Toward Creating Safer Social Virtual Spaces

Haley R. Hatfield (PhD student) and Glenna L. Read. “Toward Creating Safer Social Virtual Spaces,” paper accepted for presentation at the National Communication Association conference, Nov. 17-20, New Orleans.

Abstract: We aim to develop safer social virtual reality (VR) spaces by examining the effectiveness of instructions aimed at decentering Whiteness, the global racist societal structure that maintains white supremacy. Whiteness grants social privileges, such as racial colorblindness or “I don’t see color”, to those who fit within a white racial identity over those who do not. Social VR instructions claiming to welcome and support the safety of “everyone” are inherently colorblind and do not explicitly challenge or acknowledge the hierarchies between those who are more privileged and those who are not. In a social VR world, we assess support for and compare the impact of instructions that conform to anti-whiteness language to more commonly used racially colorblind and anti-racist language on attitudes and behaviors. VR affords the opportunity to examine social interactions and covertly gauge levels of dis/comfort through body movement and psychophysiological indices, which we propose is a mechanism underlying the impact of diversity instructions on prosocial outcomes.

Glenna Read