Stirling uni worlds apart inclusion benefits and barriers of virtual personae
Worlds Apart: Inclusion
benefits and barriers of Virtual
“[an avatar is] ‘an interactive, social representation of a
user […] a social creature dancing on the border
between fiction and fact” [Meadows, M. S, “I, Avatar”
“[avatars are] in large part the central artefacts through
which people build not only social lives but identities.”
[Taylor, T. L., Living Digitally, Embodiment in Virtual Worlds
in The Social life of Avatars]
“…but identity in virtual worlds, with no reliable visual
clues and general lack of sensory experience, can be
misleading and/or highly ambiguous”. [Peachey 2008]
Definition: “a relation between two
classes that exists when all members of
the first are also members of the second”
Defining the immersive “X” factor
● Why is Second Life different from other
● Why is a 2D visualisation tool referred to
● Famous example: Virtual hallucinations
(Yellowlees 2007) a virtual environment to
replicate the experiences and world of a
…a continuum that "ranges from the most profoundly physically and
mentally retarded person ... to the most able, highly intelligent person
with social impairment in its subtlest form as his only disability. It
overlaps with learning disabilities and shades into eccentric normality."
- Lorna Wing
● graphical representations of real people
create a "comfort zone" that can coax
users out of their shells and get them
communicating with others.
Simon Bignell (Milton Broome)
Inclusion: The Virtual Environment
● Not popular with students initially but this
● Levels the playing field for disabled
Allows safe social skills rehearsal. A chance to
observe an isolated aspect of communication in
order to understand a second language.
● Overseas students unfamiliar with cultural
differences (Bignell 2007).
● Inherent playfulness of SL can be
disconcerting and confusing. (Warburton
● Great leveller – the loudest voice cannot
dominate plus the virtual buffer allows shy
users to shine.
● Physical intimidation & long monologs are
not of complex linguistic & social-behavioural
processing makes communication less effective
than in the real world but could make it easier for
those chat” autistic spectrum.
● “Texton thehas its own language; familiarity &
typing speed is a factor.
● Dominating personalities can feel lost.
● Lack of non-verbal cues makes it difficult to
Identity: Harmless deception or
● managing post-traumatic stress (Rizzo,
deceptions that harm?
2006) “once-removed” identity helps in
confronting past experiences.
● “Digital reputation” (Warburton 2008)
“Proteus effect” (Yee and Bailenson, 2007).
suggests that participants develop or emphasise
certain characteristics dependent upon the
appearance of their avatar.
So what can you do?
● Steve Warburton: 6 Barriers to Innovation in MUVE based
● Set rules for acceptable appearance.
● Don’t mislead - individuals construct new knowledge from their
experiences and where group interaction is key it must be
● Consider ethical arguments/clearance when employing “nonreal” scenarios.
● Identity and communication ambiguities mean events in SL need
to be more tightly managed than the playfulness of the medium
● Choose activities that take advantage of the virtual–real buffer
● “You cant please all of the people all of the time…” don’t use
virtual worlds exclusively – blend learning!
Nihil est… simul et
inventum et perfectum.
(Nothing Is Simultaneously Both Created And Perfected)
..and now a word from our
SL datalinkers feed data from
the EngSC online information
databases in real-time into
Using electronic voting systems to support student
learning in engineering.
Nov 12th, 2-3pm (GMT)