Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Proposal

As promised I've found a place to house my proposal in pdf form.  Reading it back now it does seem a little bit too corporate for my liking.  By this I mean that it puts conflict between real world law and metaverse law at the forefront of the project.  The more I think about writing the constitution the more I'm drawn towards a more idealised conception of it.  I'd rather propose something that is potentially productive for the metaverse than something that solves a technical legal problem.  That being said conflict of laws won't be ignored, but it will merely form a small part of the project.

At the moment I'm working on the intellectual property clause.  To this end I'm going to a lecture this evening at the Berkman Center here at Harvard where David Weinberger is talking about what a copyright system would look like if built from the ground up for the digital world.  I think it should be a very productive evening.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Interesting Discussion at Terra Nova

There is an interesting discussion over at Terra Nova on whether virtual worlds really are liberating.  I think blackrazor hit the nail on the head when they said in the comments:

"But true long-term growth only comes with political and intellectual freedom, in my opinion. In that regard, virtual worlds are still very much in the dark ages, with the dev. and/or management team as sovereign. Their rule is absolute; there are no courts, parliaments, constitutions, elections, etc. None of the wonderful innovations that we often take for granted here in the real world." Link

Without freedom from arbitrary and absolute power whatever liberating force a metaverse may have is greatly diminished. It is merely replicating the conditions for the growth of the same ideologies, culture and notions of self in the real world. I would note, however, that ideological structures will develop in any world that allow for, perhaps even necessitate, the marginilsation of some people. The power of the virtual word is that it need not be the same ideology as that in the real world and therefore it may be a "better" one. Regardless of attaching a value judgment to the new ideology we should at least be able to find out what it may be.

Click here for the full article.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Where I am so far

Just a quick glimpse of a mind map I've made to get started on the project.  If you can think of anything that's missing let me know.

You can click here to see the mindmap in a proper window. The red means important by the way.


The question of why I would seek to draft a constitution for the metaverse, and why I think it might need one, is an obvious one.  I genuinely believe that any online world in which users seek some kind of autonomy from the real world cannot function satisfactorily without one.  To this you might reply that Second Life, the leading metaverse, seems to be doing just fine.  But I would question whether the benevolent dictator model for metaverses is really sustainable.  All the power in Second Life is concentrated in the hands of Linden Labs, they are the archetypal judge, jury and executioner with the added twist that they are also the law makers and the executive in the world.  I am by no means accusing Linden Labs of anything underhand in this, I recognise the efficacy of this for their business model and that without it the world may not exist, but I am questioning whether this is a system under which one would or should chose to live.

The fundamental goal of a constitution is to distribute power in such a way that it allows for a fully functioning society whilst protecting the individual from the state.  The goal is the rule of law - power under law, not under men.  To those who resist the introduction of law into the metaverse I say this: first, it need not look like the law of the real world, indeed it should not look like the law of the real world; second, law is already pervasive in the metaverse, in the form of the ToS document, copyright and contract law, law suits brought in the real world concerning metaverse events.  The only way to restrict the impact of laws not suited to the metaverse is for the metaverse to have its own.
I will attach the proposal I had to write for my project to the blog when I find a convenient way to do this.  Hopefully that will explain things with a little more clarity and in greater depth for those who are interested

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


The idea of the blog is to document the process of writing a constitution for the metaverse (online worlds like Second Life).  Simple as that.  The end result will be posted on a wiki with the hope that those who are interested will make changes and it can become a living document.

A bit of disclosure about me: I'm a Harvard master of laws student and this is my long paper project.  I'm actually British, only here for a year, having studied Law and English at Cambridge.  The most shocking revelation - I'm not an active Second Life user.  I'll blog about why later, and feel free to try and persuade me otherwise!