Advances in virtual and augmented reality technology and in the software to produce virtual worlds have allowed virtual avatars to be used with increasing frequency for a range of activities. But with improvements in the technology to create virtual and augmented reality worlds have come corresponding issues of law and policy which apply to the avatars that represent the human presence in virtual worlds. This chapter discusses several issues of law which relate to the design and use of virtual avatars, with a specific focus on avatars that are gaining in intelligence and operating with more and more autonomy from humans. Virtual avatars are increasingly not simply entities under the control of real-world users, as with avatars found in many online virtual reality games, but rather are becoming more autonomous actors, generating their own decisions and solutions to problems which may not always be intelligible or transparent to the real-world users they represent. Additionally, it is the case that increasingly smart avatars operating with greater autonomy raise significant legal issues beyond those of “human-controlled” avatars, not the least of which is whether the avatars themselves deserve legal rights.
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Woodrow Barfield and Alexander Williams
Edited by Woodrow Barfield and Marc J. Blitz
Maurice Adams and Corien Prins
The transformative impact of digitalization on society and the state of democracy can scarcely be overestimated. Effects are visible within the national state and across borders, as well as on knowledge production and political participation and social structures. In this introductory chapter, the variety of norms and ideals which are reflected in just as many different conceptions of democracy are singled out with regard to the respective chapters in this volume. Based on this, also some further thoughts on the topic are elaborated upon and a networked approach is advocated.