MAS 961  ·  Techno-Identity  ·  Spring 2006

Pallavi & Mirja   You are proposing to analyse Second Life via the framework of signaling theory. This could be quite interesting - I would advise you to focus on being very precise in how you do this in order to get the most out of the exercise. Think about what big questions you are trying to answer - are they about interpretation and misinterpretation? The cost and grounding of signal meaning? 2nd life is a virtual environment but it is not a "game" in the typical sense of the word. Signaling is most interesting in competitive environments - what is the competition here? Agents ARE signals of some remote person - who is this person - is it the game designer? Other players?

Your proposal is rather broad.  I would focus on the signaling aspect of it, rather than an analysis of the entire design - though of course you should provide the relevant context.

Jeff & Jesse    Your proposal is similar to Pallavi and Mirja's [in that you are both looking at systems that, while they have significant differences, are both persistent non violent relatively non-competitive avatar based VRs, and that you are proposing to analyze them using signaling theory and come up with design recommendations based on that analysiis] and the same questions apply. It would be worth for both of your groups to critique each other's work after you have done the preliminary studies. Things that seem obvious in one system may exist but more subtly in the other. Think about what are deliberate signals and what are unintended cues; think about how the users acquire a shared cultural vocabulary. Interviewing some users could be quite useful.
Orkan & Alea    You have framed this issue in an interesting way. If I unerstand correctly, you re interested in looking at the case where 2 people are communicating via some medium and with an agent as intermediary. Are you saying that the agent acts on the behalf of the user? Is the agent a stand-in for the user? Would you consider the "BodyChat" avatars to be a simple version of what you are thinking about? In everyday life, we use agents all the time; for instance, a real estate agent can act on behalf of person they represent, a lawyer is one's agent in court, etc. Some of the intereting questions here have to do with how much autonomy does the agent have, and who is responsible for the agents actions, the agent or the "controlling" person? From a signaling perspective, one might want to think about how this autonomy or control is indicatedto the receiver, and why this might be an arena for deception (the teleactor/telereporter projects address this).

On a somewhat different note, it would be interesting to think how social agents of various tyeps might well be the key fashion signal for future virtual worlds. What behaviors etc would make this possible? What woudl the associated costs be? How would these evolve?

Jeevan, Seth, Malte   The "Communicating Intimacy" paper was attached to the email you sent to me, but not to the linked file - do add it as it helps to situate your work. I think you have a very interesting idea here. You do need to think about the context in which the people are communicating. In the CHI paper you mention, the participants were in an established relationship with existing reasons to communicate with each other. You will need to either create some artificial context (e.g. a game) or work with people who have some existing reason for communicating. A useful exercise would be to reframe Kaye et al's work in terms of signaling - what is the competitiong between the peple? Is there a reason to be deceptive? For instance, one might be in a relationship where one person demands more reassurance and attention than the other is willing/able to give. Such a device, by communicating atention while requiring little effort, could be seen as a way to "decptively" indicate a greater level of intimacy than existed. This will help you think about the context for your experiement: you need to find people who are motivated to send indications of attention to each other and to care about receiving them. You can reproduce the idea of working with couples - or with teams of people working on a common project.