Being a Post-Learner With Virtual Worlds

Being a Post-Learner With Virtual Worlds

Ferhan Şahin (Anadolu University, Turkey) and Ezgi Doğan (Anadolu University, Turkey)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8431-5.ch012
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Transhumanism, which emerges as a movement of thought, stands out with the developments such as artificial organs, brain-to-brain knowledge and learning transfer and smart robots in the 21st century. One of these technologies, where we see early applications with the goal of reaching the post-human, is the virtual worlds. Some features of the post-humans, which can now be experienced through 3 dimensional immersive virtual worlds in a certain scale, also reveal the fact that the existing virtual worlds are a limited simulation of a transhumanist future. While the virtual worlds and transhumanism perspective is expected to be effective in various areas of human life, it will be inevitable for these effects to manifest themselves in learning processes. In this sense, evaluation of surrounding learning by virtual worlds is the main objective of this chapter. For this purpose, virtual worlds in transhumanism age were tried to be evaluated under learning context by using anime series and film samples which are yet considered as sci-fi.
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Nowadays, thought movements and technologies that will change and transform current learning conception and learning environments and perhaps move those beyond what we know are becoming an important topic. Prominent couple as predecessor and complementary of each other among these thought movements and technologies can be considered as transhumanism and 3 dimensional virtual worlds. Principles presented by transhumanism as a thought movement and impacts of 3 dimensional virtual worlds as a developing technology will create important transformation in all aspects of human life including learning activities. To understand and imagine how this transformation will occur and what the effects will be, it is beneficial to explain and evaluate these two concepts.

3 Dimensional Virtual Worlds

Virtual worlds are defined as feeling of users to be in another environment other than his/her real environment and environment created by computer to enable user to interact with this environment (Schroeder, 1996). User in a virtual world creates an “avatar” which is a character that represents the user in simulated environment and user moves in virtual world with this avatar and interacts with other avatars and objects in virtual world (Baker, Wentz, and Woods, 2009). Effectiveness of being there illusion created by virtual world can be evaluated as at what level do users feel they are in virtual world and what caused this feeling (Heeter, 1992). It can be said that most important factor emphasized in definition of virtual world that could impact learning environment is feeling of “being there”. At this point, 3 dimensional immersive virtual worlds supported with virtual reality technologies are discussed.

In line with definition of virtual worlds, 3 dimensional immersive virtual worlds can be explained as follows (Dalgarno & Lee, 2010):

A computer-based, simulated environment in which users are able to immerse themselves, and within which they are able to, through their avatars (computer-based representations of themselves or alternative selves), experience, manipulate, interact with and/or create virtual objects and places that are graphically depicted in three dimensions.

There are two important key concepts that are related and emphasized in this definition. These could be given as immersion and 3 dimensional environments. It can be said that for a virtual world to be immersive, this world should be experienced by user in personal, social and environment manner in 3 dimensional environments. This experience can be provided by virtual reality technologies (Heeter, 1992). Technologies that completely involve perspective of user in virtual environments in terms of positioning of user in simulated virtual world in his/her unique way and exploring this virtual world with various sensory ways and interacting with this world can be called as immersive virtual reality (Osuagwu, Ihedigbo and Ndigwe, 2015; Psotka, 2015). With these technologies, users can experience i.e. experience being there feeling in virtual world with natural moves in real life and without any mediator between himself/herself and environment. User can fully commit to role of avatar in virtual world, take the steps necessitated by this role, feel the environment and have the feeling that s/he is doing all these in real world. Such role, under certain circumstances, can either be similar to human roles in real world or transhuman experiences in a fantastic world. At this point, where transhuman concept is reflected, transhumanism is discussed as another concept and a movement of thought.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Artificial Intelligence: A branch of computer science that aims to produce intelligent machines that have the characteristics of a human like learning, perception, recognition, planning, problem solving and reasoning.

Post-Human: The human of the future who will surpass the capacity of the present humans with the profound technological modifications in body and brain systems.

Singularity: It is a period in which the speed of technological developments will increase rapidly and as a result, there will be fundamental changes in humanity.

Human Enhancement: To improve humanity and the quality of human life through methods such as treating disability and illness, improving current skills of humanity and developing new ones by means of technological developments.

Immersion: The objective measure of how realistic a user experiences the virtual world sensually.

Three-Dimensional Virtual World: A 3D virtual environment simulated by a computer, where users can interact with each other, objects and the environment.

Nano Robot: A programmable micro-sized robot for various tasks that made up of nanoscale components using nanotechnology methods and tools.

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