the Virtual Policy Network (tVPN)

is a think tank dedicated to stimulating a balanced policy debate about virtual worlds, online games and other convergent media - with the goal of maximizing the social good of these technologies.

tVPN brings together industry, policy makers, academics and civil society through events, research projects and online debate. This site contains a database of policy resources including briefings, event summaries and videos, and guides to global governance any policy making.

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SCT13: The Digital Rights Movement

In episode 13 of Social Change Technology Burcu Bakioglu (Postdoctoral Fellow in New Media at Lawrence University) returns to talks to Hector Postigo about his new book The Digital Rights Movement: The Role of Technology in Subverting Digital Copyright. Hector is Associate Professor in the Department of Broadcasting, Telecommunications, and Mass Media in the School of Communications and Theater at Temple University. In the podcast Burcu and Hector discuss the complex relationships between technology, law and emergent social movements such as what became known as the digital rights movement.

To make sure you catch every episode, you can subscribe to Social Change Technology on iTunes or via our RSS feed.

Hector Postigo phd
Hector’s research focuses on new digital media and cultural production both large and small.  His endeavors  have centered on 2 areas of inquiry within cultural production.  The first interrogates notions of value, participation, and “free” labor on the internet. I have looked at a number of “sites” as case studies to ask: what kinds of value does the work of fan communities, volunteers and others add to commercial enterprises?  What are their (industry and user) norms, practices and values? And how do they engage with technologies/laws/policies that afford or frustrate participation?   He was one of the first researchers to study video game fan communities that make valuable modifications to popular PC games (modders), for example, and  has written on the history of AOL volunteer communities and their labor disputes.Hector’s second line of research focuses on technologically mediated activism.  He interrogates this topic generally by asking how technological resistance structures activism in social movements? He is concerned with how ICTs, hacks, workarounds and other circumvention and organization measures might impact the role of individuals and organizations bent on social change.  His own contributions in that vein have centered on the digital rights or free culture movement and their use of technological measures as a form of activism.  Source:
The movement against restrictive digital copyright protection arose largely in response to the excesses of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998. In The Digital Rights Movement, Hector Postigo shows that what began as an assertion of consumer rights to digital content has become something broader: a movement concerned not just with consumers and gadgets but with cultural ownership. Increasingly stringent laws and technological measures are more than incoveniences; they lock up access to our “cultural commons.” Postigo describes the legislative history of the DMCA and how policy “blind spots” produced a law at odds with existing and emerging consumer practices. Yet the DMCA established a political and legal rationale brought to bear on digital media, the Internet, and other new technologies. Drawing on social movement theory and science and technology studies, Postigo presents case studies of resistance to increased control over digital media, describing a host of tactics that range from hacking to lobbying. Postigo discusses the movement’s new, user-centered conception of “fair use” that seeks to legitimize noncommercial personal and creative uses such as copying legitimately purchased content and remixing music and video tracks. He introduces the concept of technological resistance–when hackers and users design and deploy technologies that allows access to digital content despite technological protection mechanisms–as the flip side to the technological enforcement represented by digital copy protection and a crucial tactic for the movement.s. Source: Publisher
Dr Burcu Bakioglu

Burcu is a researcher examining the social, cultural, and economic variables that affect the production of cross-media experiences. Burcu’s research adopts a broader understanding of virtual spaces that includes not only 3D environments but also printed works and social media, as ultimately, these platforms generate virtual spaces in which users can produce and share various visual representations and experiences. As such, the collaborative storytelling initiatives that are taking place through these platforms facilitate the online performances of any given work, thereby enabling it to come alive, albeit within slightly different contexts. Burcu is Postdoctoral Fellow in New Media at Lawrence University.

Show Links

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The Ethics of ARGs
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Podcast music: “For the Horde” kindly provided by 100 Robots.

Twitter Joke Trial

On 27 June 2012, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales ruled on the case that has come to be know as the Twitter joke trial.

Paul Chambers had been convicted for sending a tweet that jokingly threatened to blow up an airport. In overturning the decision the High Court concluded that a tweet that is clearly a joke and is intended and perceived as such is not ‘menacing’ and thus is not a criminal offence.

This is an important case for basic rights of free speech and the operation of the internet as we know it.

For the details of the legal reasoning behind the judgment see below [note that this summary is not written by a lawyer and should not be taken as legal advice].

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UK Consumer Rights in Digital Content

On the 13th July 2012 the UK Government’s Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) launched a consultation titled “Consultation on enhancing consumer confidence by clarifying consumer law” *. The consultation proposes a range of options that seek to harmonise UK consumer law. What marks this out for digital industries such as social media, cloud computing, computer games and others is that as part of the consultation the UK Government is proposing options for a set of consumer rights designed specifically for ‘Digital Content’. What’s more the consultation document includes a number of examples from computer games. The deadline for the consultation is 5 October 2012.

This is not of mere intellectual interest. Some of the options proposed in the consultation will have an impact on any and all providers of digital content and / or related services available to consumers in the UK. Indeed, the consultation is quite specific that the proposed consumer rights will also apply to non-UK based services and that the consumer rights cannot be contracted out of.

The full consultation document is over 250 pages long and there are two related documents. The questions asked in the consultation are wide-ranging and detailed. They span from whether digital content should even be considered as a separate category to specific questions about remedies. The summary below points out the key elements of the digital section of the consultation. However because of its length and depth, if you are a business considering responding you are advised to read the full work and see professional advice and your relevant trade association(s), the full set of links for the consultation and response options are as follows:

tVPN will be putting together a response to the consultation from a civil society / academic point of view (as we believe that industry responses are being created by trade associations).

The tVPN response can be found in this Google Document which is open to public comment. If you want edit access to the document email us: info AT virtualpolicy DOT net.

Continue reading “UK Consumer Rights in Digital Content”

SCT #12: The Ethics of ARGs

In episode 12 of Social Change Technology Dr Burcu Bakioglu (Postdoctoral Fellow in New Media at Lawrence University) returns to talk to Andrea Phillips the award-winning transmedia writer, Alternate Reality Game designer and author.

This podcast focuses on some of the fascinating ethical and legal issues brought about by ARGs (Alternate Reality Games).  What makes ARGs unique is that they are played out in the physical world but they inhabit a conceptual spaces that not only sits somewhere between fiction and reality but actively blurs the boundaries between the two. In the podcast Andrea draws on case studies of actual ARGs to ask  - can you sign a friend up for a game that might make them feel threatened? Should players every be asked to break real-world rules, if so, which ones? And, if you listen to your lawyers and add a legal disclaimer to every part of your game – is the fiction shattered, ruining the game for everyone?

To make sure you catch every episode, you can subscribe to Social Change Technology on iTunes or via our RSS feed.

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SCT #11: Legal News Round up with Jas Purewal

This episode of Social Change Technology is a games and tech legal news roundup with solicitor Jas Purewal from law firm Osborne Clark. Jas is better known on the internet as @GamerLaw on twitter and editor of the Gamer Law web site.

In the show we look at three items of recent news: the Infinity Ward case, the state of free to play gaming and the UK courts ordering a number of ISPs to blocking the Pirate Bay website.

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SCT #10: TL Taylor and the rise of eSports

In Episode 10 of Social Change Technology TL Taylor talks about her new book Raising The Stakes: E-Sports and the Professionalization of Computer Gaming. This work, like TL’s previous book Play Between Worlds, focuses on the interplay between people, technology and institutions.

In the podcast, TL charts the rise of e-sport / professional computer gaming from early arcade competitions through the LAN-party scene to the rise of e-sports leagues in South Korea, the US, and Europe. The evolution of professionalisation fo computer games has brought with it a reconsideration of what computer games and sports are, what it is to be a competitor and spectator. The growth of professionalisation has not been without its conflicts such as the relatively recent debacle between Blizzard (makers of World of Warcraft, StarCraft etc) and the South Korean e-sports body KeSPA. TL explains how ownership of the electronic ’field of play’ has become contested as have player performances - a legal issue also recently seen in traditional sports.

To make sure you catch it, you can subscribe to Social Change Technology on iTunes or via our RSS feed.

Continue reading “SCT #10: TL Taylor and the rise of eSports”

SCT #9 Federal Consortium For Virtual Worlds 2012

In Episode 9 of Social Change Technology Ren Reynolds talks to Paulette Robinson phd from the US National Defense University’s iCollege about this years’ Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds conference. It will be be held in Washington DC from 16th – 18th of May 2012, and over the internet via live streams and virtual world based meetings. The event is free to watch over the internet but it’s asked that you register.

This year’s conference features speaker from a range of backgrounds including Jesse Schell who some may know from his 2012 DICE talk Design Outside the Box and his recent book The Art of Game Design. Other speakers include Randy Hinrichs from the University of Washington, Michelle Fox from the US Department of Energy and Charles Wankel from St John’s University New York.

In the podcast, Ren and Paulette talk about the future of virtual worlds as enterprise tools in the context that most organisations are seeing a drastic reduction in travel budgets. One of the biggest challenges faced by large organisations such as the US Federal Government in the adoption of virtual worlds has been the security issues of accessing something on the internet with a proprietary application and protocol. The market has now changed so that there are a range of virtual world options that either sit ‘within the firewall’ or that use standard interfaces such as browsers. They also discuss the future of virtual words not as a thing apart from other applications or our lives but as things that we may slide in and out of.

If you are interested in this podcast you may also like From Ghana to Second Life – public diplomacy in the digital age our interview with Bill May about the US State Departments’ use of Virtual Worlds and social media. To make sure you catch all the episodes of  Social Change Technology subscribe on iTunes or via our RSS feed.

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SCT #8: What’s social about social games?

Episode 8 of Social Change Technology explores the social aspects of so-called social games with Dr Mia Consalvo of Concordia University and Ron Miners of Electronic Arts.

In the episode Ren, Mia, and Ron talk about what we mean by ’social games’ and the social conventions and norms that are emerging from them. For example the common practice of gift giving has been adopted by main games as a key part of the play mechanic. However, in some social games this voluntary action has morphed into a social obligation on our socially-networked co-players; a process which in turn has been automated to such a degree that it has almost lost touch with the notion of gift giving that inspired it.

The podcast also covers the relationship between our social / family identity, as expressed in Facebook, and our our gamer identity. Do our social relations constrain our game actions? Do our game actions re-construct our social world? For example, in games that have ‘relationship’ options, are people prepared to have an in-game partner who is not an out-of-game partner, are people prepared to play a different gender or sexuality – all to achieve game play goals?

Make sure you catch every episode of  Social Change Technology by subscribing on iTunes or via our RSS feed.

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SCT #7: Rita J. King and the Robots

In episode 7 of Social Change Technology we speak to Rita J. King of Science House, New York. Rita is EVP of Business Development and head of Science House Creative.

In the episode Ren Reynolds talks to Rita King about the work that Science House does to bring ‘hard science’ together with business. They touch on the range of Science House’s work from being a start-up incubator based in New York to outreach programmes bringing science education to children around the world.

One area covered in greater detail in the podcast is that of the actual and perceived future of robotics. Rita raises the issue of robots as a new source of possible technogenic disaster in the minds of media and the public alike. That is, the idea that robots may bring about some catastrophic global event – think the Terminator’s Skynet or the robot takeover in the Matrix or AI for popular science fiction interpretations of such a catastrophe.

Such notions have recently been taken up from various angles by academics such as Sherry Turkle, who has written about the ethics of the emotional bonds that humans may form with robots. At the other end of the spectrum a research team at Georgia Tech has been looking at military robots with the capacity to deceive.

All this has given rise to conferences such as the inaugural We Robot conference on legal and policy issues relating to robotics, held in Miami in April of 2012. It should be noted that academic communities such as those researching ethics of technology (See: ELTHICOMP and CEPE), law of emerging technology (see Gikii), and specialised research areas such as the ethics of tele-care have been researching this for some years.

In future episodes we hope to have more on the social, legal and policy implications of robotics. To make sure you catch it, you can subscribe to Social Change Technology on iTunes or via our RSS feed.

Continue reading “SCT #7: Rita J. King and the Robots”

Welcome to Social Change Technology

Since launching our podcast in February 2012 we’ve had some great guests and a fantastic response. After six episodes and a short break we have decided to change the title of the podcast to better reflect the content and guests. The most fitting name seems to be “Social Change Technology” – as what the Virtual Policy Network and the podcast is about is how technology and society shape each other.

With our new title and some new voices we have a fantastic range of guests and content lined up for your listening pleasure.