Communication preferences in a virtual
world: An autism perspective
Nigel Newbutt
Bath Spa University
n.newbutt@bathspa.ac...
Summary
• Report on a project examining the preferences
and appropriateness of communicating in a
VW
– Brief overview of v...
Autism
• But first…. Autism is what?
– Spectrum condition
– Ranging from very low-functioning (low IQ) to highfunctioning ...
Computers and Autism
• Computers have been identified by
researchers, parents, people with autism and
teachers as a useful...
VRTs and Autism
• One aspect of technology and computers that
have been shown to help are VRTs
– Including; virtual realit...
VRTs and Autism
• Strickland et al. (1996)
• Virtual Reality

http://www.dotolearn.com/aboutus/research/briefreport.htm
6
VRTs and Autism
• Parsons and Mitchell (2002); Parsons et al.
(2004; 2006; 2007), Cobb et al. (2002)
• Virtual Environment...
VRTs and Autism
• Fabri and Moore (2004)
• Collaborative Virtual Environments

8
VRTs and Autism
• Kandalaft et al. (2013)
• Virtual Worlds; Social cognition training

9
VRTs and Autism
• However….
• Very few studies (if any) have considered
either avatar customisation, communication
prefere...
Communication Preferences in a VW
• Used Second Life ®
• Developed a private Island, designed in-part
with the participant...
Classroom

12
Virtual World

13
Communication Preferences in a VW
• Tentative use of text-chat, initially:
*…+ However, once in the café, all students wer...
Communication Preferences in a VW
• This improved:
The text chat was used extensively during the session –
every one of th...
Communication Preferences in a VW
During this task, as always Tony and Angela got on well
and communicated using the text ...
What does this mean/tell us…?
• Text-chat was the only and preferred option of
communication
• Confidence and willingness ...
What does this mean/tell us…?
• Prompts still required
• ASC participants reported feeling
“comfortable” and happy to wide...
What does this mean/tell us…?
The conversations were coded into the following “interaction” categories
(Varughese, 2011; H...
Appropriateness
90

Number of single text chat communications

80

70
60
50
Week 7

40

Week 8
30
20
10
0
Angela

Stephen
...
Appropriateness
Percentage of communications (differentiated by type)

100%
90%
80%
70%
Inappropriate Communciation

60%
5...
What does this mean/tell us…?
• Limited data
• Limited focus of activities
• Notwithstanding:
– Links between real-world i...
Conclusions
• Much more work to be conducted in this
evolving and developing area of research
• Reasons to remain positive...
Limitations
• Small, specific study
• Specialist school
• Limited time-scale
• Future work should:
–
–
–
–
–

Consider lar...
Questions
• Thanks for your time and listening
• Happy to take questions

– Further details:
• www.virtaut.co.uk
• n.newbu...
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What was that you said?: The preferences and appropriateness of communication in a virtual world by young people with autism

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What was that you said?: The preferences and appropriateness of communication in a virtual world by young people with autism by Nigel Newbutt

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What was that you said?: The preferences and appropriateness of communication in a virtual world by young people with autism

  1. 1. Communication preferences in a virtual world: An autism perspective Nigel Newbutt Bath Spa University n.newbutt@bathspa.ac.uk 1
  2. 2. Summary • Report on a project examining the preferences and appropriateness of communicating in a VW – Brief overview of virtual reality technologies (VRTs) for people with autism (ASCs) – Overview of the study; context – Look at some data – Consider the data; what is it telling us 2
  3. 3. Autism • But first…. Autism is what? – Spectrum condition – Ranging from very low-functioning (low IQ) to highfunctioning (Asperger’s; lacks cognitive development) – Either way, difficulties persist in areas key to: • Social skills • Social communication • Repetitive behaviours/obsessions – Compulsive, stereotyped, sameness, self-injury – Can affect up to 1:54 (in some parts of the world) and more broadly 1:100 – About 50% of people with autism fail to develop natural language/speech 3
  4. 4. Computers and Autism • Computers have been identified by researchers, parents, people with autism and teachers as a useful aid – – – – – – Systematic Simple Limits the need for face-2-face Predictable Reduced anxiety Bespoke communication; i.e. slower • In other words they help (in some ways) to compensate for difficulties people with autism can experience 4
  5. 5. VRTs and Autism • One aspect of technology and computers that have been shown to help are VRTs – Including; virtual reality, virtual environments, virtual worlds, etc… • • • • Make mistakes without real-life consequences Learning social skills Developing confidence Real-world generalisation 5
  6. 6. VRTs and Autism • Strickland et al. (1996) • Virtual Reality http://www.dotolearn.com/aboutus/research/briefreport.htm 6
  7. 7. VRTs and Autism • Parsons and Mitchell (2002); Parsons et al. (2004; 2006; 2007), Cobb et al. (2002) • Virtual Environments 7
  8. 8. VRTs and Autism • Fabri and Moore (2004) • Collaborative Virtual Environments 8
  9. 9. VRTs and Autism • Kandalaft et al. (2013) • Virtual Worlds; Social cognition training 9
  10. 10. VRTs and Autism • However…. • Very few studies (if any) have considered either avatar customisation, communication preferences OR communication appropriateness • The overarching aims of my study were to investigate these themes further • I will present some data from the communication preferences theme 10
  11. 11. Communication Preferences in a VW • Used Second Life ® • Developed a private Island, designed in-part with the participants • ASC group all diagnosed with autism (n=8) • Specialist school • Ages: 15 and 16 (50:50) • Standard layout; afforded two rooms to split the groups (ensure in-world communication) 11
  12. 12. Classroom 12
  13. 13. Virtual World 13
  14. 14. Communication Preferences in a VW • Tentative use of text-chat, initially: *…+ However, once in the café, all students were able to communicate basically (through text chat). *…+ In this second session a few of the students interacted very well (using text chat). They [Angela and Tony] eventually sat next to one another (by the bowling alley) and started to use the text chat, albeit very briefly *…+ (Observation Report; Friday, 17th June 2011) [Stephen and Peter] both struggled to find their starting locations, as did Chris. However they did get there eventually and then were able to introduce themselves to their classmate/s. This was achieved through basic text chat. A simple “Hi” or “Hello”. Nothing much more. 14
  15. 15. Communication Preferences in a VW • This improved: The text chat was used extensively during the session – every one of the participants used this form of communication at one point or another. (Observation Report 5; Tuesday, 28th June 2011) • However, the TDG seemed less concerned: [The TDG] used the communication channels: text chat and gestures. These were used to … suggest how they were feeling and what they wanted to say. (Observation Report TDG; Monday, 6th June 2011) 15
  16. 16. Communication Preferences in a VW During this task, as always Tony and Angela got on well and communicated using the text chat in Second Life. All students able and willing to use text chat – and even use it to initiate conversation (Stephen, especially). (Observation Report 6; Friday, 8th July 2011) Tony and Angela hung out around the swimming pool area at which point Angela was text chatting to Tony. Good level of initiation from many of the participants – good ability to walk up to a peer and initiate some conversation (using text chat). Great use of text chat – gets better every week (building confidence). (Observation Report 8; Wednesday, 20th July 2011) 16
  17. 17. What does this mean/tell us…? • Text-chat was the only and preferred option of communication • Confidence and willingness to engage with textchat • Unlike CMC, a VW (and presence of an avatar) might compound communication (Benford, 2007) • Initial communication appeared problematic • Communication increased over time, as familiarity increased • In-world facilitation important (ref: teacher role) 17
  18. 18. What does this mean/tell us…? • Prompts still required • ASC participants reported feeling “comfortable” and happy to widen their social group (in-world) to other “friends” or “parents” • Appropriateness of communication 18
  19. 19. What does this mean/tell us…? The conversations were coded into the following “interaction” categories (Varughese, 2011; Hadwin et al., 1997): • Visual modality (enters conversation already initiated between people) (vmd) • Perspective-taking (considers others’ likes/dislikes; understands effect on others; acknowledges comments of others) (pst) • Maintaining social interaction (turn-taking; organised conversation; navigating misunderstandings) (msi) • Initiating social interaction (greets others; asks for help; responds to comments) (isc) • Inappropriate comments (iac) • Developing humour (experiments; understands literal; understand laughter) (dhr) • A perseverative category: if responses were echolalic or repetitive (Hadwin et al., 1997) (ech) • N/A: if the interaction was unclear, or could not be categorised (Hadwin et al., 1997) 19
  20. 20. Appropriateness 90 Number of single text chat communications 80 70 60 50 Week 7 40 Week 8 30 20 10 0 Angela Stephen Chris Richard Ryan Tony Sophie* Peter* Participant name 20
  21. 21. Appropriateness Percentage of communications (differentiated by type) 100% 90% 80% 70% Inappropriate Communciation 60% 50% Appropriate Communication 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Angela Stephen Chris Richard Ryan Tony Sophie Peter Participant 21
  22. 22. What does this mean/tell us…? • Limited data • Limited focus of activities • Notwithstanding: – Links between real-world interactions and inworld inappropriateness – The same participants demonstrated both – Opens new forms of communication channels – Reports of feeling comfortable communicating inworld 22
  23. 23. Conclusions • Much more work to be conducted in this evolving and developing area of research • Reasons to remain positive about the role VRTs can play in schools, homes and other places to support people with autism • Avatar customisation and communication preferences should be placed at the centre of this endeavour 23
  24. 24. Limitations • Small, specific study • Specialist school • Limited time-scale • Future work should: – – – – – Consider larger samples Mixed-methods of data collection/analysis Longer time-frame (longitudinal) Embedding into educational settings Evidence-based focused (school outcomes) 24
  25. 25. Questions • Thanks for your time and listening • Happy to take questions – Further details: • www.virtaut.co.uk • n.newbutt@bathspa.ac.uk 25

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