New Media Research Network: Second Life

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Yesterday I attended a New Media Research Network presentation entitled Second Life, Second Body: Microethnographic Analysis of Nonverbal Communication in the Virtual Environment (try saying that ten times fast!). I don’t know…I’m still a skeptic of Second Life, even though it has companies in it making money, bands playing concerts, etc.
(the graphic above shows ‘HealthInfo Island’)
I am particularly skeptical of Ms. Antonijevic’s ability to study the body language of avatars. Other attendees clearly doubted this, too, and raised questions about how we could even know to what extent various users could manipulate their avatars’ gestures, and how the entire interface issue limits what is really communicated. For example, real facial microgestures can be mere microseconds in length, and we are not consciously perceiving them but rather do this subconsciously. If realtime, realspace interactions are this subtle (and not even consciously controlled or perceived), wouldn’t these meaningful gestures be entirely absent in Second Life? Or, when they are there, how do we know they are intentional versus accidental?
Is this a case where the research proposal was inherently flawed?

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