Jaime Banks ~ @amperjay
Nicholas David Bowman ~ @bowmanspartan
West Virginia University, USA ~ @wvucommstudies #ixlab
Harn...
• Ontology - realism/objectivism
• Epistemology – post-positivist/objectivist
• Knowledge can approximate any “real” objec...
• Ontology - Material-semiotic
• Epistemology - Relational
• Constructivism
• Situativity
• Inter-subjectivity
• Methodolo...
Avatar =
• User representations
• Conduits of meaning/agency
• Mediators of phenomenal
gameplay
•Audiences have always responded to
on-screen media characters as if they
were “real”, impacting
• Attention and modeling
...
Your wish is
my command.
• Psychological Merging
• Dimensions
• Identification
• Suspension of Disbelief
• Sense of Control
• Sense of care/respons...
Relationship ≈
• valenced connection
• between two people
• where each influences the other
Avatar
Dyad
Social
groups
Game...
Object Me Symbiote Other
• Theoretically divergent (psychological
merging, psychological differentiation)
• Conceptual overlaps: agency, emotion
• ...
Avatar as
Object
Avatar as
Me
Avatar as
Symbiote
Avatar as
Social Other
Identification Low High Mid Low
Suspension of
disb...
Para-social Social
• Anthro-autonomy
• ~28% variance
• α = .907
• Emotional investment
• ~26%
• α = .901
• Sense of companionship
• ~16%
• α ...
Character Attachment
• Identification
(pretending, being,
affinity)
• Suspension of disbelief
(error, plausibility)
• Cont...
• Emotional Investment
• ~24% variance
• α = .910
• Anthropomorphic autonomy
(humanness)
• ~20%
• α = .891
• Suspension of...
CMIN/df = 1.27, p = .076
CFI = .989
RMSEA = .036
Correlations shown are
significant at the p < .001
level or greater.
.42
...
• Emotional Investment (from PAR)
love, loss, appreciation
• Suspension of Disbelief (from CA, adjusted)
error, plausibili...
• Human-like relatedness
F (4,385) = 64.49, p < .001, R2 = 401 (Adj. R2 = .395)
Durbin-Watson = 1.94
• Play motivations
• Social: F(4,485) = 12.54, p < .001, R2
= .094 (Adj. R2 = .086), DW = 1.93
• Completion: F(4,487) = 1....
• PAR types
Avatar as
Object
n = 267
Avatar as
Me
n = 88
Avatar as
Symbiote
n = 95
Avatar as
Other
n = 44
Emotional
Invest...
Object Me Symbiote Other
• I sometimes forget my own feelings and take on
those of my character.
• I enjoy pretending my character is a real person...
• Generalizability + context
• Breadth and depth
• Improved explanatory power
• Learning other tool sets
• Resolving philosophical
differences
• Being open to breaking things
and being ‘wrong’
• Emotional Investment
• This avatar is very special to me.
• I appreciate this avatar.
• I would be heartbroken if I lost...
You say dāta, I say däta:  Harnessing the friction of competing epistemologies to better understand social phenomena – the...
You say dāta, I say däta:  Harnessing the friction of competing epistemologies to better understand social phenomena – the...
You say dāta, I say däta:  Harnessing the friction of competing epistemologies to better understand social phenomena – the...
You say dāta, I say däta:  Harnessing the friction of competing epistemologies to better understand social phenomena – the...
You say dāta, I say däta:  Harnessing the friction of competing epistemologies to better understand social phenomena – the...
You say dāta, I say däta:  Harnessing the friction of competing epistemologies to better understand social phenomena – the...
You say dāta, I say däta:  Harnessing the friction of competing epistemologies to better understand social phenomena – the...
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You say dāta, I say däta: Harnessing the friction of competing epistemologies to better understand social phenomena – the case of player-avatar relationships

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Early in graduate school, scholars are introduced to the foundational epistemologies and ontologies of their fields. Similar to the way in which children tend to adopt the world-views of their parents, young scholars tend to acclimatize to the theoretical and methodological assumptions of their advisors. In this process, scholars learn to harness the tools of their chosen focus of study, often at once mastering one tool-set and becoming blind to the potential utility of others. In this presentation, we present the results of a line of research on player-avatar relationships (PARs) that has successfully leveraged the seemingly-inherent friction of two very divergent approaches to research: interpretative scholarship aimed at generating rich data from conspicuous participants (in which the data analyzed are subjective accounts of human experiences gathered using quasi-ethnographic methods) and post-positive scholarship aimed at gathering broad data from anonymous participants (in which the data analyzed are observed cognitions, attitudes or behaviors produced through survey and experimentation). Initial solutions from both camps produced competing explanations regarding PARs – the former suggesting them to be best framed as authentic social relationships, the latter suggesting them to be best framed as para-social affinities. Subsequent studies theoretically and methodologically blended both approaches, resulting in a broader and deeper conceptualization of PARs that accounts for counterintuitive patterns in the qualitative data and substantially improves variance explained by data models designed to understand uses and effects.

Talk delivered at the University of Muenster, Thursday July 24. Images contained are not property of authors, with exception of data tables and figures.

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You say dāta, I say däta: Harnessing the friction of competing epistemologies to better understand social phenomena – the case of player-avatar relationships

  1. 1. Jaime Banks ~ @amperjay Nicholas David Bowman ~ @bowmanspartan West Virginia University, USA ~ @wvucommstudies #ixlab Harnessing the friction of competing epistemologies to better understand social phenomena
  2. 2. • Ontology - realism/objectivism • Epistemology – post-positivist/objectivist • Knowledge can approximate any “real” object • Additive knowledge becomes increasingly objective • Descriptive > Prescriptive • Methodology – scientific method, quantitative • experimental psychology • behavioral observation • (occasional) mass survey research • Research focus • Media psychology • Interactivity and message processing
  3. 3. • Ontology - Material-semiotic • Epistemology - Relational • Constructivism • Situativity • Inter-subjectivity • Methodologies – Interpretive, qualitative • Phenomenology • Grounded Theory • Actor-Networks • Research focus • Identity, embodiment • Human-technology relationships
  4. 4. Avatar = • User representations • Conduits of meaning/agency • Mediators of phenomenal gameplay
  5. 5. •Audiences have always responded to on-screen media characters as if they were “real”, impacting • Attention and modeling • Narrative involvement • Enjoyment •Yet, we’ve never been able to interface with that on-screen persona
  6. 6. Your wish is my command.
  7. 7. • Psychological Merging • Dimensions • Identification • Suspension of Disbelief • Sense of Control • Sense of care/responsibility • Associated with play motivations, pro/antisocial tendencies, enjoyment/appreciation Lewis, Weber, & Bowman (2008)
  8. 8. Relationship ≈ • valenced connection • between two people • where each influences the other Avatar Dyad Social groups Game environ. Interface Phys. Env. Culture
  9. 9. Object Me Symbiote Other
  10. 10. • Theoretically divergent (psychological merging, psychological differentiation) • Conceptual overlaps: agency, emotion • Predictive/associative value • Narrative involvement • Prosocial/cooperative play • Appreciation
  11. 11. Avatar as Object Avatar as Me Avatar as Symbiote Avatar as Social Other Identification Low High Mid Low Suspension of disbelief Low Mid Mid High Sense of Control High Mid Mid Low Sense of care/ responsibility Low Mid Mid High
  12. 12. Para-social Social
  13. 13. • Anthro-autonomy • ~28% variance • α = .907 • Emotional investment • ~26% • α = .901 • Sense of companionship • ~16% • α = .888 ~70% variance explained
  14. 14. Character Attachment • Identification (pretending, being, affinity) • Suspension of disbelief (error, plausibility) • Control (‘obedience,’ frustration) • Care/responsibility (wants, needs, interests) PAR Sociality • Anthro. autonomy (thoughts, feelings, life) • Emotional investment (love, appreciation, loss) • Companionship (friends, understanding, reciprocation)
  15. 15. • Emotional Investment • ~24% variance • α = .910 • Anthropomorphic autonomy (humanness) • ~20% • α = .891 • Suspension of disbelief • ~17% • α = .891 • Sense of control • ~12% • α = .796 ~72% variance explained
  16. 16. CMIN/df = 1.27, p = .076 CFI = .989 RMSEA = .036 Correlations shown are significant at the p < .001 level or greater. .42 .44 .32 -.45
  17. 17. • Emotional Investment (from PAR) love, loss, appreciation • Suspension of Disbelief (from CA, adjusted) error, plausibility • Player Control (from CA) ‘obedience,’ control • Avatar Autonomy (life, feelings, thoughts)
  18. 18. • Human-like relatedness F (4,385) = 64.49, p < .001, R2 = 401 (Adj. R2 = .395) Durbin-Watson = 1.94
  19. 19. • Play motivations • Social: F(4,485) = 12.54, p < .001, R2 = .094 (Adj. R2 = .086), DW = 1.93 • Completion: F(4,487) = 1.40, p < .235, R2 = .011 (Adj. R2 = .003), DW = 1.88 • Immersion: F(4,488) = 34.76, p < .001, R2 = .222 (Adj. R2 = .215), DW = 1.93
  20. 20. • PAR types Avatar as Object n = 267 Avatar as Me n = 88 Avatar as Symbiote n = 95 Avatar as Other n = 44 Emotional Investment 4.02a (1.57) 5.72b (1.12) 6.20c (.783) 5.45b (1.26) Anthropo- morphism 1.36a (.745) 1.89b (1.32) 3.30c (1.67) 3.37c (1.64) Suspension of Disbelief 3.33a 1.75) 4.53b (1.72) 5.06b (1.56) 4.54b (1.86) Control 6.26b,c (.965) 6.44c (.825) 5.85a,b (1.27) 5.83a (1.20)
  21. 21. Object Me Symbiote Other
  22. 22. • I sometimes forget my own feelings and take on those of my character. • I enjoy pretending my character is a real person. • I consider my character a friend of mine. • I enjoy pretending I am my character. • I could see myself being attracted to my character. • I daydream about my character.
  23. 23. • Generalizability + context • Breadth and depth • Improved explanatory power
  24. 24. • Learning other tool sets • Resolving philosophical differences • Being open to breaking things and being ‘wrong’
  25. 25. • Emotional Investment • This avatar is very special to me. • I appreciate this avatar. • I would be heartbroken if I lost this avatar. • I love this avatar. • (R) I don’t really care about this avatar. • (R) I have no emotional connection to this avatar. • Player Control • This avatar does what I want. • I control this avatar. • Avatar Autonomy • When I log out of the game, this avatar has its own life. • This avatar has its own feelings. • This avatar has its own thoughts and ideas. • Suspension of Disbelief • I concentrate on inconsistencies in this avatar's story and the game story. • It is important to check for inconsistencies in this avatar's game. • I pay attention to errors or contradictions in this avatar's world.

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