VIRTUAL HARASSMENT: THE SOCIAL EXPERIENCE OF 600+ REGULAR VIRTUAL REALITY (VR) USERS

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The results of my latest VR research project are live. Harassment and fear of harassment represent an obstacle to the growth of multi-user VR platforms. When I asked people about their VR usage, they told me:

“I avoid social VR because I’m afraid to encounter [harassment].”

“I am not very comfortable interacting with strangers in VR…I go out of my way to avoid interactions.”

“I was taunted and told horrible things the first [time]…Never launched the game again.”

 

Harassment is commonplace in VR. In past qualitative research, I studied sexual harassment of women. In my new project, in partnership with Pluto VR, I surveyed 600+ people who regularly use VR (Rift, Vive, PSVR, or Microsoft Windows Mixed Reality). It turns out that all genders are subject to multiple types of harassment in VR:

49% of women reported having experienced at least one instance of sexual harassment

30% of male respondents reported racist or homophobic comments

20% of males have experienced violent comments or threats

 

The majority of respondents prefer to spend time with friends or people they already know instead of strangers. Secondly, being there with friends makes those multiplayer VR experiences more enjoyable.

However, some people have a different perspective:

“Oh grow up. It’s pixels on a screen.”

 

The net effect of the harassment and then the subsequent denial of there being any harassment is that people are finding ways to spend time with people they already know or escape to single user VR apps. 

The full report on this social VR survey is available here and it contains more info on my approach, survey respondents’ VR usage patterns, and their privacy preferences. 

FIRESIDE CHAT INVITATION

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The Extended Mind and Pluto VR are holding two Fireside Chats in VR. The first one will be on Tuesday, April 17, at 1 p.m. PST. The second is on Wednesday, May 2, at 11 a.m. PST. Both will be held in VR using the Pluto communication service. You are invited to participate live by joining a Pluto conversation with SerahD, Forest, and me during those times. Pluto is available for download on Steam. I’ll also post a mixed reality video recording on YouTube after each of these events. For more info or to sign up to be notified of the events, click here

See you at the Fireside chat!

About Pluto VR

Pluto VR is a Seattle-based startup that is dedicated to helping humanity transcend physical location. The company has developed a free communication service that allows people to communicate remotely as if they were physically present with each other. Learn more about Pluto VR and the Pluto communications service at www.plutovr.com.