« Organising Virtual Events | Main | Consensus »

Feb 15, 2008



Hi Greg,

Not specifically about trademarks, but... I was looking at Planes of Power and the article you listed here on user-generated content for something I am writing now on CoH/V social play and how that play is by-and-large (and, I think, representatively) repressive. As I look for ways to generalize about user-generated content, it strikes me that (even in the case of WoW, which you characterize as non-user-generated-friendly) 1) social systems are "user-generated," and 2) these social systems have very similar rules/procedures, some of which are similar to social system rules outside the virtual, others of which seem unique to the virtual.

Those virtual social systems rules/procedures that seem unique are those involving the relationship between social systems and their contexts -- which you, of course, deal with in your discussion of trademarks and ownership and the like. Or, in short, real-world social systems have to, at some point, deal with real-world or "natural" laws. Virtual social systems don't.

(There are those, of course, who argue the relativist position that natural laws are either so ambiguous, so distant, or so non-existent that social laws rulz. But, thankfully, largely for the sake of having not to read lots of French philosophy, I am not one of those.)

In their isolation from rule-world laws, virtual social systems seem to generate very similar kinds of attitudes and interests. You might think (I did) that these would be largely influenced by GAME laws (i. e., game rules, which would conceivable be the virtual stand-in for natural laws), but, after observing matters, I don't think this is the case.

Social systems (to reify a bit) seem most fundamentally concerned with their own preservation and much of what these systems "generate" can be understand as functioning to that end. I can only speculate how this is relevant to dreary sorts of legal issues like trademarks and ownership, but I suspect the exclusivity of virtual social systems is going to play hell with any sort of "equal treatment under the law" principle.

I am reminded of a quote from the Hindi film Water (which my wife forced me to watch recently), which documents the treatment of Indian widows within a particular social system which chose to, so one of the characters explains, "ignore the law." Ignoring the law, whatever that may be, is almost certain to be more widespread (and more effective) in virtual social systems.



Thanks so much for the comment. If you have a draft of what you're working on, pls send it -- I'm very interested.

I think you're probably right here, and I'm actually kind of happy that you're taking this angle. What it suggests to me is that at least part (perhaps the major part) of the novelty of virtual worlds and law is not going to be best explained by an appeal to game rules and game social structures (the rabbit I've been chasing lately).

Instead, a more productive and complimentary path of explanation might be the novel nature of the virtual world environment/medium. Society online might wind up in a different place in much the same way that society in Papua New Guinea ended up in a different place.

The comments to this entry are closed.