Digital Ethnography, and the management of discussions

Yesterday evening I attended a Digital Ethnography group discussion at Library of Philosophers, Thothica, chaired by Tredi Felisimo:

[2010/11/16 13:16]  Tredi Felisimo: Today I wanted to talk about population and samples studied in SL. For those of you who are not academic ethnographers, the population represents everyone in a culture (i.e. everyone in SL) and the sample represents those people we actually study.
[2010/11/16 13:16]  Tredi Felisimo: When studying culture in SL, it’s somewhat easy to select a group within this environment such as the fantasy (elven) communities, music communities, gore communities, literary communities and yes, even geographic communities as virtual neighborhoods are sometimes quite vibrant.
[2010/11/16 13:17]  Tredi Felisimo: Yet, in recruiting study participants, at least I found that many of the people willing to be included were other academics or researchers! Does this bias the sample?
[2010/11/16 13:17]  Tredi Felisimo: Because my participants ranged from 19- 69-years-old, 9 countries, and every range of socioeconomic status, I believe my sample provided rich and reliable information.
[2010/11/16 13:17]  Tredi Felisimo: With these thoughts, I wanted to pose the question to you about who it is we actually study in SL. Although I understand that we cannot generalize our results to the total population and most CERTAINLY not to those folks in other virtual environments or in RL, what challenges might we face in making sure we’re not just essentially looking in the mirror, and studying ourselves?

The discussion was certainly both lively and interesting, though my reason for blogging it is less to do with the core topic than with a ten-minute digression, heavily edited below:

[2010/11/16 13:50]  Light Sequent: it’s funny, this is the first time Ive got to come here after a while lurking and I find you are not using VW’s to the fullests, ie no voice? why is that?
[2010/11/16 13:50]  Motorato Ware: why is voice essential to a VW?
[2010/11/16 13:51]  Light Sequent: its a facility
[2010/11/16 13:51]  Motorato Ware: I’ve alwasy felt it was a spell-breaker
[2010/11/16 13:51]  jesz Murakami: light voice not [really] transcriptable
[2010/11/16 13:51]  Light Sequent: wasnt available to MUDs
[2010/11/16 13:51]  Tredi Felisimo: Light, I find text chat allows for greater engagement. Can only talk onve voice at a time
[2010/11/16 13:51]  Khoisan Guardian: I agree, Light — overlapping text can be disorienting, while voice can be moderated effectively
[2010/11/16 13:51]  Motorato Ware: times i’ve listened to people engaged in voice chat on my sim, during varous events…
[2010/11/16 13:51]  Khoisan Guardian: I run all my own sessions using voice, recorded to audio
[2010/11/16 13:51]  Sudie Dibou: If we used voice, light, someone would have to transcribe the discussion…. what a pain…
[2010/11/16 13:51]  Light Sequent: I just feel that its limiting and not using the innovation fully
[2010/11/16 13:52]  Sudie Dibou: seriously though, I don’t like voice.
[2010/11/16 13:52]  Motorato Ware: I’ve found them to at least sound more distanced than people in text chat
[2010/11/16 13:52]  Light Sequent: yes agree
[2010/11/16 13:52]  Tredi Felisimo: Some people won’t use voice either. Choose to keep even that private
[2010/11/16 13:52]  Light Sequent: but nevertheless its an advancement in VW’s that should be used
[2010/11/16 13:52]  Ataraxia Azemus has mixed feelings about voice
[2010/11/16 13:53]  Motorato Ware: I heartily disagree with “should be used”
[2010/11/16 13:53]  Tredi Felisimo: I have one dear friend who hates his voice so much, he feels people judge him for his accent. Refuses to use voice in SL
[2010/11/16 13:53]  Sudie Dibou: Tredi, I didn’t catch if you are doing research in world….
[2010/11/16 13:53]  Khoisan Guardian: There’s clear a trichotomy of augmentationists, immersionsists, and RPers who all view SL in general and voice in particular in different ways — and will thus have different criteria for evaluating voice against text
[2010/11/16 13:53]  Quintessential Sorbet: I think voice is fine with one on one….but if there are more than 3 people text is way better
[2010/11/16 13:54]  Motorato Ware: agreed
[2010/11/16 13:54]  Elaine Lorefield: I agree
[2010/11/16 13:54]  Tredi Felisimo agrees with Quin
[2010/11/16 13:54]  Light Sequent: there is a way of managing voice with more than 3 ppl
[2010/11/16 13:54]  Ataraxia Azemus: I mostly feel the same way. Voice in a group needs to be heavily moderated or it’s just…augh.
[2010/11/16 13:54]  Quintessential Sorbet: Khoisan, what are augmentationists?
[2010/11/16 13:54]  Tredi Felisimo: and yes, Sudie. I just finished a disseration using SL
[2010/11/16 13:54]  Sudie Dibou: you just have to learn to read the confused noise…
[2010/11/16 13:55]  Sudie Dibou: Tredi, what was your subject?
[2010/11/16 13:55]  Light Sequent: it seems to me that chat is just as confusing
[2010/11/16 13:55]  Khoisan Guardian: I count myself as an augmentationist — those who view SL as an extention of their real lives, a form of computer-mediated communication between real people
[2010/11/16 13:55]  Light Sequent: like, no one read what I just wrote
[2010/11/16 13:55]  Motorato Ware: everyone did!
[2010/11/16 13:55]  Quintessential Sorbet: ok Khoisan…in that caase I would be immersionist
[2010/11/16 13:55]  Khoisan Guardian: And, yes, I agree, Light
[2010/11/16 13:55]  Light Sequent: there is a way of organising voice
[2010/11/16 13:56]  Motorato Ware: practically?
[2010/11/16 13:56]  Tredi Felisimo: Looking at the development of digital social capital — strength of ties when they originate or exist primarily or exclusively in a virtual setting
[2010/11/16 13:56]  Quintessential Sorbet: That’s actually a very good classification Khoisan!
[2010/11/16 13:56]  jesz Murakami: we are waiting til LL makes food we can eat before using voice
[2010/11/16 13:56]  Sudie Dibou nods
[2010/11/16 13:56]  Light Sequent: yes practically
[2010/11/16 13:56]  Khoisan Guardian: I use Google Moderator to moderate both voice and text chat in my own sessions with students — it works well
[2010/11/16 13:56]  Ataraxia Azemus: I don’t think voice in SL works the way people ordinarily speak, which can be frustrating in groups. It’s more like a bunch of walkie talkies than a group conversation.
[2010/11/16 13:56]  Motorato Ware: please tell
[2010/11/16 13:56]  Light Sequent: enter a mark to get cued for voice…eg….?
[2010/11/16 13:56]  Light Sequent: ?
[2010/11/16 13:57]  Light Sequent: means I would like to speak
[2010/11/16 13:57]  Light Sequent: and the moderator gets to cue me
[2010/11/16 13:57]  Motorato Ware: ok, social delimiters.
[2010/11/16 13:57]  Sudie Dibou: and in a nutshell, what do you think you found, Tredi?
[2010/11/16 13:57]  Tredi Felisimo: I’ve used a blend of voice and chat for public presentations
[2010/11/16 13:57]  Motorato Ware: they exist regardless, you ahem, you mutter, you wiggle
[2010/11/16 13:57]  Quintessential Sorbet: The most difficult is the combination of text and voice. I am not able to follow that at all
[2010/11/16 13:57]  Ataraxia Azemus: Light, yeah, I’m always an advocate for “speaking feathers” 🙂
[2010/11/16 13:57]  Motorato Ware: but that doesn’t make a roomful of people necessarily obey the rules
[2010/11/16 13:57]  Ataraxia Azemus: That makes my brain melt, Quin. Somehow it’s doable but it feels sooo weird
[2010/11/16 13:57]  Quintessential Sorbet: oops, sorry Tredi =)
[2010/11/16 13:58]  Motorato Ware: yeah, mixing text and voice is crazy-making in the extreme.
[2010/11/16 13:58]  Quintessential Sorbet: but yes, same here Ata
[2010/11/16 13:58]  Tredi Felisimo: Sudie, I found the ties can be very much as real and valuable, but in different ways (can’t come take care of sick kids when you’re best friend is on another continent)
[2010/11/16 13:58]  Motorato Ware: I’ve done it leading virtual tours, and it will make your head explode
[2010/11/16 13:58]  Tredi Felisimo: and np Quin
[2010/11/16 13:59]  jesz Murakami: voice is no prob –if u dont use it!!
[2010/11/16 13:59]  Quintessential Sorbet: Tredi, I think the classification to Augmentationists, immersionists and RPlayers is interesting. Would it be ok to make a gallup here?
[2010/11/16 13:59]  Tredi Felisimo: lol jesz
[2010/11/16 13:59]  Khoisan Guardian: I give all my lectures using voice, and field voice questions at the end

Even with lines of parallel conversation removed above, as many as eleven (2010/11/16 13:57) contributions in the space of a minute can make the conversation difficult to follow, and disadvantages those who, like myself, are not touch typists and who will therefore have their eyes to the keyboard rather than on the screen.  With 10 concurrent avatars it was just about manageable, but it’s not scalable. This will be an issue I’ll have to return to before I begin teaching again in SL in the second semester.


About Christopher Hutchison

Museologist, cognitive dissident, political grouch, curmudgeonly bibliophage, and all round jolly nice chap.
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