Project Immersive Democracy starts with kickoff symposium

Magdeburg/Berlin, 27. April 2023

On 27.04.2023, the digital kick-off symposium of the “Immersive Democracy Project” took place. More than 50 interested people from various fields registered for the event. The focus was on the discussion of positive and negative potentials of the Metaverse on society and democracy. Both technological and social aspects play an important role.

At the beginning of the event, Matthias Quent, Professor of Sociology at the University of Applied Sciences Magdeburg Stendal, presented the project “Immersive Democracy” and its research in the metaverse:

The Immersive Democracy Project addresses the challenges of further developing the digital transformation towards an immersive virtual space, the so-called Metaverse. The focus of the project is on democratic culture and the critical accompaniment of this transformation.

The project aims to develop new insights and evidence to accompany the emergence of the metaverse and to learn early on from mistakes and dark sides of Web 2.0 in order to make the Internet of the future more inclusive and democratic. This will be done through collaboration and exchange with civil society, academic, and industry stakeholders. A call for papers to promote especially early-stage research in the context of the Metaverse has been published on the recently launched project website. Interested parties can submit research proposals and ideas until the end of May, for which a budget is available. Various events will be offered as part of the project, where all interested parties are welcome to participate in discussions and share expertise. In addition, there are various sub-projects in different contexts, the results of which will be published on the website.

Marie von Stauffenberg and Laura Hirvi (Meta) presented their perspectives on the Metaverse and the importance of research conducted by the immersive democracy project and the European Metaverse Research Network.

A cooperation with Itas at KIT in Karlsruhe made the event possible, at which Octavia Madeira and Georg Plattner also spoke. They were the first in Germany to address the question of Metaverse, democratic culture and extremism in a scientific context already in May 2022.

Matthias Quent’s input highlighted conceptual categorizations of the particular aspects of immersive environments and the observation that individuals could benefit greatly from Metaverse technologies in terms of education and democratic skills, while the risks are mainly found at the structural level.

Companies, organizations, and countries are striving to shape and develop the Metaverse. A number of specific issues were discussed in the presentations and discussions: Immersive democracy, health, and radicalization are just some of the aspects that the Metaverse could impact.

Although the metaverse offers great potential for diversity and self-efficacy, risks such as data privacy and misuse (dark participation) must still be taken into account. The goal is to maximize the opportunities while minimizing the risks.

Mental health also plays an important role in the Metaverse, as virtual and augmented reality can be used to treat mental illness and addiction. However, there are also concerns about possible addiction to games and online activities.

Another important issue is the accessibility and availability of (VR) technology. Currently, VR poses a challenge for some people, especially those with physical limitations. It is important to pay attention to availability, affordability, and compatibility on different platforms when developing VR technology. Future scenarios for the Metaverse address security, freedom, and extremism, and emphasize the importance of engaging users and promoting democratic principles of inclusion and diversity. Thus, the Metaverse offers both challenges and opportunities for our society and its development.

We look forward to further discussions and research contributions from the Immersive Democracy project and hope to see you at future events!

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