Critical Design / Trend Research + Analysis
“Virtual Reality is the place where humans and computers make contact”
(Pimentel and Teixera, 1995)
In 2014 Facebook bought Oculus Rift (a Virtual Reality headset developed for gamers by Palmer Luckey) for $2Billion, initiating a wave of investments in the field of VR which brought the technology to the consumer market in 2017. One of the first industries to adopt Virtual Reality (VR) was the porn industry. As the technology rapidly advances, in a near future users will be able to fulfil their sexual fantasies by accessing hyper-realistic environments and experiences.
Early psychology research in VR has proven that there is a link between certain virtual experiences and behaviours or attitudes in the physical world. The rise of online pornography has also contributed to the normalisation of extreme pornographic imagery. If current online hard-core pornography were to move into a virtual domain tomorrow, what would be the impact in our society? Would deviant sexual behaviour be encouraged or would it simply just become a mechanism to explore and entertain sexual fantasies that are illegal and immoral in the physical world?
Virtual X is a design project that investigates the possible legitimisation of the illegal sexual practice of rape if it were to be made available in VR and how this may impact our society. It means to interrogate the existing legal and ethical systems and propose a future scenario that questions the lack of existing regulation in the coming virtual world. By designing the three objects that would enable such an experience, Virtual X exposes a near future to raise debate around the direction the pornography industry is travelling towards and whether or not these extreme experiences could, and should, be regulated.
Professor Ethan Zuckerman, MIT Center for Civic Media
Massil Benbouriche, Wayne State University
Kate Darling, MIT Media Lab
Matthew Wood, PHD Newcastle University
Joan Ros, Central Saint Martins
Tom Mannion, Photography, London
Creative Unions Exhibition, Lethaby Gallery,
September 19 - October 20 2017
Central Saint Martins Degree Show, June 2017
Ventura Lambrate, Milan Design Week, April 2017
“He had forgotten the paradoxes of illusion, this was no longer illusion to him,
but reality itself. ” (Weinbaum, 1935)