We (Ralph Schroeder and Eric Meyer of the Oxford Internet Institute and WinG4) present some scenarios which pose questions about ethics and legal issues to stimulate discussion. Please jump in and tell us you what you think about them!
Scenario 1. Experiments: Immersive Virtual Environments are increasingly used in social-psychological experiments which are difficult or impossible to carry out in face-to-face interactions.
Consider the following scenario: A social psychology professor has set up an experiment in an immersive environment that is designed to study language and gender in the interaction between avatars. In the course of the experiment, an avatar controlled by a researcher exhibits abusive behaviour toward a participant’s avatar.
What are the research ethics issues raised by such an experiment? What if a participant’s avatar responds violently to the abuse and attacks the researcher avatar? Does this raise additional ethical issues? More generally, how far should these experiments go in interactions between avatars in immersive environments? Are the limits different than for face-to-face research? Can you think of examples of similar research taking place?