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Monday, April 20, 2009

Social Experience

Interesting image from post by Dave White – Eventedness that relates to our social experience with different tools.


It looks at how each technology relates to feeling of being present with others and whether that presence is felt beyond a specific limit of an event.

Co-presence comes from being embodied as avatars this definition includes what is experienced when an individual is certain that their contribution (usually in text form) will be read and responded to by others. For example it is possible to get a strong sense of the presence of others when microblogging because the exchanges are often frequent, they often reference each other and the response time can be a matter of seconds. Messages are linked to the particular point in time and their value erodes over time. There is a relationship between the speed in which the value of nodes of communication erode within a technology and the potential for Co-presence. In addition the individuals’ level of trust that their contribution will be understood and responded to within a particular technology has a large bearing on both Co-presence and Eventedness. It is of note that there is very little latent social presence in MUVEs. When you log-off your presence all but evaporates leaving almost no trace of your identity or that fact that you were in the MUVE.

He also points out something quite interesting that I had not really considered the same way is that part of the value of social networking sites and microblogging is that you feel connected to the person even though they are not real-time online at that point. In other words, the social experience extends beyond the specific event.

I'm not 100% sure I fully grasp the implications and meanings of the terms he uses and their importance to the social experience. But, I think the part that really is interesting here is better captured in his post - That Was an Interesting Experience -

“Teaching and learning in virtual worlds is an experience.”

Taking part of a teaching session in a Multiuser Virtual Environment (MUVE) is more than simply using a tool or achieving a task, it feels like an event, a particular moment in time when you have the chance to interact with others at a level of intensity which is rarely felt in other online spaces.

There is definitely something different about "getting together" with other people and the social experience using these different tools. How much you feel connected to them varies greatly.

Pictures and Connection

I need to do a full post on this, but I receive quite a few LinkedIn Connection requests - My LinkedIn Open Connection Approach – and it's surprising how often I will get them from people who briefly met me somewhere and they don't have a picture on their profile. That's really a bad move from a social experience standpoint:

  • I have trouble associating names with faces and you are making it really hard to remember you.
  • It says - "I'm not serious" – and makes it less likely that I will connect with you.
  • Most importantly, it hurts the effect that Dave White is describing – the connection. Without that picture I simply won't feel as connected to you.

But it's also surprising to me that we don't use pictures elsewhere. Way back in Ten Predictions for eLearning 2008, I predicted

Virtual Classroom Tools - Meeting Tool + Second Life Lite

A medium size Virtual Classroom / Meeting Tool will announce features in 2008 that are not 3D immersive, but that are more like Mii characters in a 2.5D world. This will allow more natural kinds of interactions in classroom settings, especially for things like breakout activities.

I got this horribly wrong in that it hasn't happened, but I still think that this will happen. As I look at Dave White's posts, I believe this is an important fundamental part of the social experience that should be happening.

When I watch how my kids play with games, if there's an avatar tool, they often fail to ever play the game because they run out of time having spent so much time creating a good avatar. Yesterday, I was at a bowling alley / arcade and several of the games at an arcade had customizing my ride kids of features. Why? Because it makes us feel more connected to the experience? It goes from a game to a social experience.

Why the heck doesn't each tool – WebEx, Adobe Connect, Elluminate, etc. ask for a bit more profile information in order to try to make it have a better social experience? A picture and a link to their LinkedIn profile (or other profile page)? Sure the pictures would be hard to fit in the tiny space, but I guarantee you would feel more connected. Heck – on most blogs that show who are recent visitors, they don't show a list of text names. They show a list of pictures.

These tools also should have a view that gives you a 2.5D representation of what's going on. They should allow a natural placement breakout into rooms.

These tools should hire some Mac designers to create something that's not 3D, but that gives a greater feeling of presence.

In the meantime, I think it's likely up to us to define how we can use the existing capabilities in ways that make it a better social experience. I cannot claim to be good at this myself, but I want to thank Dave for reminding me of the importance of social experience.

I'd very much welcome thoughts on this.


john said...

White is clearly an advocate for MUVE as a learning platform. His argument seems to stem from the engagement a learner might feel in such an environment.

My question is how many learners feel that their avatars are them vs. marionettes they control? When it comes to SL, for instance, I know people in both camps. I know it can be enticing to be represented by a "cartoon character" and I sometimes find it interesting, myself. But does it help people learn? Does it increase retention? Is just being entertaining or engaging enough?

Do you know of any good solid research that learning events in MUVEs are better than the other forms of learning in the diagram?

Sue Waters said...

But Elluminate does provide the facility to attach both a photo and bio to your name. This information will remain each time you use Elluminate provided you use the same computer.

On a Mac you hold the Ctrl key and left click then select Edit profile. Then you can upload your photo and all your details. During the session just hovering over a person's name will bring up profile details.

Online gaming and virtual worlds like Second Life (which are both quite different and often have different users from each other) appeal to specific types of people. From my experience people are really into them and it is their preferred way of interacting online while others aren't engaged by them.

Maria H said...

I am glad you brought up the points on photos. And here is an interesting twist. Another woman and I facilitate a manager training class for our managers from all across our company footprint. We do a brief introductory WebEx and we put both our photos up as we introduce ourselves. The next part of the class is in person, so it is nice when we get to the class because people recognize us immediately as the instructors. But here was what I didn't expect. Classroom facilitation is only a small part of what I do because honestly, I am an introvert. I do like to facilitate classes occasionally but I wouldn't do it all the time. I also am a pretty social person, but when I am around people I don't know, I can be a little shy at first. Because participants recognize me, they come up to me and start talking. It puts me so much more at ease socially I can't believe what a difference it makes! I feel so much more comfortable and connected to the class right from the start and I can tell by their immediate participation they feel the same way. All from a photo in a WebEx - how simple and yet, so helpful!

Tony Karrer said...

John - I am not familiar with MUVE research. I can understand what you are asking, but there certainly is a different social experience through some kind of representation. I too question the animal or cartoon vs. a picture or more real-life representation. But either gives a greater feeling of being with the other person.

Sue - I didn't know that! And I use Elluminate all the time. Weird. I will try it out today!

And I hear you on preference of interacting via MUVE. I'm not that into them. BUT - I think that something more than Elluminate, WebEx could be done. Don't you?

Maria H - thanks again for a great comment. Your recent contributions have been wonderful!

That's a good point that we can somewhat simulate the effect I was suggesting by collecting photos ahead of time. In fact, I believe a lot of the whiteboards allow people to post webcam or photos realtime.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Tony!

For years, distance teachers have known that a picture of the teacher in the hands of the student and of the student in the hands of the teacher can make a huge difference when attempting to relate in asynchronous activity.

Ric Jensen, Northwestern State University found that the use of a webcam could enhance learning and had real benefit that allowed distance education students to put a face on the instructor. Check out his section on Making Classroom Teaching More Interesting.

Catchya later