Virtual worlds in education – Eduserv Symposium 2007

I presented at the Eduserv Foundation Symposium yesterday. I wrote up my brief notes from the event, and there has already been an impressive amount of blogging about the conference.

If you missed the live stream on the day, I believe all the videos will be made available by Eduserv soon.

For now, here is my presentation.

It’s a brief introduction to the breadth and variety of virtual worlds (I cheekily included EVE Online in this list, even though it is of course an MMORPG rather than strictly a virtual world). I also cover what IBM and IBMers have been doing already, as well as a brief overview of what’s interesting in the world of education, both within IBM and in the wider world. Right at the end I included a teaser for what’s going on behind the firewall. The reasons for an internal metaverse are pretty obvious; while there will continue to be virtual world activities we’ll want to run in public, there are some situations in which IBMers would benefit from having a virtual world running on our own servers.

I learned a new word during the conference (always a sign of a good day). When discussing people being more ready to communicate online, often in the form of ranting and flaming in blogs and forums, I was introduced to the term ‘cyber-disinhibition‘. Daniel Goleman’s term describes how,

In order for this regulatory mechanism [of impulse inhibition] to operate well, we depend on real-time, ongoing feedback from the other person. The Internet has no means to allow such realtime feedback (other than rarely used two-way audio/video streams). That puts our inhibitory circuitry at a loss there is no signal to monitor from the other person. This results in disinhibition: impulse unleashed.

It makes me wonder whether 3D virtual worlds, by bringing a palpable sense of presence, provide some of the real-world cues required to allow people to express themselves while helping prevent the negative effects of cyber-disinhibition. Certainly some of the research into interpersonal distance of avatars (see this study of nonverbal social norms in online virtual environments for a review) have been pretty interesting, and may suggest that the spatial cues in virtual worlds are already good enough to bring out our real-world social norms.

Update: video of my presentation is available from Eduserv’s site

4 thoughts on “Virtual worlds in education – Eduserv Symposium 2007

  1. Pingback: Helge Stdtler

  2. Sadly I missed the event – but the Apply Serious Games conference in London on 28th June will delve more deeply into a number of the issues raised. There are speakers from Cisco US, NCsoft, BreakAway, Daden and a Forterra/ SL shoot-out and also a dedicated conference on AI running with a focus on AI in games and virtual worlds. Worth taking a look at http://www.enterprising-games.com for the links to all of the sessions.

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