Virtual Universes

As a continuation of comments posted in Moon Group 2, my interactions with the group this afternoon which I wasn’t supposed to be in felt somewhat like a violation of privacy. It’s great fun but if a group is trying to work, and someone – whether part of the group or an outsider – just can’t be bothered and wants to lark around, then who has jurisdiction for removing/warning them? It seems to involve a far more complex set of moderation issues than with a simple chat program, since there are multiple ways of expressing oneself, and I could have a significant negative and disruptive impact on the class without saying a word.

The opposite is of course true; the opportunity to express oneself in a more expansive way was the reason why smileys came around, and 3D environments it could be argued are simply an extension of this. Instead of posting URLs to people you direct them to locations/coordinates – perhaps there’s nothing fundamentally different about the baseline of the environments apart from the visual distinction.

It’d be interesting to see research into the ways students with specific learning difficulties cope with these kinds of environments. It occurred to me in Colleen’s talk that the map of the mansion, guiding you around the website, may work better than a list of textual links for some students, but may throw up false associations for others (e.g. subconsciously, the lounge should contain less formal discussion than the drawing room; the bedroom should be more “fun” than the study, and so on) and that particularly if someone has poor spacial awareness and processing difficulties, it could be immensely daunting to be plunged into something like Active Worlds.

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