Pitt Blogging on Virtual Life

A Pitt course on Digital Discourse that has a course blog here has prompted some interesting commentary on the ethics of observing players in on-line role playing games, over at the Terra Nova blog.

One of the questions is whether "observing" players in an online game environment raises ethical questions that differ from the ethical questions raised by watching people in "real life." I tend to think that it does, but that doesn't make either kind of research problem-free. One obvious difference is that online gaming, unlike RL, is usually governed by an End User License Agreement (EULA) or Terms of Service agreement. As a lawyer, I'm skeptical about whether EULAs and ToS agreements are always valid, and I'm skeptical about whether all of their terms are valid. No one, at least, should simply take them at face value. (Nor should we automatically assume that RL interactions don't come with an implicit ToS -- they do. When you cross a social line in RL, that's an implicit ToS violation, even if you can't sue anyone over it.) But they do complicate things.


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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at]gmail.com. Mike also blogs at Madisonian.net, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

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