On Friday, Oct. 3, the Washington and Lee University School of Law (in scenic Lexington, Virginia) will gather a range of top thinkers to discuss the regulatory future of children's worlds in a one-day symposium.
Our own Ted Castronova, Greg Lastowka, Robert Bloomfield and yours truly will be there. We hope you can all come! More information (and registration forms) at law.wlu.edu/virtualplaygrounds, or below the fold.
While virtual worlds scholars have overwhelmingly focused on worlds populated largely by adults, the market reach of child-oriented virtual worlds has grown by leaps and bounds. Webkinz, NeoPets, and Club Penguin are both the caretakers of the next generation of virtual world dwellers and are themselves the next big phenomenon in virtual world technology.
The protection of children is nearly always the rationale asserted when Congress seeks to regulate online behavior. Charting a course between hysteria about new media on the one hand, and legitimate needs to protect children on the other has been hard for law. Regulation will thus likely be felt first in children's worlds. Getting the law right for kids' worlds will probably set the standard for the rest of virtual worlds, because children are entering nearly all of the mainstream worlds. Where children go, the regulations that protect them will follow, and will plausibly become the standard regulations of the multiverse.
This symposium will hear from top thinkers in multiple disciplines as they attempt to chart a reasonable course for the protection of kids in virtual worlds. In addition to the speakers listed above, panelists will include Brad Bushman, author of groundbreaking studies on effects of videogame violence on children; Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger, internationally sought expert on e-Government, regulatory models for electronic commerce, and virtual worlds, and Dorothy Singer, world-renowned expert on children, play, and the psychological effects of media; and many others. We hope to see you in Lexington!
If you have any questions about the symposium, please don't hesitate to contact me at fairfieldj-at-wlu-dot-edu.