What happens to the experience of justice when judges and other participants see and interact with each other as avatars in a metaverse courtroom? 

Avatars in a virtual court are now a real possibility, at least technically. The pandemic demonstrated that a range of in-person hearings could be replaced successfully with fully online hearings. It also identified important limitations of video conferencing platforms for conducting such hearings. Nonetheless, it appears that some form of virtual courts are here to stay.

Replacing a video conferencing platform with an immersive virtual environment developed in a games engine overcomes some limitations – participants are embedded in a shared environment and eye contact can be simulated. In this metaverse environment, video images of people are replaced by avatars.

While, in some cases, such anonymity may be welcome, it also raises profound socio-legal questions about the nature of participation in a justice process. Courts have evolved over centuries to deliver a specific kind of justice ritual, one that uses materials, procedures, and symbols to communicate certain values and ideals.

The move to a virtual space affords the opportunity to reimagine what these rituals look and feel like for participants, including expanding how we think about key concepts such as presence, participation, and authority.

This presentation explores initial research into the opportunities and limitations of immersive virtual court technology, drawing on an interdisciplinary approach to understand technology’s role and impact on current and future models of justice.

About the speakers

Meredith Rossner is Deputy Director, Research School of Social Sciences and Professor of Criminology at POLIS@ANU: The Centre for Social Policy Research. David Tait is Professor of Justice Research (emeritus) at Western Sydney University and Honorary professor at POLIS@ANU: The Centre for Social Policy Research. He is Co-ordinator of the Court of the Future Network, a group of judges, court executives, architects, engineers and scholars with an interest in justice environments and how they might be transformed in the future. Together, they conduct research on emotions, rituals, the built environment, and technology in justice practices.

COVID protocols

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This seminar presentation is a dual-delivery event. Registration is only required for Zoom attendance; registration for in-person attendance is not required as neither the ANU nor ACT Health conduct contact tracing any longer.

If you require accessibility accommodations or a visitor Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan please email regnet.communications@anu.edu.au.

Image credit: AI generated image of Lady Justice wearing a virtual reality headset by Дмитрий Симаков from Adobe Stock used under Education License.

Event details

Event date

Tue, 12 Mar 2024, 12:30 - 1:30pm