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30/05/2020 @ 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM PDTFree
This presentation has since taken place, you can view the film recording here
People experience a 3D virtual world through an avatar representation of their real world self. A virtual world avatar can be distinguished from a static social media thumbnail or handle in that a VW avatar is dynamic and 3-dimensional. Typically, the VW avatar form is either chosen from a menu of premade forms or is assembled from a library of components. In either case, the avatar can be customized with an almost limitless array of elements. The choices made in creating an avatar, the way others react to your avatar, and how you respond to other avatars is psychologically revealing and challenging. An avatar need not resemble the real person at all. It can be a non-human form or human but look different from the person’s “real life.” Indeed, an avatar can be a powerful modality to test a new identity such as transgender in a fully social virtual environment. This causes a distinct shift in one’s body awareness. How a person adapts to this shift has strong psychological implications.
Some people find the avatar experience so foreign that they either are very uncomfortable or decline the opportunity entirely, perhaps due to reduced visual cues inherent in in-person interaction or to how closely participants identify with their avatars and how much they recognize the people behind other avatars. This is a psychological clue about how deeply our perception of self is connected to the emotional investment we make in our avatar.
During the pandemic, educators and students alike have been introduced rather abruptly to the virtual environment. While grappling with how to teach and learn, they may not be aware of the impact of how they present themselves has on the way they interact with each other. Some educators and students adapt well to the virtual environment while others find it uncomfortable. Understanding these aspects of the virtual environment is a critical element in the success of online education.
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