Wednesday, 17 January 2007

The Immersive Experience

Following on from my discussion about why people communicate more in a 3D environment, (See the previous post) I began to consider the way that a meeting or conference within SL can be so much more rewarding (and more flexible) than a simple multi-way chat session.

How is this?

Dana Gardner recorded in his ZDnet Blog that the IBM launch in Second Life was a huge success, because participants from around the world, and were able to communicate directly with senior managers and key thinkers from IBM. There was a feeling of "being there". Similarly,Betsy Stoll recorded in her blog that when Michigan Library Consortium held an in-world event to discuss MySpace, they found a their meeting in SL to be far more productive than other types of meeting, as everyone was involved in the discussion. (on a different note, a key speaker did observe that this was the first time they'd made a presentation to a group of people whilst still wearing pyjamas!)

But this still doeesn't explain WHY the meetings worked so well.

Perahps it is in the visual clues that are available when avatars are involved. You are able to see who is speaking (or, through the avatar's and movements, who is typing). You can see if someone gets bored and starts to wander away from the discussion. If you have a question to ask, you can "approach" the speaker (or whoever you wish to address) so that they are aware that you are intending to speak to them.

Similarly, if you find a group of people who you would like to chat with outside of the main meeting group, it is simple for you all to move away, "out of earshot" of the main discussion to have your break-out session.

The whole experience is more immersive. You feel that you are "there".

This can sometimes be a little TOO much.... On one occasion, I was in an SL disco, chattting to a friend. Our avatars were on a dance floor, which had built in animation - so the avatars were dancing away to the music whilst we held our chat conversation. I was watching the avatars dance, whilst at the same time following the chat. It was quite tiring.... I felt psychologically out of breath (though, obviously, was not exerting myself physically). There was the in-built associatioin that if I was "dancing" and trying to speak at the same time, then I MUST be shouting and exerting myself. I must be getting old... it was far too much... I just wanted to move away from the dance floor and continue the conversation whilst sitting in a comfy chair!

1 comment:

Betsy Stoll said...

Perhaps one reason that chatting in this setting is so much more involving is that your brain doesn't really know the difference. The following is from a paper, I, Avatar.
"Writing from evolutionary psychology theory, Fink takes a different tack. In some sense, it really does not matter whether something is real or virtual because human beings are “programmed to assume that what appears real is real. It is a powerful and automatic assumption. Consequently, simulations of people and environments easily deceive our Stone Age brains … We can’t and don’t overcome the assumption that what appears real is real, because we don’t want to, don’t need to, or don’t gain anything by it” (Fink, 1999, p. 128-129). To Fink, we constantly experience the virtual, so virtual reality is just another technology that enables interaction and engagement that we experience as real, even if it may not be tangible, because it elicits a response from our brain and our bodies. Virtual reality is not entirely good or bad, but one of many virtualities in our lives.
I remember hearing on the radio a year or so ago a program about why it is that people can become so wrapped up in watching games or sports events. The same areas of the brain that are stimulated by doing the activity, are stimulated by watching it. In our minds, we really are part of it...