This chapter discusses certain issues in the development of Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) populated by autonomous social agents, with specific reference to existing applications designed to promote pro-social behaviour among children. We begin by describing the ways in which human groups are organised and maintained, and present the primary school class as a particular example of a social network. Contemporary psychological descriptions of bullying are explained, and current anti-bullying interventions are briefly reviewed. Two VLEs are described, which have been designed to counteract the problems inherent in bullying as exemplars of social and educational environments. This chapter concludes in Part II where the requirements for believable, autonomous agents, used in virtual learning environments, are outlined.
Groups And Social Networks
By his very nature, man is a social animal (Aronson, 1998). Indeed, groups of some kind have existed from mankind’s earliest inception if only to guard against threats to their survival (Baron & Byrne, 1996). Group activity is responsible for almost all human achievement from building the physical structures that house us, to developing the moral and legal codes that we live our lives by.