Three presentations in this parallel session.
The first was my own, “Law in the Last Mile: Three Stories of Wireless Internet Access”. I will make the paper available shortly. I write about the legal restrictions and risks associated with the sharing of Internet access through wifi, the objections to municipal or community wifi systems, and touch on the ‘white spaces’ Internet access proposals. The bulk of the paper deals with the first, looking at what I argue is the inappropriate use of criminal sanctions against users of open wireless access points and the tools that discourage users from sharing. I believe photos were taken of the special interactive element, which I’ll leave as a surprise for the time being.
The second presentation was given by Anniina Huttunen on behalf of a research group at Helsinki, “Cooling-Off the Over-Heated Discussion of Consumer Digital Rights Discourse by Extending the Cooling-Off Period to Digital Services”. They take as a starting point the problem that there is a high level of protection for physical goods, but almost non-existent for digital services. Consumers are more empowered than ever, and the Facebook user revolt is an example of this, but what is the position of online purchases of software? There is the familiar cooling-off period in EU law – no penalties and no reason needed – for situations like doorstep, time sharing and distance selling. The case study is on software sold as downloaded data. Referring to the revision of the consumer acquis: 34th recital, data files downloaded during cooling-off period not to be included, unfair to allow cooling-off when service enjoyed in full or part. At the moment, many providers have a return policy (well hidden), and also ‘lite versions’ available, or restrictions on return (i.e. download for a second time). The pros of allowing cooling-off are allowing testing of technical and contextual compatibility; no unreasonable cost (physical return) and no wear and tear (so no need to re-sell the product at a lower price), but the cons are the expense for the developer, the design consequences, and seeming to make unauthorised use easier.
The final presentation was Scott Boone’s, ‘Why Study Virtual Worlds‘? It was a report on his own efforts but also evangelical – so that we can consider the advantages. There’s some cynicism – ‘this generation’s D&D’, also critiques that it’s just a fad/hype. But VW give us a means to study possible futures. Borrowing from the discipline of Future Studies, look at simulation gaming (formerly operational gaming). Do things that we can’t do with a real world in terms of understanding scenarios. VWs have a unique set of features and practices, and indeed more focused than the Internet taken as a whole. Already in use are 3D as user interface; what sorts of benefits do we get? and the ‘future of money’ (note disappearance of fiscal currency and privatisation of money). The focus of the paper was then on five potential outcomes of studying virtual worlds: (A) fully realised third paradigm of computing: (1) mainframe/client, (2) personal computing, (3) ubiquitous/pervasive : entirely computer-mediated ‘universe’?; (B) widespread distribution of property without relinquishment of control – do we have emerging issues here – cars on the cellphone model, control separated from use; (C) (nearly) perfect DRM for media distribution – see what the market does; (D) software designed for universal connectivity; this will be a different authorisation, practice etc. Look at business models, EULAs etc (E) augmented reality (though how do we do this without putting in all the variables?) In questions, Boone clarified that his focus was on studying virtual worlds as they currently exist, rather than creating simulations in future virtual worlds (though this too is interesting).
This is the last of my blog updates on the SCRIPTed conference at the University of Edinburgh. Remember, the full list of papers is available here. I will return to the themes of the conference (including the keynote by Prof. Bartha Knoppers) in a later post, and hope that you have enjoyed these fairly rambling updates. There will be one final session that, unfortunately I will miss most of for travel reasons, featuring Lilian Edwards, Andres Guadamuz and TJ McIntyre, which I’m sure will be excellent.