Understanding Group Behavior in Virtual Reality: A Large-Scale, Longitudinal Study in the Metaverse
72nd Annual International Communication Association Conference, Paris, France.
27 Pages Posted: 18 May 2022
Date Written: May 14, 2022
Networked virtual reality (VR) allows people to interact via avatars. The metaverse, or the promise of experiences in immersive digital worlds, is technologically possible but a surprisingly small number of experiments have examined group interaction in immersive collaborative virtual environments. Previous work typically involves small samples, focuses on dyads or triads, and looks at behavior in only a single session. The current study, housed within a 10-week course about VR, examined collaborative groups. Eighty-one participants, separated into eight groups, met eight times using VR headsets on a networked platform. After each meeting, participants completed a questionnaire about their experience. During half the meetings, participants wore customized avatars similar to their offline selves, while in the other half, participants wore uniform avatars. Quantitative and qualitative data demonstrated the critical role of time, both in developing group cohesion and the efficacy of VR as a medium. Embodying avatars which resembled users increased self-presence, but decreased enjoyment, compared to having uniform avatars. We discuss theoretical implications and provide suggestions for designers of VR platforms and curricula.
Keywords: time, networked, virtual reality, avatars
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