The Desert of the Unreal: Inequality in Virtual and Augmented Reality

40 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2017 Last revised: 22 Dec 2017

See all articles by Mary Anne Franks

Mary Anne Franks

George Washington University - Law School

Date Written: August 6, 2017


The world we live in is structured by inequality: of gender, race, class, sexual orientation, disability, and more. Virtual and augmented reality technologies hold out the promise of a more perfect world, one that offers us more stimulation, more connection, more freedom, more equality than the “real” world. But for such technologies to be truly innovative, they must move us beyond our current limitations and prejudices. When existing inequalities are unacknowledged and unaddressed in the “real” world, they tend to be replicated and augmented in virtual realities. We make new worlds based on who we are and what we do in old ones. All of our worlds, virtual and physical, are the product of human choice and human creation. The developers of virtual and augmented reality make choices about which aspects of our lived history they want to replicate, enhance, or change. The design — and design flaws — of new virtual and augmented reality technologies should be critically evaluated to assess their likely impact on inequality and their consequences for legal and social policy.

Keywords: virtual reality, augmented reality, revenge porn, pokemon go, surveillance, inequality, gender, race, class, sexual harassment

Suggested Citation

Franks, Mary Anne, The Desert of the Unreal: Inequality in Virtual and Augmented Reality (August 6, 2017). UC Davis Law Review, Vol. 51, 2017, University of Miami Legal Studies Research Paper No. 17-24, Available at SSRN:

Mary Anne Franks (Contact Author)

George Washington University - Law School ( email )

2000 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
United States

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