Virtual ambulance chasers at the ready?

I am very sorry I will not get to attend the August 19 – 22 State of Play, Building the Global Metaverse conference in Singapore. I would soak up the discussions about how to navigate the legal mazes resulting from cross-cultural wrangling. The cross cultural wrangling is happening in online worlds because people from countries with widely different ideas about intellectual property, free speech, privacy, cultural norms and more can get up close and personal and aggravate one another in ways they might not be able to in real life.

If you are not feeling bad for me or taking this seriously yet, consider that the global conference is being run by American law schools during an era in which the Liverpool Philharmonic is playing in Second Life.Global metaverses are indeed serious business with serious issues stacking up, mainly due to mankind’s virtual inhumanity to virtual man.

The issues stem from the fact that while virtual, online living spaces reach through borders and across cultures, human understanding does not. Someone needs to be ready to sort out the international legal problems in what may be a cyber wild west frontier, hence the ambulance chasers are at the ready.

Lack of serious legal attention to the online worlds would be a neglect of serious proportions. I was shocked to read that “Cyworld, a South Korean Web community site, boasts one-third of the country’s population as its residents” AND ” Last June, close to 10,000 Chinese players rioted within The Fantasy of the Journey West to protest the presence of what they thought was Japan’s national flag.”

If you are still not convinced this is serious business, consider the statement on the State of Play website: These virtual worlds are crucial building blocks of global civil society.

Whoa, there! Metaverse folks, let’s not take ourselves toooo seriously or let our avatars get a little too full of themselves. I may be missing the State of Play conference, but here in New Hampshire, I can console myself by going to hear the presidential candidates down at the diner, or listen to my husband reflect on his year that just ended serving at the Academy of Public Administration in Moldova. They might disagree with just what constitutes the “crucial building blocks of global civil society.”

Might they say crucial building blocks consist of an informed electorate who has access to the candidates for in-depth questions and answer sessions? Might they say a government characterized by transparency is a building block of a civil society?

I find virtual worlds fascinating, but I caution against becoming so enamoured of them that we forget to reach out in a civil way to the person next to us.

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