Remembering Greg Lastowka

I learned yesterday that Prof. Greg Lastowka (Rutgers) died this week at the age of 46. He had been ill for a year. Notices here, here, and here.

Greg was a great scholar of law and technology, and his 2010 book Virtual Justice: the new laws of online worlds made a major impact. His opening chapter, tracing the role of law from Cardiff Castle to Cinderella’s Castle (Walt Disney World) to Dagger Isle Castle (Britannia, in Ultima Online), is possibly one of the best introductions ever written to an academic book. Since it was published in 2010, I have asked students to read it on at least one course every year; generously, the book was made available for free download, here. His other writing, and his enthusiastic blogging at Terra Nova, reached a wide audience.

I had the pleasure of meeting Greg in person twice. The circumstances speak to his particular approach to his work. We had corresponded intermittently (not least after this tongue in cheek blog post of 2008), and I had hoped to submit an abstract for an event he was organising. Due to an injury I didn’t get myself together in time. So, Greg invited me to join a panel he was putting together (including his sometime co-author, Dan Hunter) for the conference (“The Game Behind The Video Game”, in New Brunswick, NJ in April 2011), and encouraged me to come – even though I wasn’t sure what I would be able to add. During the event itself, which reflected his wide interests and connections in the world of gaming, he was welcoming, funny and interesting – and we even had a chance to talk about shared interests in lesser-used languages and technology (as many obituaries point out, Greg wrote a Turkmen-English dictionary in the 1990s!).

I last encountered Greg, in virtual form, in an exchange of emails in 2013, where (again typically) he wrote a very thoughtful peer review for a journal issue I was editing, offered good wishes on a recent job change, and hoped to stop by on a visit to Scotland.

Greg made a really substantial contribution to how we think about law, technology and culture. So many of us in this field were lucky to read him, to know him (not very well in my case) and to benefit from his support and advice. He will be missed.

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