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Nonverbal Communication in Virtual Worlds

Nonverbal Communication in Virtual Worlds

Nonverbal Communication in Virtual Worlds

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Book Details:

Publisher:ETC Press
Pages:383 pages
Size:47.67 MB
License:Pending review


Over the last 20 years we have seen an expansion of network mediated social activities. Where once socialization online was limited to typing in various terminal windows, the evolution of the web and of shared virtual environments has opened up new possibilities for human communication at a distance.

Of particular interest is the rise of what have come to be known as “virtual worlds”: persistent graphical environments populated (and often partially authored) by large communities of individual users. Virtual worlds have their technical roots in multi-user domains and their variants (MUDs, MUCKs, MOOs, MUSHs etc.): textually mediated environments in which written language was the primary means of navigation, exploration, expression, and communication1. Their spiritual roots can be found in the science fictional imaginings of the cyperpunk authors of the 1980s, perhaps most notably William Gibson, whose Neuromancer envisioned a digital landscape of metaphorically embodied computer code into which hackers immersed themselves. In Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson described a virtual environment called the Metaverse: a fictional virtual world which continues to inform our desires and imaginations for what virtual worlds might be. In both of these examples, virtual environments are rendered in a sensorially immersive fashion, often using visual metaphors to represent abstract computational structures and functions. Interactors in these worlds are embodied as avatars: digital puppets or representations through which the user exerts his or her will on the environment. It is this virtual embodiment that makes today’s virtual worlds so interesting.

Virtual worlds such as Second Life, the now defunct There.com, Active Worlds, Traveler, and Habbo Hotel provide users with customizable avatars in graphical environments with a range of communicative affordances including text and voice chat. With virtual embodiment comes a host of new and important communicative possibilities, and an assortment of new challenges and literacies including a wide range of nonverbal communication behaviors and non-linguistic social signaling options. In this book, we begin the work of articulating the challenges and possibilities for non-verbal communication in virtual worlds.



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