Cyberbullying Month: Resources and Research

Educators in VR is recognizing Cyberbullying Month all October. We have three events lined up for you. Tuesday, October 15, is Daniel Dyboski-Bryant and special guest Lucas Rizzotto, award-winning director and pioneering VR and AR storyteller, developer of “Where Thoughts Go,” the successful virtual storytelling creation app. They will be discussing using empathy in VR to build awareness and sensitivity training for educators and learners, and beyond. On Tuesday, October 29, Educators in VR will be presenting a special program to conclude Cyberbullying Month, and Thursday, October 17, is a special Cyberbullying Panel Discussion hosted by veteran Virtual Communities Consultant, John Williams (JayW) and representatives of the AltspaceVR Staff and Community including special guest Keegan Law, the Program Owner of AltspaceVR. We will be discussing and sharing insights on cyberbullying in virtual reality.

John Williams and Lorelle VanFossen gathered information and resources for you in support of Cyberbullying Month.


Virtual harassment and bullying isn’t new. Julia K. Ferganchick-Neufang published “Virtual Harassment: Women and Online Education” in February 1998, tackling the issue of student aggression toward female instructors online even before Second Life was launched in 2003.

The “virtual” aspect of virtual reality creates a distance that makes it easy for us to ignore the very real human communication and interaction of such spaces. If we are to challenge these abusive attacks from students and the passive-acceptance of this behavior from administrators, we need to work collectively to convince others, including program administrators, to take us seriously. Student aggression, whether it takes place in writing, in person, or online, is a violation that creates a hostile or intimidating work environment; it is harassment and must be treated as such.

…I do not believe that virtual space is either evil or inherently masculine and patriarchal. What bother me is not the medium, but the lack of attention paid to how that medium may perpetuate sexism and violence against women. I agree with Lari Kendall who says, “the online environment is not itself a solution. Understandings of gender and the hierarchical arrangements based on these understandings do not simply disappear in forums where we can’t see each other. We carry these understandings with us and re-create them online. Therefore, the appearance of more women on MUDs, and online generally, is likely to help only if both women and men make specific efforts to counter…stereotypical understandings.”

This article highlights the negative side of virtual reality, but know that it is statistically a low risk. Depending upon the game or the social VR app, community standards, moderators, and the community itself tends to self-police in a way that represents their goals for the community.

AltspaceVR, for example, is one of the oldest immersive social VR platforms, and has a multi-prong approach to community standards and violations. Their terms of service and AltspaceVR’s Community Standards were designed with community in mind. Not that people read them when creating an account, but the community standards are reinforced by the AltspaceVR 101 30-minute tutorial recommended to newcomers, and through the volunteer Community Helper program of experienced community members helping other members through positive example and mentorship and supportive events. They are aided by the Community Support Team members in the campfire “lobby” to ensure a tolerant and inclusive community.

To begin our dive into cyberbullying and virtual reality, let’s begin with the example of the Community Standards by AltspaceVR as it is an example to other social VR platforms and games, and may serve as a good example for VR in your classroom and school.

Defamation and Intolerance

AltspaceVR is an international community of users that come from many different cultural backgrounds. Each community member has their own individual background, cultural practices, accents and mannerisms, belief structure and reasons for being in VR. As a community that is enriched by this multi-cultural environment, there will be no tolerance for bigotry regarding any user’s race, nationality, spiritual beliefs, physical abilities or sexual orientation. Any language that is meant to defame or injure another user will result in an immediate suspension and determination as to whether the account will be closed permanently.

Harassment

A healthy community is rooted in the shared understanding that everyone is entitled to feel and express whether something is offensive or uncomfortable for them. When a user chooses to ignore this and continue to aim the uncomfortable behavior at that person, it is perceived as Harassment. If another community member expresses that something makes them uncomfortable, it is your responsibility to cease that behavior in the presence of them. Continued harassing behavior will result in a suspension and subsequent determination as to whether the account will be closed permanently.

Cyber-Bullying and Intimidation

While Cyber-Bullying is regarded as being an issue affecting teens and pre-teens, we are including it as part of the Community Standards so that we make it clear that any form of intimidation levied against another user be it on the AltspaceVR platform or on any social media or forum site managed by Microsoft, shall be considered grounds for suspension or account termination.

As with all such documents, it is a living document, shifting and changing as the needs of the virtual community’s needs change.

Here are some other examples of terms of service and community policies for social VR platforms.

Behind Every Avatar is a Real Person

Behind the cartoon avatar, it’s easy to forget that you are standing with real people with real emotions, sensitivities, anxieties, history and experiences.

The avatars are just masks, malleable, easily changed, sporting a robot or human-style presentation customizable to anything including green skin, red hair, purple eyes, and black shirt and pants with green shoes. Gender, sexual preference, personal characteristics disappear behind these avatars, or are enhanced by choice to represent the real person or their creative spirit or life choices. Just as in the real world, bullying over skin color, disfigurements, tattoos, and any physical differences is unacceptable. Even with limitations in avatar construction, people’s appearance choices are to be honored and respected.

Virtual reality allows you to be you without physical insecurities getting in the way. Avatars may become extensions of the users, their mind and heart embodied. Such fragile selves need protection in VR and the real world to be allowed to explore, develop relationships, and blossom. Continue reading

Educators in VR Weekly Workshops: Immersive Classroom

After months of planning, Educators in VR announces the first of our weekly workshops in AltspaceVR and other social VR and educational platforms, Educators in VR Immersive Classroom Workshop, exploring “The Last Glacier” Tuesday, July 2, 2019.

Instead of talking about climate change and the impact of glaciers on our ecosystem or showing videos, imagine climbing a mountain to explore the glaciers, slipping and sliding down to an ice cave as part of your lesson. The Last Glacier is an educational world designed for Earth Day that takes the visitor on a collaborative journey through the geo-science of glaciers and icebergs, and an exploration of an ice cave, representing one of the few remaining on the planet.

Ice Cave - The Last Glacier - Immersive Classroom by Lorelle VanFossen.

The Last Glacier is an interactive classroom experience representing immersive classroom experiences in maths and sciences, humanities, current events, and discovery exercises with multi-modal educational opportunities as well as leadership and team building exercises. In addition to exploring and learning from this virtual classroom, we discuss the benefits and concerns of teaching in an immersive environment and offer tips and techniques for creating your own immersive educational world for your class or as homework.

Ice Cave Tunnels - The Last Glacier - Lorelle VanFossen

This is the first of many weekly workshops produced by Educators in VR. Next Tuesday is our first Educators in VR 101, a workshop and tutorial on the basics of using virtual reality in education, covering terminology, devices, tips, and techniques. Upcoming topics for the weekly workshops include:

  • Creating and Hosting an Educational Event on Virtual Reality Platforms.
  • Creating a Virtual Training Space.
  • Health and Medical VR/AR/XR Technologies.
  • User Experience in VR.
  • Language Learning in VR/AR.
  • Product Showcases.
  • Virtual World Building in AltspaceVR.
  • Pros and Cons of the Virtual Classroom.

Our next Educators in VR Meetup is July 18 featuring Marie Graham, Director of VR/AR at the Mount Vernon Presbyterian School, presenting “Immersive Realities, Design Thinking, and Students Using Technology for Good.”

For information on attending an Educators in VR workshop or event in virtual reality, we have About – Educators in VRattendance information for you.

If you are an educator using virtual and mixed realities, please contact us to discuss presenting a 20-40 minute workshop in virtual reality. We use a variety of educational and virtual social platforms.

Virtual Reality Pioneer: Tom Furness

Tom FurnessIn November 2015, Tom Furness, considered the grandfather of virtual reality, sat down with the team at Voices of the VR Podcast for an in depth interview called “#245: 50 years of VR with Tom Furness: The Super Cockpit, Virtual Retinal Display, HIT Lab, & Virtual World Society.” It’s still worth a listen and read.

Tom Furness has been thinking about virtual reality longer than most VR users have been alive. He built some of the first helmet-mounted displays for the US Air Force, and what would become the Super Cockpit. Leaving the military, he helped found the Human Interface Technology Lab at the University of Washington in Seattle, and created the non-profit, educational association, the Virtual World Society.

The Super Cockpit design by Tom Furness for the US Military.

From the University of Washington Faculty bios:

[Tom Furness] is the inventor of the personal eyewear display, the virtual retinal display, the HALO display and holds 19 patents in advanced sensor, display and interface technologies. With his colleagues Dr. Furness has started 27 companies, two of which are traded on NASDAQ at a market capitalization of > $8 B (USD). In 1998 he received the Discover Award for his invention of the virtual retinal display.

In addition to his academic appointments, Dr. Furness was the Chairman and President of the first Augmented Reality Company: ARToolworks Inc. recently acquire by DAQRI. He also runs his own ‘skunkworks’ company: RATLab LLC (RAT = rockin’ and thinkin’) where he and his colleagues develop advanced technologies for spinoff companies. His current projects deal with developing pulse diagnosis as an early warning system for cardiovascular disease and the start-up of the Virtual World Society, a non-profit for extending virtual reality as a learning system for families.

Tom is also co-inventor of the SPM (spectral matching) technology licensed to Visualant Inc. He continues to serve as a Senior Scientific Advisor for the company and recently received the 2013 SPIE Prism Award for his invention of the ChromaID technology.

Projects by the Virtual World Society include helping 28 sixth grade students at Robert Eagle Staff Middle School in Seattle, overseen by a team of University of Washington engineering students, build virtual worlds that teach STEM subjects related to gravity, light, scale, and momentum. Continue reading

Accessibility, Disabilities, and Virtual Reality Solutions

Microsoft Cantroller example of usage for visually impaired in virtual reality.
What is it like to see for the first time? UploadVR reported the story of Jamie Soar who experienced seeing for the first time in 2016. Not because of surgery or some amazing medicines, but because he had donned a VR headset.

As the headset fired up its loading room demo Soar found himself in a state of shock. His whole life he had been forced to lean in close to computer screens, books, televisions, people, anything just to get a clear look. But inside this revolutionary new device, he discovered a world that was leaning in to him.

The unique technical design of a VR headset was having something of a counteractive effect to Soar’s Pigmentosa. These contraptions may be designed to provide the illusion of depth through special lenses, but in physical reality the screens they are employing are mere centimeters away from a user’s face. This, coupled with the dual-screen projection method of the Vive — in which every single image a user sees is actually two images relayed to separate screens in front of each eyeball — ended up being the perfect storm of factors to judo-flip Soar’s typical visual impairments and render his vision closer to normal than he had experienced in decades.

Accessibility issues are a top priority in education as educators are often on the front lines to ensure equal access to all, and few things are more profound than helping a student experience and see, literally and figuratively. In the United States, 40 million Americans are classified as disabled, 12.6% of the population. Disabled World reports that 15% of the world’s population has some form of disability, and estimates that 33% of 20 year-old workers will become disabled before reaching retirement age, which ties in with the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Report in 2018 stating 1 in 4 US adults have a disability that “impacts major life activities.” An estimated 200 million people globally are visually impaired, though World Health Organization estimates 1.3 billion people live with some form of vision impairment, the majority of them over 50 years of age. These numbers are considered under-reported estimates.

Virtual reality provides opportunities for many for socialization, adventure, and experiences they may not enjoy in the real world. Those with autism, social anxieties, and mental health challenges find comfort and safety in virtual social apps and experiences. Many visually impaired VR users discover they can literally see more than they can without VR, opening up visual worlds and experiences they’ve not been able to access in the real world. Alex Lee shared his story in ALPHR about seeing more in VR after losing his sight, quoting Gary Rubin, professor of visual funtion and rehabilitation at UCL:

“The closer something is, the more magnified it is. Placing two screens inches from your eyes is essentially making things larger by filling your field of vision. Additionally, the device will have automatic gain control, which will adjust and boost the contrast of the scene. Contrast is very important in making things visible.”

This was one of many inspirations for Educators in VR to bring you more meetups and workshops on accessibility in the future. We’ve been researching the various topics of disabilities associated with virtual reality and spatial technologies, from the perspective of learners, researchers, and educators, and want to share a few of our findings and discoveries with you. It is a vast topic, so please let us know what topics and areas of study you wish for us to bring to our meetups and workshops in the comments or on our Educators in VR Discord group. Continue reading

Educators in VR Meetup on Diversity and Inclusion May 2, 2019

The next meeting of Educators in VR in AltspaceVR is May 2nd, 2019. We have a fascinating panel of speakers for this meetup on the topic of diversity and inclusion in virtual reality and education and training, representing a diverse group of educators and passionate VR enthusiasts.

Brennan Gregory Halton is the co-founder of Equal Reality, a virtual reality developer and internationally recognized immersive technologies expert. Listed on the 2019 Forbes 30/30 Social Entrepreneurs, Brennan has over a decade of experience building augmented and virtual worlds. He helped grow Meta AR Glasses to a valuation of over $300M USD as employee #7. His company, Equal Reality, helps him focus on supporting equality, diversity, and inclusion through virtual reality, putting people in the perspective of minorities to experience discrimination. He is also talented in community building, teaching, and digital content creation.

Alan Chao is a user experience designer, virtual reality enthusiast, and Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) advocate. Alan works in technology as a User Experience (UX) designer and is the founder of the popular AltUX, the User Experience Meetup in AltspaceVR. He has also built some of the most popular interactive, and social worlds in AltspaceVR, including the beautiful meditation and yoga space for EvolVR classes.

Asha Easton is currently the KTN manager for Immerse UK. She is responsible for helping to grow the immersive tech ecosystem for the country. Asha is also a VR producer and an active member of several VR groups including: the London chapter of Women in Immersive Tech (WiiT) (Facebook), that helps to support women in the industry, and the VR Diversity Initiative (VRDI), where she has taught workshops to up-skill underrepresented groups in media and technology.

Dr. Peter Bloom is a Senior Lecturer and Head of the Department of People and Organisations at the Open University and Co-Founder of the research group REEF (Research into Employment, Empowerment, and Futures). His research focuses on critically reimagining contemporary power, politics and economic – specifically related to themes of democracy, capitalism, and technology.

We are very excited for this panel on diversity and inclusion, and welcome you to join us.

We meet in AltspaceVR, a free virtual reality social app and community. You may RSVP on our events page and AltspaceVR will send you a reminder an hour before the event. Alan has also built several worlds in AltspaceVR that attract a wide range of visitors, developing innovative virtual entertainment and meeting spaces.

You may attend as a guest or member using the free AltspaceVR mobile app or 2D version. AltspaceVR is found in the Google Store for DayDream, Samsung Gear, in the Steam Store for HTC Vive, Windows Mixed Reality, and the Oculus Store for Rift, Go, and Quest users. If you do not have a VR device, you may also install the mobile version for use on your Android phone or tablet, or the desktop computer version for 2D access. A headset and microphone (quality earbuds acceptable) is required to participate. Otherwise please stay muted during the event as the background noise and echoes can be disruptive. For more information on accessing and installing AltspaceVR, check out their download web page.

Submissions Requested for Scenes and Screens Festival

Scenes and Screens Festival: Speculative Realities (Year 2) is currently accepting submissions for papers, film, performance, and VR installations. The subtopics for this year: Degrees of Freedom, Moments of Inertia, and Presence of Mind. Held on August 2nd-4th, 2019, the works presented at #SAS2019 will be documented and archived by AltspaceVR and then provided to the artists involved as their takeaway.

Applications for Scenes and Screens Festival should be received by no later than 11:59PM PT, May 15th, 2019. Chosen works will be notified of their selection by June 30th, 2019.

This event is free and there are no entry fees. All are welcome to submit and participate.

Last year’s showcase brought together international talents and artistry on the theme hyperconnect. There is a tremendous need for artists looking for representation, but it takes time and money to apply to residencies, other festivals, things to get a foothold in the art world. This festival offer an opportunity for little or no cost to share their talents and showcase them globally via AltspaceVR.

Come share your talents in virtual reality!

For more information, please visit AltspaceVR Scenes and Screens Festival 2019.

Next Meetup is March 21 with Joe Millward from TAFE NSW

TAFE logo and building sign in Sydney.The next meeting of Educators in VR in AltspaceVR is March 21, 2019. Joe Millward from TAFE NSW will be joining us to talk about how to scale up provision of VR in education.

TAFE NSW is Australia’s leading provider for more than 1200 education and training courses with over 500,000 students attending on campus, online, through distance learning, or in the workplace. Established as an independent statutory body under the TAFE Commission Act 1990, the original NAFE NSW started over 130 years ago in New South Wales as a vocational project, helping to educate workers during the Depression and following the World Wars. Today, they provide educational and counseling to multicultural, aboriginal, and migrant populations across Australia. Their information and communications technology courses are expected to grow by 75% over the next ten years to serve the digital economy. They even have a Wikipedia page with details about the courses and areas and topics they cover.

Come join us March 21, 2019, in AltspaceVR for an informative discussion on how they meet the growing need for virtual reality in education.

We meet in AltspaceVR, a free virtual reality social app and community. You may RSVP on our events page and AltspaceVR will send you a reminder an hour before the event. Alan has also built several worlds in AltspaceVR that attract a wide range of visitors, developing innovative virtual entertainment and meeting spaces.

You may attend as a guest or member using the free AltspaceVR mobile app or 2D version. AltspaceVR is found in the Google Store for DayDream, Samsung Gear, in the Steam Store for HTC Vive, Windows Mixed Reality, and the Oculus Store for Rift, Go, and Quest users. If you do not have a VR device, you may also install the mobile version for use on your Android phone or tablet, or the desktop computer version for 2D access. A headset and microphone (quality earbuds acceptable) is required to participate. Otherwise please stay muted during the event as the background noise and echoes can be disruptive. For more information on accessing and installing AltspaceVR, check out their download web page.

Jessica Outlaw at Next Educators in VR Meetup

February 21, 2019, is the next meeting of Educators in VR in AltspaceVR. We are very honored to feature Jessica Outlaw of The Extended Mind: Culture and Behavior in XR to discuss VR communities and bullying, harassment, and learning to cope with social interactions in virtual reality.

Jessica’s research has had a profound impact on the virtual reality industry, helping us all understand the realities of VR bullying and harassment and how to develop tools and community guidelines. She provides workshops and trainings to the virtual reality and online communities industry. Here are a few examples of her work in action.

Come join us February 21, 2019, in AltspaceVR for an informative discussion on this critical topic.

We meet in AltspaceVR, a free virtual reality social app and community. You may RSVP on our events page and AltspaceVR will send you a reminder an hour before the event. Alan has also built several worlds in AltspaceVR that attract a wide range of visitors, developing innovative virtual entertainment and meeting spaces.

You may attend as a guest or member using the free AltspaceVR mobile app or 2D version. AltspaceVR is found in the Google Store for DayDream, Samsung Gear, in the Steam Store for HTC Vive, Windows Mixed Reality, and the Oculus Store for Rift, Go, and Quest users. If you do not have a VR device, you may also install the mobile version for use on your Android phone or tablet, or the desktop computer version for 2D access. A headset and microphone (quality earbuds acceptable) is required to participate. Otherwise please stay muted during the event as the background noise and echoes can be disruptive. For more information on accessing and installing AltspaceVR, check out their download web page.