’s space of choice - Second Life (sorry for the third SL ref in a row – I really need to get on a bonus scheme, so for balance consider also There.com for all your 3D social world needs), and the multifarious kinds of architectural greifing that go on there.
So, if A knows where B lives, A does not like B so I create a large purple phallic looking building over their location and publish it as a layer. Assume for the moment that it’s not defamatory in a legal sense and that But B owns their property – do they have some kind of right over that space or those co-ordinates in any space that seeks to replicate physical world geography?
Further - linking back to the interesting discussion we are having over anti-war protests and Amercia’s Army in the dead-in-iraq: thread – what’s public, what’s common, is political protest on say the location of 10 Downing Street OK?
With my speculation hat firmly in place the way I see things going is as follows:
- Some form of official virtual map will emerge, special rights will be treated like rights to domains initially with Google and arbitrator and possibly national based authorities along the domain model should the project be a success.
- In parallel a number of fantasy layers as group project will emerge – initial ones possibly along lines ‘what if’ conceits – such as what if this were are cartoon world, here fair use and satire would exist and parallel spaces would compete for audience share though would probably target like minded groups.
- On the edge will be political world-views such as an ecologists view of the world using visual representations of climate states and organisations that pollute so one can zoom around the globe from a eco point of view.
These broadly map against the more nuanced version of the Four Worlds Theory I’ve been working on following the helpful comments on the thread.