The Growing Concern of Women Safety in Virtual Reality Social Spaces
The word may be ‘Virtual’ but what you feel in the VR space is quite real, so the name completely lives up to the experience. Falling down a building or riding a roller coaster on these platforms are known to spike the adrenaline and the scare meter in the player. However, that’s the fun part. Just like a coin has two sides, virtual reality has its ugly rather creepy side as well.
Over the years, female VR players have complained of sexual harassment incidents while playing the games. One might say that this is an age-old problem existent in the online and gaming communities, but things have taken a turn for the worst in recent years. What, was once limited to cyberbullying, verbal and visual abuse has escalated in VR, blurring the lines between the real and the digital world.
Real Harassment in the Virtual World
A recent survey has revealed that 35 percent of the working women population in the USA have either experienced or reported sexual harassment in their workplace. This has urged more than 98 percent of the companies to stress programs focusing on the prevention of such incidents. However, the same survey also revealed that only a meager 32 percent of the women are satisfied with these programs and the steps taken by the management.
If the real-world problems were not enough, now women have to ward off the creeps in the virtual world as well. Female identifying players have complained of lewd behavior time and again. Developers are aggressively pursuing this issue to make the VR world safer for the female population.
Experts have revealed that the root cause of such a problem is the lack of accountability that has been a persistent problem online. It gives people the chance to target any fellow user through trolling and cyberbullying. The distinctive real feeling of VR has provided the offenders an added avenue to inflict such harassment.
Upholding VR safety for Women
VR developers started with the agenda to create an interactive principle that will uphold the values of body sovereignty and ownership for a healthy approach to virtual embodiment and ensure safety. In the first step towards creating a digital consent module, extensive studies were conducted on behavioral patterns to differentiate between the appropriate and the inappropriate.
Since the virtual world mirrors the real one, the creation of the code of conduct demands a deep analysis of the same in the actual physical society. According to Edward T Hall, the space around an individual has four demarcations:
- Intimate Space: This is the space closest to an individual. Intimate virtual spaces can be made safe through the introduction of granular controls that can be easily accessed by the player and will show up on the settings panel before any kind of interaction commences. The players will be able to customize and control the experience settings as per their liking. There can be also included an extra provision where the payer can outline their ideal experience, to avert any kind of misbehavior.
- Personal Space: Personal space symbolizes the space that you share with others which can be a room, a house, etc. Here digital consent can be in the form of communication gestures. These are quick access shortcuts that will allow the user to make known their discomfort before the situation escalates any further, like a button, pushing which will take one out of an undesirable situation in the virtual space instantly.
- Social Space: Your workplace, a school or university campus are viable examples of social spaces. Virtual social spaces can be made safer for the player be creating and putting in action a set of rules of controls that will limit the virtual behavior of a person to the appropriate, just like in a real-life office or school. Developers can create and introduce a common code of conduct for the players to abide by whenever in that space.
- Public Space: Public space has the widest area to cover in terms of spaces, which can be a playground, a shopping mall or an entire city. To maintain behavioral conduct virtual public places, developers can draw inspiration from real-world law enforcement system. Creating a system that defines what’ appropriate and what’s not. Not only that, but such a system will also allow players to report offenses and let the system reinforce expectations of conduct.
VR developers have been intensely looking for ways to make virtual experiences safe for the women, ensuring that the virtual embodiment receives the same respect as given to the physical body. This hopefully will pave the way for better more secure virtual communities in the future.