Saturday, 21 June 2008

Immersion and embodiment

I touched on "embodiment" in my last post which was something that also came up in discussion during the Learning From Online Worlds; Teaching In Second Life event last week.

Mark Childs (SL: Gann McGann) sent me thru some material by email based on the work he is doing on his PhD. I find this stuff fascinating. 'Yer tis (with permission)...
Immerion and embodiment

Here's a summary of the stuff from my PhD on immersive and embodiment tendencies: hope it's of interest. The stuff relating immersion with watching movies is from:

Sheridan, T. (1992) “Musings on telepresence and virtual presence”. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments 1 (1), 120 - 126

Immersive tendencies

One of the factors that Steuer (1995; 40) identifies that promote mediated presence is “the characteristics of the individual experiencing the environment”. Newman (2005; 3) describes people with high immersive tendencies as people who:

"are able to block external distractions and become very focused, to the point where they become unaware of their immediate environment and the passage of time" - Newman (2005; 3).

People who have stronger immersive tendencies will report a higher feeling of presence in virtual environments (Kaber, Draper and Usher, 2002; 392).

Immersive tendencies are “thought to be dependent on aspects of human cognition and behaviour, including concentration, imagination, and self-control” (Psotka and Davison, 1993; quoted in Kaber, Draper and Usher, 2002; 392). Other researchers have found a correlation between daydreaming and becoming lost in novels and immersive tendencies (Witmer and Singer, 1994; quoted in Kaber, Draper and Usher, 2002; 392).

Embodiment tendencies

Heeter (1995; 200) identified two characteristics of users, which she stated as being propensities for involvement in virtual worlds; these are the propensity to engage belief in a virtual world (equivalent to Newman’s “immersive tendency” [2005; 3]) and the propensity to engage belief in a virtual body (an “embodiment tendency”). Heeter found that this propensity varied from individual to individual.

In her study, participants engaged in a 3D virtual world in which the participants’ image was superimposed over computer-generated images projected on a screen. Heeter refers to this as second person VR, although it is evidently more appropriate to refer to this as third person VR. The 3D effect was created through the screen being observed through stereoscopic viewers. The participants were asked whether their off-screen physical body, their image on the screen, or both, felt like their real self. Heeter found that 29% to 31 % of respondents “felt as if ‘the being on the screen’ was their real self”, 26% to 29% felt that their physical body was their real self and 40% to 42% felt that both were real (Heeter, 1995; 200). Heeter comments:

“The percentages were surprisingly consistent across different audiences and different virtual experiences. … About one fourth of the population is so strongly situated in the real world and their real body that they have a difficult time becoming involved in a virtual world.” (Heeter, 1995; 200).

Heeter, C. (1995). “Communication research on consumer VR”. Biocca, F. and Levy, & M. R. (eds.), Communication in the age of virtual reality (pp. 191-218). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Kaber, D.B., Draper, J.V. and Usher, J.M. (2002) Influence of Individual Differences on Application Design for Individual and Collaborative Immersive Virtual Environments in Stanney, K.M. (ed) Handbook of Virtual Environments; Design Implementation and Applications, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 379 - 402

Newman, K. (2005) “Albert in Africa: Online Role-playing and Lessons from Improvisational Theatre” Computers in Entertainment, Vol. 3, No. 3, July 2005
Steuer, J. (1995) “Defining virtual reality: Dimensions determining telepresence” in Biocca, F. and Levy, M.R. , Communication in the Age of Virtual Reality, Lawrence Erlbaum
Feel free to add comments here but I suggest you send any substantial follow-ups directly to Mark / Gann.


Ramesh Ramloll said...

Have you come across anything about 'distributed embodiment/presence' Non-body avatar representation, there is a case to be made that human representations will very soon become so porous that it will become extremely difficult to point to a person/avatar but a set representations/symbols which taken together or integrated together will point to a common source.

Unknown said...

Thank you very much. This was a great help.