Proposal:

Violence and Harassment in Mixed Reality

“Can we be touched by trolls?”

 

In 2016 Jordan Belamire posted on how she has been “groped” inside a Virtual Reality game. She described how she was physically harassed by the actions of another user, miles away from her real body. Her experience is the starting point for our exploration of the growing question of violence and harassment inside Mixed Reality (MR) environments and the new forms it might adopt. Virtual and Augmented Reality gives us a strong sense of embodiment on our representations - a neurological phenomenon that blurs the boundaries of body and mind, allowing digital avatars and worlds to feel as tangible as our own. With no screens and frames separating our physical selves from our digital personas, MR developers can create new levels of engagement.

However, it also opens a whole new venue for trolls - malicious internet users - to cause real physical harm.

Idea

By exploring different ways embodied violence can take place in the emerging digital worlds, we will develop a framework for peaceful Mixed Reality environments. Through a series of MR experiments we will explore and test different scenarios tackling the technical and ethical of this medium: What does it mean to be an embodied avatar? Should we prevent users from doing certain things in order to create a safe experience?

These experiments will be accompanied by an extensive documentation of process, incorporating interviews with relevant actors (developers, victims of virtual harassment, researchers, etc), development of our experiments and VR recreations of them. This will be an open resource for developers to use, for possible users of these platforms to critique and for the public to inquire.

These experiments will be accompanied by interviews and commentaries with victims, developers and researchers that will become part of the MR environment itself. We believe that in order to cover a story on embodiment the journalistic documentation should also take the form of an embodied experience. The documentation and the experiments would then be made available as an open resource for developers to use and to generate public discussion.

 

Timeline

●      Development of a MR environment where types of harassment will be observed

●      User testing

●      Visit to the Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford and interview with Jeremy Bailenson

●      Interview with Nonny de la Pena, John Pavlik et al.

●      Interview with victims of VR harassment

●      Interview with VR developers

●      Create commented versions of some of the most relevant scenarios that were recorded and observed during the initial MR experience.

●      Post production and creation of companion material on the MR experience (articles, videos, further documentation).

●      Distribution of the final framework and documentation.

 

Expected time frame: 6 months