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Racial Equality in VR Forms

Race. Its an ugly issue.

Race is the enduring, heartbreaking problem of modern, multinational society. No matter the country, no matter the society, if there are people who are visually or culturally different from other people, the race card flares. Not among everyone, but enough. It shows most among those who are perhaps best suited to rally others to their cause, whatever that may be. The silver tongued type.

Race It lurks behind discussions of many public issues, indeed, perhaps all of them. When America and Australia were colonised, rampant racism against the indiginal inhabitants occurred. Apartheid in Africa, the current 'terror' issues against anyone of middle-eastern descent.

The bottom line is not race, it is not culture, it is people, set in their ways, scared of anything different. Sometimes scared of change, sometimes simply scared of people who are different. Fear creates tensions which interfere with communication. It creates hastily erected barricades around personal belief systems, angry voices, and half-baked political campaigns.

Each person has a rich cultural background that the race issue ignores. What the racist minority concentrate most on, are the physical differences. Even in a VR environment where some people are fantastic creatures, others robots, still others trees, shrubs, or brick walls. If one avatar enters that looks human, but with a skin colour other than that the racist individual expects, racism starts.

VR cannot of course sweep all of that away overnight. It can however offer another way, after all, race is all about the physical, and VR is very good at making the physical, not matter.

Views to Suit All

One of the key points about VR has always been about visualisation. Making things look as they should. Whether that is analysing data sets ,or sprawling landscapes, VR has always had the power to create form from formlessness.

When it comes to more advanced concepts, like appearance, VR has been able to alter the shape, form, and style of a person's outward appearance. Never was this more true in collaborative VR, where large numbers of people see, and are just beginning to feel and hear the VR produced form of a person.

Collaborative 3D social VR systems like ActiveWorlds, IMVU, Moove, SecondLife, There, all allow the user to choose their own appearance, choose how they look, how they present themselves. However, it missed something, something key.

VR is not just a chance for you to choose how you would like to be seen, it is a chance for others to choose how they would like to see you.

It allows each individual to take control of the reality they see, hear, sense and feel, and create a world best attuned to their sensibilities. It allows others to assign you a form other than the one you chose, a form which you do not see, but which they do. They can see you as anything they like, your movements mapped directly onto the new form's movements, without you ever needing to be aware they are doing it. It simply overrides their perception of you, to be something other than what you are.

This is not a bad thing, if you think about it, for it allows everyone to form their own little world-view that keeps them happy. Those racist minorities can remove all trace of the existence of other races, completely, from their virtual world. They still see and hear you, even smell you with some VRs, but it is their idealised version of you, their senses receive.

Likewise, if you desire, you can make people you detest, appear in the most ridiculous, or grotesque forms you like. If they have a diseased mind, their body can be shaped to be equally diseased, warped, or twisted. Letting the outer form be as the inside is, helps reinforce your recollection of what these people are actually like. Of course, as you are the one overriding, there is nothing to stop you from seeing them as they intended to be seen, but if you choose to see them as something else, then that, to you at least, is what they are.

This means you can make someone from a different ethnic group, who is being racist, take on the visual form of someone from your ethnic group. If they are constantly mouthing off as to how blacks are bad, you can give them a body which fits everything they so hate. You can go further still. If a person is mouthing off to a large group, you can take their modified body, as the collection of instruction files it is, and give copies of the modifications to others. All their victims, and anyone else interested, can then override the person's virtual body, and see it as you made them, at least, if they choose to do so.

Such changing of the virtual physical form, renders every racist argument completely pointless. If you can change perceived race with the flick of a switch, still interacting with the person, just perceiving their ethnic origin differently, then the race issue itself, becomes totally without point, or justification.

If a vocal person finds out that a popular modification of their appearance is circulating, and they get hold of a copy of the instructions, seeing themselves as so many others do, then yes, it would in all likelihood upset them, rile them, set off a rant to end all rants.

Yes, if you step back from that and ponder a moment, just what is it that they are actually getting upset about? No-one has forced an appearance on them, after all.

They are getting upset at the way someone else views the world. You have not forced them into any form, shape or mould, as they were trying to do to you. You have merely rendered the race issue pointless, by showing how meaningless the form really is.

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