Virtual Communities of Practice in Immersive Virtual Worlds: An Empirical Study on Participants’ Involvement, Motives, and Behaviour

Virtual Communities of Practice in Immersive Virtual Worlds: An Empirical Study on Participants’ Involvement, Motives, and Behaviour

Grzegorz Majewski (University of the West of Scotland, UK) and Abel Usoro (University of the West of Scotland, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0312-7.ch019
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Immersive virtual worlds such as Second Life have recently gained much attention from education and business because of their adaptability to address real world challenges such as: online presentations, meetings, collaboration, 3D data visualization, and online knowledge sharing. These features make immersive virtual worlds a convenient place for knowledge sharing activities that occur in Virtual Communities of Practice (VCoP). A great number of virtual communities exist in Second Life to serve various purposes ranging from business to entertainment. Knowledge sharing in this environment may thus serve diverse purposes. There is, however, little research into knowledge sharing in immersive virtual worlds. Therefore, the purpose of this research is to fill this gap in knowledge. This study investigates participants’ involvement, motives, and behaviour and attempts to construct and validate a conceptual model of factors influencing members of VCoP in immersive virtual world while they share their knowledge. In order to achieve these goals, quantitative and qualitative research were carried out with participants of a group in Second Life.
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2. Theoretical Background

Knowledge is embedded in people, and knowledge creation occurs in the process of social interaction. – Karl Erik Sveiby

As was described in the previous paragraph, knowledge sharing activities may be enhanced by the use of a CVE. Immersive virtual worlds such as Second Life (SL) may be perceived as a form of CVE. An immersive virtual environment is a 3D environment which also “help[s] [to] develop a common understanding in a collaborative mind set and engage people through appealing and memorable experiences” (Schmeil & Eppler 2008, p 667). Participants are encouraged to be creative and to develop stronger social ties compared to a static web discussion board or forum.

While utilizing an immersive virtual world in knowledge management and collaboration related activities it is necessary to consider the following characteristics of this environment (Tomek 2001, Ondrejka 2008, Schmeil & Eppler 2008):

  • Physical topology can be emulated as a natural metaphor, a useful feature for a successful groupware.

  • People, information and knowledge can be organized spatially.

  • Awareness of co-workers, usage policies for tools and objects is enhanced.

  • Content is produced by residents of the world; developers provide powerful tools designed to be used by everyone.

  • Group and private chat functionality, as well as object sharing, provide inherent collaboration possibilities (additionally all communication can be logged instantly).

  • Social and collaborative aspects exist – inherent collaboration between avatars.

  • Constructivist aspect – playing or creating objects and so creating correlations and knowledge from current structures - is inherent in Second Life (SL) (Antonacci, 2005).

  • Collaborative problem solving engaging several avatars is supported in Second Life.

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