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Avatar-mediation and transformation of practice in a 3D virtual world - meaning, identity, and learning


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From my oral and public Ph.d. defence (viva), January 26th, 2017 at Aalborg University, Denmark.

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Avatar-mediation and transformation of practice in a 3D virtual world - meaning, identity, and learning

  1. 1. Avatar-mediation and Transformation of Practice in a 3DVirtualWorld - Meaning, Identity, and Learning Marianne Riis PhD defence, AAU-CPH, January 26th, 2017
  2. 2. Agenda • Research interest • Methodology • Theory • Empirical work • Selected findings • Challenges • Conclusions • Future research
  3. 3. Research interest
  4. 4. Research question 1 How do students in a pedagogical Community of Practice respond to avatar-mediation and transformation of practice in the 3D virtual world, Second Life?
  5. 5. Research question 2 How can design for learning be conceptualized and implemented to facilitate meaningful participation and reification for students in the 3D virtual world, Second Life?
  6. 6. Methodology
  7. 7. Design of the study Research-led Action Research (AR) o 4 action research cycles (from 2007-2011) o Reflection just as central as action • The dual imperative ofAR o Research interests and Problem-solving interests • Insider research in collaboration with other insiders • Grounded theory-inspired
  8. 8. Methods and data - researcher-generated (Rapley, 2007) Method Duration (total in 4 cycles) Data material Offline lectures/workshops 12 hours Post-fact reflections, teaching materials Online evaluation survey - Written answers, statistics Online group interview - synchronous 1 ½ hour Field notes, interview guide Online participant observation in FC - asynchronous 26 weeks 1.104 online postings, field notes, teaching materials Online participant observation in SL - synchronous 26 weeks 130 hours of scheduled inworld teaching Numerous hours of unscheduled observation Field notes, teaching materials, inworld objects
  9. 9. GroundedTheory-inspired approach Characteristics • An inductive approach aimed at minimizing preconceived ideas (received theory) • Grounded in data • Verification through saturation • Used where little is already known My coding process 1. Open coding (generating concepts) 2. Selective coding (generating categories) 3. Theoretical coding (generating new and integrating old theory)  Two main stories to tell
  10. 10. The role of theory (in GT) Highly debated, but consensus on some kind of review – typically on extant literature after data collection and (preliminary) analyses • State-of-the-art review (Grant & Booth, 2009) o Understand the phenomenon of VWs MUVE ecology o Understand previous research as of 2.Q 2016 Recommendations for design for learning in SL
  11. 11. Previous educational research inVWs/SL • Evolved from exploratory and descriptive studies to more evaluative and change- oriented studies • Publications peaked in 2009, but SL continues to be used and researched • Focus on adult, professional learners still limited • Focus on many different pedagogical theories, but CoP frameworks still limited
  12. 12. Theory
  13. 13. Virtual as proxy for the material (Friedberg, 2006) • The virtual is a substitute – a proxy for the material • A virtual object has a materiality and a reality, but of a different kind • Functional sameness, but not identical • Psychological relativity (Blascovich & Bailenson, 2011)
  14. 14. VirtualWorld design (Bartle, 2009)
  15. 15. Multi-userVirtual Environments
  16. 16. A socio-cultural perspective (Dissertation, p. 118; Riis, 2002 – inspired by Dysthe, 2001) General characteristics of learning in a socio-cultural perspective Learning is constructed A socio-cultural perspective on learning builds on constructivist theories wherein learning is seen as a process of knowledge construction as opposed to a process of knowledge transfer. Learning is social A socio-cultural perspective on learning emphasises learning as a social process where knowledge first is constructed socially and then internalized. Learning is situated A socio-cultural perspective on learning focuses not only on the participants, but on the context (time, space, situation, culture) in which they interact as well. Learning is mediated A socio-cultural perspective on learning focuses on the tools participants use for their interaction, and language is considered the most important tool. Learning is distributed A socio-cultural perspective on learning sees knowledge not only as something that is located in the individuals, but also in between participants and artefacts. Learning is coming to be In a socio-cultural perspective, learning is seen as more than mere epistemic construction. Learning is a process of becoming, of forging identities in activities in the world.
  17. 17. Communities of Practice framework - a multifaceted, developing story
  18. 18. My foci within the CoP framework Legitimate peripheral participation Participation and reification Rhythms Interaction Identities Technology stewardship 7 Design principles Learning as doing Learning as belonging Learning as becoming Learning as experience
  19. 19. Remediation strategies (Dissertation, Riis, 2010;Tringham,Ashley & Mills, 2007 – inspired by Bolter & Grusin, 1999) Respectful • Main objective is to reproduce prior practice with no apparent critique – often focusing on a quantitative outcome. • In general, this type of remediation enhances the authenticity and enforces the authority of the original media and practice. • Tradition, familiarity, and certainty are keywords in this strategy. • Changes are experienced as minor, evolutionary modifications and typically only involve change in modality, not specific activities. Radical • Main objective is to reinvent prior practice based on critical review – often focusing on a qualitative outcome. • In general, this type of remediation challenges both authenticity and authority of the original media and practice. • Innovation, alienation, and uncertainty are keywords in this strategy. • Changes are experienced as major, revolutionary transformations, and typically involve change in both modality and activities.
  20. 20. A conceptual design model
  21. 21. Empirical work
  22. 22. Master in ICT and Learning • 53 MIL students, several guest teachers and visitors • MIL courses: o 3 X “Educational design, ICT based learning products and virtual learning environments: theory and analysis” o 1 X “SL and Dialogic Didactic Design”
  23. 23. Action research cycles Interests MIL07 MIL08 MIL09 MIL10 Research interest (RI1) How do students in a pedagogicalCommunity of Practice respond to avatar-mediation and transformation of practice in the 3D virtual world, SL? Research interest (RI2) How can design for learning be conceptualized and implemented to facilitate meaningful participation and reification for students in the 3D virtual world, SL? Problem solving interests (PSIs) How can design of inworld activities solve the problem with lacking engagement and participation in SL? How can design of an inworld assessment method solve the problem of discrepancy between participation and reification in SL? How can design of the MIL course focused on enhancing the domain-practice relation solve the general problems of transformation of practice in SL? Design strategy
  24. 24. Stories from the field 1. Student responses to the avatar phenomenon (linking A, AA and AAA concepts and categories)  Chapter 6 2. Student responses to the pedagogical design (linking all B and C concepts and categories)  Chapter 5
  25. 25. Selected findings
  26. 26. Findings related to course design • A respectful remediation strategy is not recommendable • 7 original design principles were good, but insufficient • Alignment with curricular purpose and goals and the SL environment, practice • Reification should be both verbal and materialized • Time is crucial • Roles need to be reconsidered  Conceptual design model, design of activities and a new assessment method and 5 new design principles
  27. 27. From 7 to 12 Design principles 8. Support avatar and identity exploration 9. Promote inworld participation 10.Promote inworld reification 11.Support newbies through inworld stewarding 12.Promote domain-practice alignment
  28. 28. Findings related to the avatar In general students obtained a sense of being present (as self) and of co-presence o Sometimes embodiment, sometimes immersion • Acknowledge the importance of the avatar and different perceptions hereof • Allow time for avatar-acclimatization • Design activities targeted avatars and for avatars
  29. 29. Design framework - for avatar-based 3D virtual worlds
  30. 30. Challenges
  31. 31. Insider research - in a research environment • Positionality - epistemological and methodological biases • My dual role – teacher, then researcher! power relations  • Different inquiry strategies – voices 1. person (field notes, memos, 195 blog posts) 2. person (dialogue and interaction) 3. person (peer-review, papers and dissertation)
  32. 32. Change-oriented research? “Looking through this dissertation as it is presented here (…) I cannot help but notice the similarities my study shares with the DBR approach.” (Dissertation, p. 271) DBR (Anderson & Shattuck, 2012) • Situated in a real educational context • Advancing theory • Focus on design and testing of a significant intervention • Using mixed methods • Iterative • Collaborative partnership between researchers and practitioners • Evolution of design principles
  33. 33. The use of learning theory for pedagogical design (Fenwick, Jensen, Nerland, 2012; Hughes, Jewson & Unwin, 2007) • Learnification? (Biesta, 2010) • Anthropology vs. psychology and pedagogy • Apprentice and master vs. learner and teacher o LPP vs. ZPD o Reproduction vs. innovation o Social vs. personal o Domain vs. subject matter (purpose and goals)
  34. 34. VirtualWorlds Research - a tale of different stories
  35. 35. Conclusions
  36. 36. Meaning, Identity, and Learning It is through the avatar students respond to design • Participation and reification depended on mastery of the avatar (otherwise a barrier) • Through the avatar the students negotiated their presence and the meaning of it all, incl. their identities • Reflections on professional identity, the role of the teacher • Embodied understanding of theoretical concepts • Acting and reflecting pedagogical design
  37. 37. Future research
  38. 38. Future points of interest Study the 3D space-place duality o When, why, and how is place experienced as embodied relationship with theVW – not just as space Further study of the resident-user duality o When, why and how in terms of differences – e.g. between immersion-augmentation Further study of the materialized-verbalized reification duality o When, why, and how do different types make sense, break or give meaning?
  39. 39. Back to the future  “As those of you working inVR charge off to build your worlds, heed the lessons from your forebears: from whence you came, so shall you be; the future is, still, MUDdy.” (Koster, 2016). • Sansar – desktop, e.g. Oculus Rift (HMD and touch motion controllers)  • vTime – mobile, e.g. Google Cardboard VWs ,VR, AR - all part of a MUVE ecology
  40. 40. Thank you for listening!
  41. 41. Thank you for your generosity! Lone, Janni, Elsebeth, Birgitte,Oluf & Bo Etienne Wenger- Trayner 53 MIL students Roland & Inge AAU /AAU-CPH Dept. of Communication and psychology SL community UC Berkeley – Dept. of Anthropology RuthTringham COMBLE - Maria Curie Sklodowska University AAU – ELL & MIL communities Innovation Center Denmark, CA Søren, Lars & Henrik (Stanford) Metropolitan University College Friends & family
  42. 42. References
  43. 43. References • Anderson & Shattuck, (2012). Design-Based Research. Educational Researcher 41(1):16-25 · February 2012. • Bartle, R.A. (2009). Alice and Dorothy play together. Harrigan, P. &Wardrip-Fruin, N. (eds.).Third Person. Authoring and exploring vast narratives.The MIT Press. pp. 105-117. • Biesta,G.J.J. (2010). Why ‘what works’ still won’t work. From evidence-based education to value-based education. Studies in Philosophy and Education 29(5), 491-503. • Blascovich, J. & Bailenson, J. (2011). Infinite reality. Avatars, eternal life, new worlds, and the dawn of the virtual revolution. HarperCollins Publishers. • Bolter, J. D. & Grusin, R. (1999). Remediation. Understanding New Media. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press. • Dysthe,O. (2001). Sociokulturelle teoriperspektiv på kunnskap og læring. Dysthe, O. (red) (2001). Dialog, samspel og læring. pp. 33-72. Abstrakt forlag. • Fenwick,T., Jensen, M. & Nerland, K. (2012). Sociomaterial approaches to conceptualising professional learning and practice. Journal of Education andWork. Volume 25, 2012 - Issue 1: Reconceptualising Professional Learning in a Changing Society • Friedberg,A. (2006). The virtual window. From Alberti to Microsoft.The MIT Press. • Grant, M.J. & Booth,A. (2009). A typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies. Health Information and Libraries Journal, 26, pp. 91-108. • Hughes, J., Jewson, N. & Unwin, L. (eds.) (2007). Communities of Practice: Critical perspectives. Routledge.
  44. 44. References – cont. • Koster, R. (2016). History ofVirtualWorlds: • Lave, J. &Wenger, E. (1991). Situated Learning. Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge University Press. • Rapley,T. (2007). Doing converstation, discourse and document analysis. SAGE Publications. • Riis, M. (dissertation).Avatar-mediation andTransformation of Practice – Meaning, Identity, and Learning. PhD dissertation from Aalborg University. Denmark. • Riis, M. (2010). MonWenger har en avatar? Observationer og refleksioner over remediering i Second Life. Bang, J. & Dalsgaard, C. (red.) Læring i videnssamfundet – om vidensformidling, videnskonstruktion og vidensdeling. Læring og Medier (LOM) nr. 5. pp. 1-23 • Riis, M. (2002). Virtuel dialog som læringsværktøj. Upubliceret 1. års Masterprojekt, Aalborg Universitet. • Tringham, R.; Ashley, M. & Mills, S. (2007). Senses of Places: Remediations from text to digital performance. • Wenger, E.; White, N. & Smith, J.D. (2009). Digital Habitats – stewarding technologies for communities. CPsquare. • Wenger, E.; McDermott, R. A. & Snyder,W. (2002). Cultivating communities of practice: a guide to managing knowledge. Harvard Business School Press. • Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of Practice. Learning, Meaning, and Identity. Cambridge University Press.
  45. 45. Re: background pictures All background pictures are from either my own place in SL, where I put up art installations created by Bryn Oh, or From Bryn Oh’s island: Immersiva (SLurl: ) or From Rose Borchovski’s island: Two Fish, Cariacou (SLurl: or From Chouchou’s island: Chouchou (SLurl:
  46. 46. Let’s connect! English • Research blog: • Twitter: @MariisMills • SL main avatar: Mariis Mills Danish • Research blog: • Twitter: @mariisdk