Call: Special issue of PRESENCE on ethics

Call for Papers: Special Issue of PRESENCE on Ethics

The Call is also available for download at the MIT Press webage for PRESENCE,

Guest Editors:
Michael Madary – Universität Mainz
Thomas Metzinger – Universität Mainz
Patrick Haggard – University College London

Virtual environments and teleoperation are introducing novel experiences into human societies, and these experiences can produce important ethical challenges, in addition to their engineering value. This special issue aims to address specific ethical issues arising with the use of virtual environments and teleoperators. These kinds of technology are increasingly used in research, military, and clinical applications, as well as in personal entertainment. The rapidly increasing use of these kinds of technology makes it imperative that the academic community, along with the general public, carefully consider the ethical implications of these technologies. For this special issue, we seek contributions which will identify and analyze new ethical issues, and/or develop ethical guidelines for use of such technologies.

Specific uses of virtual environments and teleoperators which might be of ethical relevance are as follows. Virtual environments can produce experiences of profound alterations in one’s own body, including changes in race and sex. How do such virtual body transformations affect personal identity? There is evidence that actions performed in a virtual environment may have a lasting, yet unconscious, impact on the behavior of subjects after they leave the virtual environment. Is changing people’s behavior in this way ethical? New ethical risks in teleoperation may arise as advances in brain computer interfaces (BCI) allow for the control of robots using thought alone. What ethical problems arise from the possibility of BCIs misreading intentions, or producing illusions of control?
Some of the topics we hope to address in the issue are:

  • Research ethics: Ethics for scientific research with the use of virtual reality
  • Responsibility: Moral and legal responsibility for teleoperation of a robot through a brain-computer interface (BCI)
  • Sexual ethics: Possible ethical implications of sexual acts in virtual environments and with the use of teleoperators
  • Military applications: General issues regarding “dual use” – ethically permissible (and impermissible) military use of these kinds of technology
  • Consumer ethics: The possibility of commercially available immersive virtual environments undermining the autonomy and dignity of consumers
  • Medical ethics (including Psychiatry): Concerns about respect for the patient in clinical research and treatment using virtual environments and teleoperation
  • Applications in criminology: Ethical use of virtual environments for criminal rehabilitation


Call: 15 November 2013
Submission deadline: 15 April 2014
Publication: Early 2015

Manuscripts should be submitted in .pdf form to Email attachments are preferred. Include the names and institutional affiliations of all authors on the manuscript cover page, and contact information for the corresponding author in the body of the email. Papers should conform to the journal’s submission guidelines, available at Authors, please note that a page charge of $40 per published page will be mandatory and is assessed at the galley stage in order to support the high cost of publication. Acceptance of manuscripts for publication is based entirely on technical merit, irrespective of ability to pay the charge. Authors who cannot pay the charge should contact the editorial office by email (

Please contact Michael Madary ( with any questions.

This special issue has been initiated by the EU Integrated Project VERE.

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