Friday, February 13, 2009

Embodiment and Collaboration- How Second Life and Twitter Complement

Stargazer Blazer, DharmaPuppy and I are working on Avatar Boot Camp for ITC next weekend, and we’re wanting to use Fleep Tuque’s pre-made avatar shapes at ITC’s Avatar Boot camp next Saturday, and it dawns on me as I go out to tweet our needs to Fleep- both these technologies are about communicating with communities of practice for me, but they operate to connect me to groups and goals in a very different way- and it has to do with embodiment.

When I am standing in SL with an avatar in a space, I generally know by our proximity and engagement in the environment that the human behind the keyboard is there, on task, and probably engaging in the same goals that I am if we’re working together. Our avatars give me immediate feedback and make me feel like I am in a place and a space with someone, and if I chat type or say something in that environment, I am expecting immediate feedback from the avatar I’m chatting with. Twitter gives me access to a lot of the same people as Second Life- most SL’rs I know also tweet. But when I in this instance have to go out and tweet Fleep to use her skins, I know that her likely answer will be “yes”, as she’s given them out in world as a courtesy, but the copies Stargazer Blazer have are no transfer- that indicates to me like a creative commons license use item, the content creator probably wants communication about the object’s intended use, if you aren’t going to take it and personally use it yourself. If Fleep’s avatar were standing here with us, we would know by her presence and participation that we share goals and can gain ground on them succinctly. When I tweet to her, I may wait forever for an answer, and don’t know if she was likely present to receive it. So having both Second Life and Twitter to connect to her, I can either ask to meet her in SL for immediate needs, or tweet her so that she can get back to me on her own time. In this case, there’s no immediate need, so Twitter fits the bill. (Socially, Twitter adds lots of other dimensions too, but that’s another post. ;))

Embodiment in an avatar seems to give me communication expectations from others in the system when we are both present with each other. If Rovai identifies reducing transactional distance between instructors and learners as good for building learning community*, I think this example of transactional distance in Second Life vs Twitter is a good one to illustrate how being an avatar with your students could help them become more engaged in what you have to teach them – what do you think?

*see for Rovai.

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