Second Life is a feudal system

Paul Raven @ 22-01-2009

a castle in Second LifeThe Yale Law Journal has been doing an interesting set of discussions on the legal and economic aspects of synthetic worlds and metaverses. Bruce Sterling flagged one up that analyses the land ownership system in Second Life, and concludes that the closest real life analogy to the system would be good old-fashioned feudalism:

We can resolve this tension by describing a user’s interest as seisin rather than as ownership. A tenant seised of land had sworn homage to the lord from whom he held. In exchange, the lord symbolically delivered the tenant into possession. Thereafter, the tenant owed the lord various services and feudal incidents, and in return the lord was obliged to defend his possession against outsiders to the relationship. Every element of this system maps cleanly onto Second Life. A user swears homage by clicking “I agree” to Linden’s terms and conditions; Linden delivers her into possession by changing an appropriate database entry. She owes tier fees in place of feudal incidents; Linden defends her possession via software-based access controls.

Sub-letting is pretty common in Second Life as well, which just goes to enhance the analogy; given Linden Lab’s history of making sweeping, drastically unpopular and incontestable choices about the way they run their virtual world, I doubt you’d have many objections to the analogy from residents, either.

But what does this mean for the legal types themselves? The report concludes:

This analysis of the feudal dimensions of Second Life should make us optimistic about the legal future of virtual worlds. After all, for all its flaws, feudalism was a functional organization of society—indeed a better one than some of the alternatives.

In other words, “leave it be, it’s getting there slowly”. Eventually synthetic worlds with the complexity and infrastructure to support modern property rights will emerge… at which point the nice guys from Yale will no doubt find they’ve have been beaten to the punch by a stampede of virtual ambulance-chasers. [image by Torley]


Science-fictional property for sale – US$1.5m o.n.o.

Paul Raven @ 26-09-2007

ICBMbase Via Chris Nakashima-Brown comes news of a real bargain in the offing – you could be the proud owner of a very Ballardian ICBM base located somewhere in Washington State, provided you have the necessary cash up front. [Image borrowed from linked BBC item.]

CastleBranDracula For those with a more horror/dark fantasy bent, maybe you’d prefer to buy Castle Bran, allegedly (and controversially) claimed as the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Castle Dracula. It’s a mite more pricey than the missile base, however – you’re looking at a cool 40 million in UK Pound Sterling, or thereabouts. [Image from National Geographic]

[tags]homes, property, weird[/tags]

Ginko Financial – beleaguered virtual bank or collapsed ponzi scheme?

Paul Raven @ 06-08-2007

Penny coinsMuch like the early incarnations of the web itself, there are a few tried and tested ways of making money in Second Life: porn is one, of course, and another is financial confidence trickery. The jury is still out over whether Ginko Financial – a Second Life banking scheme that offered 60% (yes, sixty) interest on deposits – fits the latter category; what is certain is that, after a sudden rush of withdrawal requests, Ginko don’t have the liquid assets to give the money back … and they’re none too forthcoming about what exactly they’ve done with it all, either. Common consensus seems to label the whole thing as one huge ponzi scheme, but only time will tell … probably very little time, in fact.

There are other ways of making money in the metaverse, though, with new ones appearing or rising to prominence all the time. Maybe virtual property is a smart business investment for the near future. [Image by Tanya Ryno]


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