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01/16/2008

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Prokofy Neva

Read the information about this panel here:

http://www.holymeatballs.org/2008/01/conf_virtual_liberties_do_avat.html

I have to groan when I see the usual suspects show up at this blog -- even when I'm one myself.

Nobody Fugazi/Taran Rampersad is hastening to repudiate universality because he believes nobody can agree on it or reference it again (their previous agreement to UDHR, and these selfsame violators continued presence at the treaty body examinations would indicate otherwise).

And he makes sure we all know that he is a part of Civil Society (capital "C" and capital "S") -- which is the way the UN lifers have begun writing it in recent years, long after figures like Vaclav Havel popularized the term. Of course, we're all part of civil society, and civil society itself is something that has differing definitions.

Uncle Bill

I'm sorry, but the entire concept of 'avatar's rights' strikes me as little more than political roleplay. I could get behind consumer's rights or even human rights in this argument, but the right's of avatars rings a bit hollow.

The problem, of course, stems from the fact that there can be no RL parliamentary or legal jurisdiction in an online world unless you choose to regulate the internet itself, which is an argument with some heat to it; but not one I personally can support.

Avatar's rights? Oh please. The fact is, no matter how anyone tries to rationalize it, an avatar is just a RL user utilizing a product created by a private enterprise. Private enterprises should be able to control their own content or regulate (at the very least, have some recourse to the law) the ways in which their products are used.

I'm amazed that this is in question. Of course, maybe I'm taking this all too seriously; maybe the panel is just a political roleplay like student government or cops and robbers.

'nuff said. Had to weigh in.

Thanks for the opportunity.

Prokofy Neva

Uncle Bill, as regular readers know, you must show a first and land Second Life name to post here, or a recognizable RL or bloggers' name so that you have some accountability for your comment in this community.

Your post merely reiterates the kind of reductivism that Tateru Nino and other Platformistas show.

It rings hollow because you refuse to accord avatar rights in this context, because you feel that coders should have all the rights.

If you think that's putting words in your mouth, look at the logic of your claims: relativizing or dismissing avatar rights accords the software company all the rights as a collective all the rights and accords the user no rights in this context except what the coder deigns to give. That's unacceptable; no other private entity, especially with publicly-accessible domains, gets to act like this.

So "oh please" yourself -- no need to privilege coders any further.

Extreme privileging of rights for those who make products doesn't occur in the real world. There are all kinds of restraints for the sake of labour rights, consumer safety, and environmental protection. The idea that cyberspace is some wild new frontier where you get to exploit all the avatars just because they don't have human bodies that can suffer exploitation or poisoning isn't acceptable, because the abrogation of their rights in cyberspace matter, too, and have dismal effects of other kinds for the long term.

Why do makers of platforms get to be called serious business people who aren't role-playing, but users have to drop all claims to seriousness and business, and be herded into the stereotype of roleplay? That's not acceptable.

Uncle Bill

Of course, your blog your rules.. and I apprecite you letting my post stand w/out the requirements you hold to others. As I don't intend to flame or otherwise antagonize I hope you'll understand my desire for anonymity.

I do understand your point, however, let me present mine this way.

If I was to write a novel, for example, using MS Word or the like, I of course would not expect MS to take possession over my work. Its mine, I hold all rights. However, if I was to read a novel, written by someone else, I would not expect to be able to contact the author to make changes because I felt in some way offended. It is theirs. I have the right not to read this work, of course, but I am the consumer in the end.

In the workplace, we are subjected to non-disclosure or non-compete agreements. These are set by the employers. If I was to log into an AOL chatroom I would need to follow the TOS set by the vendor. We operate within the rules set by the source.

Now, I know that content can be created within SL, and my MS example would does defend that point, but we're looking at consumer rights still, or even copyright. However, LL is still the vendor, they have the right to set rules regarding content within their medium. Its not an uncommon practice in the RL, and not immoral or illegal for the most part.

I suppose my real issue is with the idea that my avatar is something separate from myself, instead of just a graphical representation of my logon.

TOS and other regulations I think work as a sort of localized set of rules that can be agreed upon or rejected at account creation. Don't like the game, don't play it. Don't like the book, don't read it... ad infinitum.

I'll say this: I am against any sort of international regulation of the internet or any sort of 'online police'. If a product (and it is a product, albeit one that is free for many) does not meet your expectations, find or create one that does.

Khamon

Is Uncle Bill making the point that he should have the right to post here as long as he's civil despite the fact that he insist on preserving his anonymity?

How do we convey, protect, and support the rights of an online personae that isn't reliably linked to a legal identity?

Darien Caldwell

"How do we convey, protect, and support the rights of an online personae that isn't reliably linked to a legal identity?"

That sounds very much like the description of most Avatars in Second Life. And yet, thats what this is about, affording these online personae rights, is it not?

Darien Caldwell isn't reliably linked to any legal identity, any more than Uncle Bill is. Sure, you can log into SL and see Darien Caldwell's profile, but that tells you nothing about the RL identity of the person behind the Avatar. An Avatar is a pseudonym, the amusing part is needing to assume a pseudonym to protect your pseudonym. :)

To the larger discussion, I'm on the fence. Perhaps I need to re-read all the material.

Uncle Bill

Question: Is my transparency the issue?

I'm posting a point of view, an opinion. Would specific personal information somehow validate (or invalidate) the fact that this opinion exists? Prok's article got the wheels a-turning... my post was what spewed out.

It doesn't matter who I am, does it? Would my identity in some way make my opinion something other than what it is?

Khamon

It matters who you are if, for example, you expect us to protect your right to post here without connecting "Uncle Bill" to a legal entity that can be defended. Anonymous online alt accounts don't have rights; how can they?

And to me, yes, your identity validates your opinion. But I'm one of those people that sign surveys so they'll take my input seriously knowing that I'm willing to back it up in person.

Uncle Bill

Understood. At the risk of turning this into a post debate, and, of course not intending to antagonize further.

I was under the assumption that my 'right' to post was implied, since reading these articles and posting required no logon. It seemed that this was a public forum. I was unaware that my 'rights' needed to be defended (ironically, an object lesson on the topic of my post).

Seems the moderation and dispensation of rights really IS up to a select few. Apologies, and I'll trouble you no more with my unwelcome points of view.

Khamon

Actually, posting rights here are dispensed by the owner of the blog. That seems to be Prokofy's point, that noone is considering social support for global posting rights on any blog in the sphere. Instead, we revert to the technical POV that the owner can do whatever they please with their space damnit!

I apologize for not making clear that I was only using your posting rights here as an example. Your opinions are perfectly welcome here as far as I'm concerned.

Rhys Hutton

Avatars are nothing more than what you are calling Uncle Bill.

Anonymous, until it becomes necessary to unmask them through legal means.

I can have my lawyer subpoena LL for your RL info. This illustrates that there is no need for avatar rights because it's already covered by REAL rights. While you wannabe framers of the virtual bill of rights are chasing your tails, there are real lawsuits involving the RL counterparts of avatars going on. You, of course, know this, which boggles my mind, because knowing this, you must know that it's then completely unnecessary, bureaucratic hogwash to try and create avatar rights.

And who the hell will enforce these rights? The RL courts? The police? LL? LL appointed police?

These rights would be superseded by RL rights anytime something legal comes up, whether that's suing someone for IP theft or stalking or what have you.

Furthermore, Prokofy is a liar. I used to post here, under my SL name, and he banned me, after I accidentally posted under my RL first name , which is Mark, because I had just posted under "Mark" at the Herald and typepad automatically filled it in for me. I was banned because I was critical of Prokofy and tried to illustrate his double standards. All this crap about names is just a scrim.

No Warning, no nothing, Prokofy banned both Rhys and Mark. Why don't we cut the crap here and admit that Prokofy just wants a personal avenue to use as a base to attack from and discredit and censor, rather than debating comments on their actual merit.

Back to the topic - avatar rights --- for Prokofy, is nothing more than an avenue through which to attempt to push a personal agenda disguised as some sort of "caring" about the community. It's also a palette he can use to paint others as "evil" and so on --- for if these rights existed, we would be perpetually inundated with rants about people who Prokofy thinks have violated them somehow.

What's saddening to me is that intelligent people like Khamon and others actually fall for these scrimshaw acts Prokofy puts on.

Boy am I foolish to expect that Prokofy will actually let this comment through.

Khamon

Well, wait, hey now!, actually, I believe that Prokofy is honestly afraid that the models of behaviour and responsibility, or lack thereof, that are "coded" into the wora'uld of Second Life will be the meme of virtual worlds forever. That's not true; but it's a valid fear that deserves serious concern and discussion.

It matches the fear of the AWG who firmly believe that the methods they set down for the transmission of trusted data, dare I say rights, between independent grids will be the unalterable, single standard that everyone will follow for all time.

Both make the honest mistake of believing that we all want to inhabit a single contiguous world. Both refuse to understand, even consider, that people and groups will build their own worlds, using their own standards, connecting only to other worlds they chose to trust and inhabit. In all fairness, I equally refuse to understand their myopic vision of the future capabilities and uses of gridded virtual world software.

Prokofy Neva

Khamon, um, nice try, but there's a big difference between an individual's blog, and a huge metaversal interactive user-generated world run by a company calling itself a public utility drawing people from many nations. BIG difference. And you know that, and you're just trolling.

The expectations of avatar rights in that kind of large multi-dimensional and multinational space are way more akin to the demands on a holder of a public commons or a government. They are legitimate demands, and your attempt to undercut them is troubling.

I have rules on my blog to prevent anonymous fucktards from sniping and feeling they can get away with it. I'm not required to tolerate them -- it's a simple and reasonable rule to encourage free discussing, rather than capitulating to every barbarian, as an SL avatar name isn't a revelation of a real life name such as to use the excuse of fear of retaliation.

Uncle Bill isn't making any subtle or thoughtful point as you imagine, Khamon, although you're welcome to troll with it. In fact, when he goes to a world like Second Life, he has to pick an avatar name, and sign a TOS far more strict than any TOS for my own blog. And free speech doesn't have to be calibrated to degrees of anonymity or identity security in the way you imagine in a public commons run by a public utility -- it's like a mall.

On an individual's blog, the individual can surely set up rules that ensure conversation isn't demolished by those inciting or causing damage or attacking anonymously.

I don't care if someone attacks: I care if they attack anonymously.

This trying to turn the legitimate discussion of avatar rights into yet another one of your little petulant harangues is unbecoming, Khamon, as you know better, and you know what this is about. Try to see if you can rise about such pettyness.

A need to subpoena a company guarding the identity of an anonymous avatar is a real-life need of a human being with rights, say, with copyright to skins that were stolen. I could be exactly like Tateru here and say that's important, but off topic.

I don't see why that issue of how to guard copyright, a human's set of rights as a human in the real world, should distract from the very real problem of the violation of these rights in cyberspace by game companies who imagine they are special (and who have coteries and cabals of coders like those weighing in right here in this threat to protect their ominipotence against all comers).

Rhys Hutton is banned for not using his Second Life name, and using a real-life name that conveys no identity -- if that's the case. His SL name he's putting here to try to "obey the letter of the law but not the spirit" is completely blank except for the 7/06 date and the group "Bub's Underwear Models," which let's us know he's old-time FIC.

Of course, "Rhys" is not at all in good faith here, as he had a long history as Rhys sniping and attacking -- so when I discovered, when I went in world, that Rhys Hutton was not a bona-fide SL avatar but just an alt being used to pretend "compliance," I had no problem in banning him.

Tell us your real Second Life name, and you can post here, "Rhys".

This sort of shenanigans is a total literalist and manipulative maneuver around the rule, acting in bad faith, merely to try to impugn the blog owner's simple directive to create accountability in discussions, and create a false problem of "the blog owner is violating avatar rights so how can he demand them of Linden Lab".

The fact that this anonymous fucktard -- and that's what you have to call such malicious creatures -- then has to use anonymizers to get around this rule *again* is proof of ill intent.

A person in good faith, who had accidently posted in this fashion would have simply IM'd or emailed the owner, explained the issue, and asked to be unbanned.

I think the smart observer will see why we need avatar rights: those who violate them and oppress them are prepared to go any lengths to undo them, and to try to distract from the real violators by trying to create a straw man fake violator of someone who bans abusive posters who refuse to use their SL name.

I don't believe in debating comments "on their merits" when their posters are not operating in good faith, and using cheap tactics to get around legitimate rules and distract from the larger problems of violation of avatar rights.

Prokofy Neva

Uncle Bill and Rhys Hutton are IP banned for failure to use Second Life first and last names. Rhys' avatar is a blank meant to be manipulative of the rule.

This is a normal and acceptable rule, and the fact that their posts are allowed to stand as they are warned and banned lets you know that it's not about their content.

I don't like engaging illegitimate interlocutors, so they can post the real SL names they really use in SL for their main activity if they are sincere.

I'm also not seeing anything new in argumentation that keeps saying "coders' rights should be privileged over all other rights and freedom of creativity should be maximalized to the point of absurdity."

Real responsible game gods are making avatar rights (Go Pet, Raph Koster). Real virtual worlds trying to balance business needs and consumer rights try to enlarge the rights as much as they can (i.e. unlike many game companies. LL has no rule against criticizing LL itself just on generic grounds, nor any ban on discussion of its competitors, as you will find in the MMORPG universe).

As usual, it's the coders themselves, unrestrained even by the restraints of a business corporation, that are trying to maximalize the suppression of avatar rights.

Khamon Fate

I've no problem supporting the rights of real people using an Internet service. My question is "how will those rights be protected when they're attributed to an anonymous account?"

Avatars are people too. Okay, fine, but only if they're attached to real people e.g. Rhys apparently isn't so has no posting rights here.

BTW posting rights here is just meant to be a microcosmic example. I sometimes forget that we can't talk about virtual world issues in relational terms because it's automatically labeled analogous and attacked from the angle that every tiny little aspect of the "example" doesn't relate to the fine detail of the real world.

You'd think I'd learn.

Ann Otoole

my identity doesn't make anything i say valid. :P

Cale Vinson

Prokofy:

I'm trying to get a handle on why you speak of "avatar rights" rather than "user rights". Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm assuming this is a deliberate choice that you see as leading to some greater understanding - you would certainly attract less opposition from the coder types if you used the latter terminology.

What do *you* define as an "avatar"? Surely it can't be just the body shape that other people see in SL? Because if it was, and you logged onto SL on a particularly buggy day where your avatar failed to render, you'd have your "rights" stripped from you.

If the "avatar" is the thing that moves around the world, buys stuff, etc, does that mean that landbots and AI avatars have "rights"? I'm sure that like me you have run into a few residents in SL for whom a quite unsophisticated AI program would be able to mimic some of the conversations. :)

Your comments about your banning from the blog confuse me. Isn't posting to the blog an out-of-world activity? If your banning there is an issue of avatar rights, why is your SL avatar not effected in-world?

Khamon Fate

ha ha apparently neither does mine

Prokofy Neva

Oh, I totally repudiate this idea of "user rights" -- it's a distraction, and totally pernicious.

It relegates people -- human beings, bearing rights -- to the second-class or worse status of a mere user of software. They become merely a tool at the end of the tool the coders made.

Coders are absolutely arbitrary and capricious about user rights. If they want, they impart administrative mode, or if they want they don't, or if they want they make something easy for a user, or if they want to be contrary and obnoxious, they don't.

User "rights" are right down there at the bottom of the barrel with the precious, but still very, very limited bottle-returner rights.

"User rights" is a smokescreen which really should be stated as "user permissions" or "user access". There's no absolute or universality or even kindly convention -- the games have a wide range of abusiveness, as we know.

As i've said a million times, the exit clause as a solution to everything also rots. It's nothing more than a forced migration policy, that's all, it completely dumps the problem of rights back on to the hapless victim of violation, making him shop in vain for his rights anew.

The only kind of places that do that in real life are like the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs or the American Motor Vehicles Department, and it's no accident, comrade, that both have the same initials and the exact same ladies in them telling you that you're at the wrong window, at the wrong time, with the wrong form.

The idea that my rights depend on physical manifestation is pretty stupid. In real life, if my legs are amputed, I haven't lost half my rights. I may then have to turn to agitating for rights of the disabled, but my basic set of civil rights aren't diminished. If I'm only 5 feet tall, I don't have less rights than a 7 feet tall person. This is the kind of sappy literalism for which tekkies are known the world around and increasingly despised.

A bot is a tool scripted to perform automatic functions. Dolls and stuffed animals are manufactured to do functions like that too for children especially, they can hug them. That doesn't make them have rights.

An avatar is an extension of a human being. The bot is an extension of the human being's script.

As for the Lindens' notion of what is inworld or outworld, that's a whole story in itself. Bans from the blog don't also apply to your access to the world. It's an arbitrary decision LL makes.

They did make me the last case of a person banned permanently, but not banned inworld, and then immediately, the next day, announced a law that some called "Prok's Law" because it said that if you are permabanned from the forums, you are permabanned from SL completely. This was their way of trying to scare Ulrika and other forum baddies. They didn't make good on this threat, as they allowed all of them, like Siggy Romulus, etc. to just endlessly and malicious troll and attack and harass, and never did a thing.

Today, I don't there are any cases you can point to of a double permaban. They didn't stick to their own policy.

I view posting on SL forums as a function within the realm of Second Life, and not an outworld activity.

Cale Vinson

Prokofy:

Thanks for your reply. I didn't think you'd be very keen on "user rights", but I'm working hard not to put words in anyone's mouth.

OK, so we're talking about "avatar rights", but I note that you did not answer my question of what *you* define as an avatar for the purposes of the current discussion. I don't think bots have rights either - I raised them only to demonstrate that the common definition of an "avatar" (that figure we see walking around in SL) is evidently not the definition of "avatar" we're using in "avatar rights".

I never said that your rights depend on physical manifestation. Indeed my non-rezzing avatar thought-experiment suggests quite the opposite.

"I view posting on SL forums as a function within the realm of Second Life, and not an outworld activity."

This seems a difficult position to maintain, given that one could gain an SL account and post on blogs/forums without ever logging in to SL. In fact, aren't there significant numbers of people who create an account and never log in?

Prokofy Neva

I've just defined it, and repeated myself many times: the avatar is an extension of a human being, but it is a manifestation of a human being, not some mere tool; in an immersive 3-D environment, it is an authentic being.

I have always said the avatar is the window of the soul. People's avatars aren't always like their real-life selves, they may be a kind of sub-conscious or alter ego or daemon like in the Golden Compass, who knows, it needs research. The HarvarD Business Review was the first to speculate about the economic significance of beings that inhabit online spaces and shop for things that the typist never shops for.

You said that if the non-rezzing avatar happened, that was a diminishing of rights, same thing.

I think the significant numbers of people who make an account and don't log in are like a lot of people who make a dozen Yahoo accounts they never use. People who bother to post on forums will be the kind to log in.

Prokofy Neva

BTW, some of these debaters think those of us advocating for avatar rights are somehow men in tights, role-players who take game spaces or virtuality too seriously and imagine its real, and that's why we think our avatars are real in some magical way.

But that's silly. It's just the opposite. It's precisely because I think cyberspace and virtual worlds are an extension of human beings that I think it's perfectly normal to expect that their rights following along with them into these worlds.

It's the game gods who think there are these magic circles and spellbound realms where they can freeze or reverse rights. They're the problem; their worlds are the problem; they violate rights.

Cale Vinson

"I've just defined it, and repeated myself many times: the avatar is an extension of a human being, but it is a manifestation of a human being, not some mere tool; in an immersive 3-D environment, it is an authentic being."

The first two properties (extension/manifestation) taken alone would mean that "avatar" was so broad a term as to be useless. But of course, you go on to add the immersive 3-D environment requirement, which narrows the definition nicely. Am I right in assuming that you ascribe particular transformative powers to such an environment?

The "authentic being" component is interesting - I would have thought that one of the requirements for being-hood (as it were), is independance from other beings, in the sense that the non-existences of being-A will not automatically result in the non-existence of being-B.

"I have always said the avatar is the window of the soul. People's avatars aren't always like their real-life selves, they may be a kind of sub-conscious or alter ego or daemon like in the Golden Compass, who knows, it needs research. The HarvarD Business Review was the first to speculate about the economic significance of beings that inhabit online spaces and shop for things that the typist never shops for."

And yet, a complaint often levelled at SL is its banality - that people have this world in which they can do anything, but many of them chose to simply mirror the real-world. I'd suggest that the incredible demand for clothing, cars, and conventional housing indicates that the vast majority (though certainly not all) of people in SL are quite like their RL selves. In some cases they may *appear* different to their RL self, and this may simply indicate that their RL true self is not readily observable, as in the case of the transgendered person who may have chosen to hide their true self in RL for any number of obvious reasons.

This point is important I think. **IF** people's SL selves were generally different to their RL selves, then you could argue that when one logged into SL a being different to the RL being was "created", and because of this difference may need to have a different set of rights to the RL being. But I don't think this is correct, as the premise is false.

I'm going to leave the remaining two points alone, for the sake of brevity. :)

Prokofy Neva

Cale, you seem to be one of these literalist tekkies deprived of common sense, artificially creating problems.

You have a problem defining avatar as an extension of a human being? Why? An avatar has a first and last name in Second Life, and is a set of software features operated by a human being. As I said, a bot is a function of a *script* operated by that human being, not the direct extension of the human being. I made that clear.

If you have trouble picking out the manifestations of human beings in SL from the bots, prims, particles, etc., perhaps Second Life is not for you. I suggest you might have perception problems in real life, too, as you might not be able to be sure that your own arm is distinct from the body of the person sitting next to you in the subway.

You also sound like the typical elitist tekkie and designer who sneers at people he imagines to be in the lower classes with mass taste. It irritates you that people use software that you think should be used for, oh, I dunno, making fractals or exploding stuff, for making or buying a car. You find that terribly low-brow and tacky and you'd like us all to know you're superior to that person.

Don't be. It's all relative. I'm sure you have tacky consumer patterns relative to somebody who is richer and more important than you.

It doesn't bother me if somebody comes on SL, makes an avatar that is the photorealistic copy of their real life self, and goes and buys a car exactly like the one in real life. Even if the extension of the self is "banal" in your view, it's still an extension of the self. That self is able to fly, etc. so obviously it's not some exact replica. It's not for you to judge selectively what this window to the soul looks like.

There isn't any false premise, because people's on-line personas have a set of behaviours that is not only defined by their consumption.

The avatar is indeed a being that is different than a real life being. It can fly, delete things at a whim, etc. And it is in a realm which is immersive and realistic and interactive. It is a human being manifesting in a compelling dimension that for all practical purposes mimics real life, or simulates real life in some or all aspects and creates even a richer meta-life.

You may not find a villa on the beach a desirable goal for your online alter-ego, but the person who does doesn't have a diminished being or lesser rights as a result.

I find this cultural relativism really shocking. I always uncover new and horrible dimensions to the geek religion. Here's a guy who is such an extreme Randian or Darwinist or whatever that he's willing to tie rights to aesthetics. That is, if he doesn't find a human aesthetic enough, or pleasing enough to his tastes of what consumption should be, he's not willing to accord to him the full set of rights.

Uncle Bill

So, just to clarify...

How is an avatar not just an extension of the user? The way I see it, 'avatar rights' would imply that the avatar is something wholly other. 'I' could not have a conversation with my avatar, no more than I could have a conversation with my car. The avatar is not an individual.

Now, this is the point where we can discuss consumer advocacy governing avatar protection, discrimination against users.

(as for my desire for anonymity, why open myself up to griefers online? I just wanted to share a point.)

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