Increasing Participation in Large-Scale Virtual Environments: Rethinking the Ecological Cognition Frameworks for the Augmented, Mixed, and Virtual Reality

Increasing Participation in Large-Scale Virtual Environments: Rethinking the Ecological Cognition Frameworks for the Augmented, Mixed, and Virtual Reality

Jonathan Bishop (Crocels Community Media Group, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4703-8.ch009
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The proliferation of media-rich social networking services has changed the way people use information society and audio-visual media services. Existing theories of cognition in human-computer interaction have limitations in dealing with the unique problems that exist in contemporary virtual environments. The presence of significant numbers of people using these at the same time causes behavioural issues not previously envisaged at the time of multi-user domains (MUDs) or the first massively-multiplayer online role-playing games. To understand such large-scale virtual environments, this chapter makes use of data generated from questionnaires, usability testing, and social and web metrics to assess the relevance of ecological cognition theory for the current age. Through making use of a biometric measure called ‘knol', the chapter suggests a new framework for measuring emotion and cognition in these and future environments.
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The term large-scale virtual environment (LSVE) can be seen to encompass many forms of computer-mediated communication platforms where more than one user participates. Online communities have been large-scale virtual environments insofar as many users contribute to the platform, but social networking services like Twitter and Facebook have increased users of online communities from tens of people to thousands of people. These social networking services are thus truly large-scale virtual environments, where many people take part in a virtually synchronous manner. Even if the technologies would have at one point been considered asynchronous, such as bulletin board systems, social networking services have due to the volume of people using them made such technologies virtually asynchronous. For instance, Twitter was once seen as a micro-blogging platform, but because users ‘tweet’ each other synchronously, it is more like a chat group than a weblog platform due to its LSVE structure. Naturally, in any communication platform where there is a human element, there is a strong potential for conflict in LSVEs, especially as the number of users is far more than prior to social networking services being adopted by the masses. The aim of this paper is therefore to refute the ecological cognition framework that was first created prior to the existence of Facebook and Twitter and to make it more relevant to a time when the complexities of LSVEs is not accounted for in other models or frameworks.

Conflict Management in Large-scale Virtual Environments

Conflict in computer mediated communication environments, including large-scale virtual environments, has been explored in detail since the dawn of the World Wide Web (Campbell, Fletcher, & Greenhill, 2009; Hardaker, 2013a; Hardaker, 2013b; Smith, 1999). There have been many attempts to find ways to increase participation and sense of community in these environments, especially where there is community dimension to them (Bishop, 2007b; de Souza & Preece, 2004; Nonnecke, Andrews, & Preece, 2006). Factors affecting the level of conflict in a LSVE are strongly linked to the behaviour and attitudes of those that use in them (Hardaker, 2013a; Hardaker, 2010). In particular, this paper argues that lurking, flaming and defriending are behaviours that need to be managed to increase participation so that their opposites of delurking, kudos and befriending can be encouraged so as to increase sense of community (Kommers, 2014; McMillan & Chavis, 1986; Peterson, Speer, & McMillan, 2008).

Lurking and Delurking

Lurking is a behaviour attributed to “lurkers.” A lurker has been conceived as a “visitor to a newsgroup or chatroom who simply views activity without taking part or subscribing, and therefore remains anonymous” (Cowpertwait & Flynn, 2002). It has been argued that lurking is “generally regarded as harmless pastime, especially among newbies and the terminally shy” and that the “process of breaking silence and contributing to a discussion for the first time is called delurking” (Geer, 2003). Others have described lurking as reading “through mailing lists or newsgroups and get the feel for a topic before posting your own messages,” arguing that it is “considered good netiquette to ‘lurk’ a while before joining in the discussion” (Marcus & Watters, 2002). In this paper, lurking is generally seen as a form of retreat, where someone who feels the loss of a sense of community in a LSVE ceases to take as active a part in it. Equally, delurking is seen as something that happens when a sense of community is created to the point a person feels able to participate (Kommers, 2014; Nonnecke & Preece, 2003; Nonnecke et al., 2006; Preece, 2008). The paper therefore shows how it is possible to model LSVEs in relation to the mental states of the actors who use them to encourage delurking and help prevent lurking.

Flaming and Kudos

Flaming has been defined as an “abusive communication from a fellow Internet user, usually in a newsgroup but sometimes by e-mail or in a chat forum,” where common causes are “failure to observe netiquette, ignorance of a FAQ and simple stupidity, or intemperance on either side” (Geer, 2003). In this paper, flaming is seen as a behaviour that is likely to lead someone to defriend the person who is flaming them, to lurk due to feeling a lack of sense of community, or even to themselves flame the person who is flaming them. The paper shows how it is possible to model participation in LSVEs in order to reduce lurking and encourage kudos.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Parametric User Model: An equation or algorithm for understanding users of information systems, especially from a cyberpsychology perspective.

Structure: An internal or external representation of a plant, building, or other space.

Hypermedia Seduction: A process of using information systems and mediating artefacts to persuade users to perform specific actions.

Ecological Cognition Framework: A conceptual framework that represents some of the ontological entities of ecological cognition.

Artefact: An internal or external representation of or a tool, sign, symbol, word or similar that allows an actor to interact with the world whether virtual. mixed or organic.

Substance: An internally or externally available source of nutrition or intervention such as food or biochemistry produced by neurotransmitters, respectively.

Ecological Cognition: A research paradigm for understanding information systems, especially online communities

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