In synthetic worlds, such as Second Life, World of Warcraft, or SIMS, the dichotomy between reality and virtuality still remains one of the unsolved philosophical inquiries of our time. There remains skepticism regarding the value of virtual experiences versus those of real life. This research presents a starting point for an ethical discourse on the technology of virtual worlds and addresses two questions: What are unique affordances of virtual worlds? And, what are the ethical implications that emerge due to these unique affordances? Four unique affordances of the technology of virtual worlds - self-expression, co-experience, co-creation, and crowd-sourcing, are identified. Questions from positivist, social-constructivist, and phenomenological perspectives of ethics are recognized and preliminary phenomenological insights of societal pressures contributing to the emergence of virtual worlds are ascertained. This research attempts to analyze virtual worlds from multiple ethical perspectives, starting with a broad phenomenological inquiry within which subsequent impact and discovery studies can be framed. Understanding the societal attitudes and moods that make technologies necessary and valuable help uncover the interests and constraints they embody as well as their potential impacts.
Goel, Lakshmi and Junglas, Iris, "A Phenomenological Inquiry of Virtual Worlds" (2009). MG 2009 Proceedings. 8.