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Social, ethical, digital: issues in 3D worlds research


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This presentation was given by Sheila Webber (Sheffield University Information School) and Marshall Dozier (University of Edinburgh) on 15 October 2014 at the Methodological Challenges seminar organised by the faculty of Social Sciences, University of Sheffield. The venue for the seminar was Sheffield, UK, but the presentation was made in the virtual world, Second Life, and livestreamed via skype.

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Social, ethical, digital: issues in 3D worlds research

  1. 1. Social, ethical, digital: issues in 3D worlds research October 2014 Sheila Webber / Sheila Yoshikawa Marshall Dozier / Pancha Enzyme
  2. 2. Outline ●Our practice in working together ●Three studies we draw on for this presentation ●Demonstration of tools used in a Second Life focus group ●Using a combination of VW and physical world networks and tools ●Issues arising from our experience ●Final thoughts Webber and Dozier 2014 Second Life is a trademark of Linden Lab
  3. 3. [03:31] Sheila Yoshikawa: also you will see i have put something on the "anonymity" slide [03:31] Pancha Enzyme: just mulling categories - agreed good idea. [03:31] Pancha Enzyme: looking at anon slide [03:32] Sheila Yoshikawa: i just changed it to emphasise 2 angles I [03:32] Sheila Yoshikawa: there are others e.g. no point anonymising text if the unanonymised version avaibale there on the web? [03:33] Pancha Enzyme: I wonder if those points about anonymity extend to research more generally? [03:33] Pancha Enzyme: i mean not just VW research [03:33] Sheila Yoshikawa: yes, I think they do Use of Google Drive to save chatlogs of meetings and draft presentation, including working on it during meetings - small amount of use of chat feature Chatlog extract Meetings to discuss this presentation took place in Second Life SL chat and now and then voice used in combo with Email, GoogleDrive, PPT Our practice in working on this presentation “Pancha Enzyme: I love a meeting when giant pink flamingo is included” Tried some other tools before deciding on Drive Webber and Dozier 2014
  4. 4. Studies: 1. Investigating Information Behaviour in SL ●RQs included: What is the information behaviour (IB) of people when seeking information about a SL activity? ●91 interviews carried out by Sheila’s 1st year students, over period of 4 years ●Interviews in SL, critical incident technique, text chat used and logged ●Students reflected on interview process ●See also Webber (2013); Webber (2010) Webber and Dozier 2014
  5. 5. 2. Evaluation of a student event ●Study of participants’ experience of an event in SL (dissertation festival for Masters students) ●Data: mainly follow-up interviews (by email), chat transcripts (SL), photos of event (SL) ●See O’Shea and Dozier (2014) Webber and Dozier 2014
  6. 6. 3. Case study of a Journal club ●RQ1: What are the motivations, expectations, experiences and outcomes for participants in a SL journal club? ●RQ2: What research methods and techniques can be used to illuminate the experience of a SL journal club? ●Case = A journal club on information literacy taking place in SL monthly since August 2010: we are the organisers ●Data: chatlogs of JC meetings; photos; videos; field notes; documents; focus groups; questionnaires Webber and Dozier 2014
  7. 7. Demonstration of data gathering tools for a focus group Platform constructed in the sky by the researchers. The boards and opinionator used in the next slides were existing tools, created by others Webber and Dozier 2014
  8. 8. Initially focus group members each went to a board where they could record thoughts on what motivated them to participate in Journal Club Webber and Dozier 2014
  9. 9. The boards were drawn to the centre of the platform, each person explained their points and a new large board was used to list the key points that the members agreed on as motives Webber and Dozier 2014
  10. 10. The opinionator was used to stimulate discussion on how and why Journal Club had or had not had an impact This had been below the platform: when it was needed the boards were lowered out of sight and this brought up Records of the focus group were the boards, photos of the opinionator, text chatlog, selective videos
  11. 11. ●Pre-research for learning about the culture ●Recruitment ●Data collection ●Research meetings before and during the project ●Dissemination ●Researcher development Using a combination of VW and physical world networks and tools in the research process Webber and Dozier 2014
  12. 12. Issues with VW interviewing ●Drawing on reflections of Sheila’s students who interviewed in SL ●Some further points from the second study Webber and Dozier 2014
  13. 13. Interviews: Adjusting to technical intermediation ●Preparedness for technical issues - for interviewer, interviewee or VW systems ●Difficulty in differentiating between pauses for thought & crashing out ●Difficulties typing (where interviews are conducted using text and not voice) Webber and Dozier 2014
  14. 14. Interviews: Having familiarity with with the VW ●Creating an appropriate research or interview setting ●Level of VW skills - for interviewer and interviewee ●Language informality or VW conventions - may be advantage or disadvantage Webber and Dozier 2014
  15. 15. Interviews: Affordances & constraints of VW ●Flexibility in designing the spaces for research ●3D environment gives opportunity for socialisation chat, although still need to create rapport pre-interview ●Lack of physical world body language - but for those with experience in SL, there is SL body language ●Difficulty in telling when someone has more to say ●Interviewee may be distracted - both by physical world and virtual world ●If using text chat; automatic transcript and video and picture- taking also may be easier than in physical world Webber and Dozier 2014
  16. 16. Are there ethical concerns about avatar vs. “real life” identities? ●Do we know a person’s “real life” identity and does it matter to the research project? ●Complexity of demographic data (RL and VW demographics may differ, adding richness but also complexity) ●Those new to VWs might assume that VW names were de facto anonymous: problematic! ●Understanding whether the interviewee is ‘vulnerable’ in any way that could be affected by the project Webber and Dozier 2014
  17. 17. Anonymity: still desirable and possible? ●Interviewees may not want to be anonymous ●Interviewers may find THEIR confidentiality breached ●Example of the interviewee blogger ●Sheila’s own experience as participant in a PhD student’s study ●Interviewees may want to reuse data Webber and Dozier 2014
  18. 18. Final Thoughts ●Enhanced opportunities for remote research collaboration ●SL is a place where research can be, and is being, done ●Research need not be about VW: environment for planning; implementing; disseminating research in any subject ●Requires researchers’ comfort with multimodalities ospecifically, need familiarity with SL to research in SL ●Avatar representations have deepened thinking around issues of identity and notions of anonymity P.S. It’s fun Webber and Dozier 2014
  19. 19. References and further sources ●O’Shea, C. and Dozier, M. (2014) ‘That ever-ephemeral sense of “being” somewhere’: Reflections on a Dissertation Festival in Second Life. In: DeCoursey C, and Garrett S, eds. Teaching and Learning in Virtual Worlds. Oxford, England: Interdisciplinary Press. (pre-print available from ●Webber, S. (2013). Blended information behaviour in Second Life. Journal of information science, 39(1), 85–100 ●Webber, S. (2010). Investigating modes of student inquiry in Second Life as part of a blended approach. International Journal of Virtual and Personal Learning Environments, 1 (3), 55-70. ●Webber, S. (2011) Presenting and exploring research findings in Second Life. (video) tYEXvGg
  20. 20. Sheila Webber Information School University of Sheffield SL: Sheila Yoshikawa Twitter @sheilayoshikawa Orcid ID 0000-0002-2280-9519 Marshall Dozier Information Services University of Edinburgh Twitter @mafrado SL: Pancha Enzyme Orcid ID 0000-0002-5151-1252 Pictures by Sheila Webber and Marshall Dozier 2014