Freedom, Privacy, Property and Personal Security
in Avatar Cyberspace
A new frontier has opened on the Internet: the virtual world.
Virtual worlds combine visual virtual reality with text-based
electronic community such as MUDs and chat environments. No longer
limited to just an email address or alias handle, people can now
represent themselves visually in a digital costume called an "avatar"
and travel through two and three dimensional landscapes spreading
out across the Internet. The new citizens of these worlds communicate
in text and voice, engage in shared learning and collaborative
work and build simple structures or entire virtual worlds of their
own. This "avatar Cyberspace" is growing rapidly, with
total user population in mid 1996 exceeding 250,000.
We will begin the session with a guided tour of several virtual worlds running live on the Internet and review numerous cases from the two year history virtual worlds which raise serious questions of freedom, privacy, property and personal security. Some of the virtual worlds and cases to be demonstrated (and the world providers) include:
We will conclude the session by posing a series of open ended questions and soliciting audience input.
The virtual worlds medium inherits many of the same issues of freedom and privacy discussed at past CFP conferences. However, the virtual worlds medium creates some new twists:
There are far more questions surrounding this medium, and we expect
that the CFP97 attendees will quickly expand on this list.
End of session proposal.
Further Background Information on the Consortium
The Contact Consortium was formed in early 1995 as a non-profit
forum for the emerging medium of virtual worlds on the Internet.
Providing our extensive academic expertise in the sciences of
human communities to the builders of virtual worlds, we hope to
enrich this powerful new medium of human contact. We are serving
as a neutral forum for the development of standards and the discussion
of technical and social issues arising in the "avatar Cyberspace"
of virtual worlds. Lastly, we carry out extensive trans-national
exercises and research in the medium, having built and administered
a virtual village, hosted social gatherings and constructed a
virtual university campus. More information about the Consortium,
its activities and membership can be found at http://www.ccon.org.
Member and other companies participating in our educational and research programs currently include:
Intel, Phillips, Nortel, Worlds Incorporated, Black Sun Interactive,
Microsoft, Fujitsu, America Online, IDS, Construct, Nippon Telegraph
and Telephone Software, The Palace Inc., Match.com, Paragraph
International, 3rd Dimension, DimensionX, and others.
Biography of the presenter
Bruce Damer is a founding director of the Contact Consortium,
a key forum and standards body for virtual worlds on the Internet.
He is author of Avatars, Addison Wesley Longman (1997) and a featured
speaker on social issues in avatar Cyberspace at conferences such
as ACM CHI, CSCW, SIGGRAPH, MediARTech, the American Association
of Anthropologists and other venues. He has written numerous articles
on the subject and appears on radio and television.