Why experiencing abuse in VR can be damaging in real life.
Dr. Albert “Skip” Rizzo, the director of Medical Virtual Reality at the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies, told ATTN: over the phone that Belamire’s feelings are valid:
“We’re very fond of saying that people suspend disbelief when they’re in a virtual environment, and we always say that when we’re talking about doing it for good entertainment, or in my area, for clinical purposes. We accept that VR can create positive entertaining experiences and also positive healthful or educational experiences. I don’t think we can draw a line when it comes to people [saying] well, it’s real enough that people feel considerable discomfort when they’re violated. When you’re in a virtual world and you’re really engaging with it as if it’s a real thing, to have some ignorant troll harassing you can have an impact. I don’t think anyone [in their] right mind that knows anything about the technology and its impact on how people interact and behave in the world should deny that.”
Dr. Rizzo noted recent examples of online bullying-related suicides to show that computer-based and virtual activity can have a real impact on people.
“Why is it any different if somebody transduces a physical action through an interface that creates a virtual experience that upsets people?” he said. “It’s real easy to say, ‘Oh, it didn’t really happen.’ Well a lot of things happen that have impacts on people, whether it’s words, digital, or virtual representation. I think it’s grossly insensitive and ignorant to take that kind of position. That’s my personal view as someone who tries to leverage the impact of the virtual world for healing.”
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