Using Design Fiction to Explore the Ethics of VR ‘In the Wild’
David Philip Green * Department of Film and Journalism, University of the West of England, Bristol, United Kingdom
Guy Peter Schofield * Department of Theatre Film and Television, University of York, York, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom
James Hodge * Open Lab, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom
Mandy Rose * University of the West of England, Bristol, United Kingdom
Kirsten Cater * Centre for Innovation, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom
Chris Bevan * University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom
Stuart Iain Gray * Centre for Innovation, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom
In this half-day workshop, we will explore the ethics of Virtual Reality (VR) through conversations framed around design fictions. Affordable head-mounted displays (HMDs) and accessible VR content are now within reach of large audiences, yet many of VR’s most urgent challenges remain underexplored. In addition to the many known unknowns (e.g. how do we manage sensory conflicts and spatial limitations in VR?), there are many more unknown unknowns (e.g. what kinds of psychological, social and cultural impact will VR provoke?). By bringing together diverse scenarios and design fictions created specifically to explore VR ethics, we will facilitate a rich discussion that will inform the development of three high-fidelity design fictions that will be used to explore the ethics of VR in future workshops, including one in Bristol (Nov 2019: part of the Virtual Realities Immersive Documentary Encounters project).
Virtual Reality is characterised as an ‘immersive’ medium . Users of head-mounted displays such as Oculus Go and HTC Vive may experience an illusion of ‘presence’ (a feeling of ‘being there’), a sense of ‘embodiment’ (identification with a virtual body) and/or interact with virtual environments via headtracking, point-and-click interactions, voice commands, and more. The technical literature exploring VR’s potential is somewhat ocularcentric, focusing on two dominant visual techniques: computer generated imagery (e.g. 3D environments) and 360° videography (a.k.a. “cinematic VR”). Yet VR also affords virtual soundscapes via ambisonic (3D) audio and multisensory experiences – haptics (touch), gustation (taste) and olfaction (smell). New challenges (and new versions of familiar challenges, such as accessibility) are manifold. The social affordances of VR are being tested through simple multiplayer games (e.g. Rec Room), chatrooms (e.g. VRChat) and installations (e.g. Carne y Arena). Yet relatively little research has been carried out ‘in the wild’; that is to say: most of what we know about the future of VR comes from marketing materials and lab-based studies. In this workshop, we will ask, what ethical issues should we expect to encounter as VR heads out of the lab and ‘into the wild’?