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Equity and Inclusion in the Metaverse

What are the ethical implications of the metaverse?
An exciting opportunity for a commencing PhD student to join the Mixed Reality Ethics project in the Sydney Games and Play Lab, to undertake research into issues of equity and inclusion with metaverse technologies such as VR or AR.

Emerging head-mounted Virtual Reality (VR) technologies underpin ‘the metaverse’, which companies like Meta (previously Facebook) claim is likely to become one of the next dominant paradigms in computing, with concordant social impacts. This PhD project will focus on the topic of equity and inclusion in the context of emerging VR technology, around which there is almost no research.

The PhD project will be qualitative mixed methods research that will involve one or more of the following approaches: a study of the discourses of equity and inclusion in VR (in VR development, but also in applied academic fields like Human-Computer Interaction), studies of existing VR applications for equity and inclusion barriers, interviews and participant observation with people from historically excluded identities around their experiences with VR, and interviews with developers of VR applications to identify current best practices and solutions for making the next generation of VR more inclusive.

The student will be supervised by an interdisciplinary team including:

  • Dr Marcus Carter, Senior Lecturer in Digital Cultures in the Department of Media and Communications.
  • Professor Gerard Goggin, inaugural Professor of Media and Communications at The University of Sydney.
  • Dr Ben Egliston, Research Fellow in the Digital Media Research Centre at the Queensland University of Technology.

VR manufacturers often proudly advertise the potential benefits of VR for people with disabilities (in enabling, for example, telepresence) but preliminary work so far in the Ethics of Mixed Reality project identified numerous examples of VR users with disabilities unable to use VR because of the ways that VR assumes an able-bodied user. As one frustrated user with mobility issues put it, VR “will not acknowledge me as a person”.

This study is guided by principles of universal design, that seeks to ensure access by as many people as possible without the need for special adaptation. The ultimate aim of this project will be to make VR a more inclusive computing paradigm, through contributing to critical discourses around VR; bringing attention to non-inclusive design practices; and identifying opportunities for accessible and inclusive design.

  • Excellent supervision and mentorship from a multidisciplinary research team 
  • Opportunities for engagement with VR developers, policymakers and disability advocates
  • Support for the high-impact translation of research findings
  • Opportunity to make a real-world impact through your research
  • Access to several established research environments including the Sydney Games and Play Lab, the ARC Centre of Excellence in Automated Decision Making & Society, the Centre for Disability Research and Policy, and the Digital Media Research Centre at QUT.

Applicants are invited to submit a proposal for PhD research that aligns directly to this project.

Prospective candidates may qualify for direct entry into the PhD program if their research proposal (see above) is accepted and they satisfy at least one of the criteria listed below.

  • Bachelor's degree with first- or second-class honours in an appropriate area of study that includes a research thesis based on primary data not literature review
  • Master's degree by research in an appropriate area of study that includes a research thesis that draws on primary data
  • Master's degree by coursework, with a research thesis or dissertation of 12,000–15,000 words that draws on primary data not literature review, with a grade-point average of at least 80 per cent in the degree.
  • Demonstrated appropriate professional experience and alternative qualifications in the field of study.

For more information regarding applying for a PhD refer to the course details for Doctor of Philosophy (Arts and Social Sciences).

Please also refer to guidelines for preparing a research proposal.

A number of scholarships are available to support your studies.

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Postgraduate Research Scholarship
Australian Government RTP Scholarship (Domestic)
Australian Government RTP Scholarship (International)
University of Sydney International Strategic Scholarship

These scholarships will provide a stipend allowance of $35,629 per annum for up to 3.5 years. Successful international students will also receive a tuition fee scholarship for up to 3.5 years.

For other scholarship opportunities refer to Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Research Scholarships (Domestic) or Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Research Scholarships (International).

For further details about the PhD project contact Dr Marcus Carter at marcus.carter@sydney.edu.au.