Ethics In XR
July 8, 2020 / by Archit Kaushik
XR can be a double-edged sword; with far-ranging applications like healthcare, education, training, etc. XR shows great promise for social impact but also presents a fair share of challenges. As companies continue to experiment with the latent power of XR, questions about ethics and privacy remain unanswered. Last week, Games for Change decided to address some of the ethical and moral concerns of immersive media at its XR for Change Talk and Play on Ethics in XR.
Games for Change would like to thank our moderator, Kent Bye for leading the discussion and our incredible panelists: Kavya Pearlman, Galit Ariel, Thomas Ffiske and, Em Lazer Walker for giving us their insights on how to navigate the ethical and moral dilemmas of XR. Games for Change would also like to thank all the attendees for participating. We had an impressive turnout with attendees streaming in from 12 different countries, which is a testament to how much interest this topic has generated around the world. It is essential that we continue to have more such conversations and find ethically aligned ways of interacting with immersive technology.
Ethics being such a vast topic, and each panelist brought their own slice of expertise to the discussion. Thomas Ffiske, the editor of Virtual Perceptions called our attention to how personal data can be farmed and misused using immersive technologies. He pointed out 6 ethical principles to protect user rights and prevent the mishandling of data. Galit Ariel, who is a techtivist and the author of Augmenting Alice looked at the larger systemic issues that exist within the business model of XR and the power dynamics of surveillance capitalism. Kavya Pearlman, founder of the XR Safety Initiative emphasized the need to move past the advocacy level and establish ethical regulations that mandate action against big corporations. As part of the XR Cyber Coalitions, Kavya recently rolled out standards for Accessibility, Inclusion, Ethics, and Safety providing concrete advice on how to make XR safer and more inclusive. Em Lazer Walker, Cloud Advocate at Microsoft represented the big corporation angle and shared the efforts undertaken by Microsoft to expand access and mitigate risks that XR poses.
As XR technologies continue to rapidly evolve and change, there is a lot of work to be done in terms of defining, addressing, and solving some of the ethical challenges that it presents. It is clear that these ethical challenges cannot be solved by a one shoe fits all- type solution. As Kent Bye, the producer of Voices of VR podcast pointed out there exists a gap between the idealism of ethical frameworks and the pragmatism of implementing them. It will take participation from various stakeholders and people with different perspectives to navigate the tradeoffs and initiate discussion around them, as a way of evaluating them. It will take serious engagement and collaboration, especially from big corporations to translate the abstraction of ethical concerns into measurable, actionable solutions that can be embodied by the XR industry.
In case you missed this Talk and Play, you may view the recording of the webinar here. Here is a list of resources mentioned during the talk along with some additional resources to help you catch up with the issue of ethics in XR. Lastly, for more such conversations please register for the Games for Change Festival between 14th-16th July, where we will try to unpack more such ethical concerns at our panels/talks:
Addressing Ethics in the Gaming Industry at 5.00pm EDT on Tuesday, 14th July
Access the Future of XR at 3.15pm EDT on Wednesday, 15th July
Sensing the Risks of XR at 2.10pm EDT on Wednesday, 14th July
Exploring Digital Rights: Data Sovereignty in XR at 6.50pm EDT on Wednesday, 14th July