Who, What, Why?
Thursday, November 5
by neilC on Thu 05 Nov 2009 08:59 GMT
So Second Life Enterprise is launched, in beta at least (great moderation by Dusan Writer during the presentation too). More about that soon, but here's what I think an audience unfamiliar with this stuff should have been told. See, I've discovered that immersive environments are, erm, immersive. Maybe I should back up a bit. During the recent crazy round of activity which has kept me away from the blog, I spent some time giving presentations using WebEx. At the same time I got to give a presentation on Collaboration at the Beta Business Park conference in Second Life last week. I reflected on why it was that the WebEx presentations hadn't made me feel in anyway connected to the people I was presenting to, and how different that was to my experiences of presenting and collaborating in immersive environments.
Here's my thesis - WebEx feels less immersive, less like you are sharing a space with others than even a telephone call or IM chat. In a phone call you create a kind of mental shared audio space (teleconferences often fail to achieve this, for me at least), and pure IM can do the same, some kind of shared mental dialogue space. However, when you use something like WebEx to 'share' a desktop or give a presentation, you force yourself to be in your office interacting with the flat screen of the computer. When I present using WebEx I have to fight the urge on every slide I present to say 'OK, I've changed the slide, can everyone see that?', and it's a natural urge because I get no confirmation that the magic broadcasting is actually taking place. When I point at something on the slide, I don't feel like I'm pointing it out to the audience - I know logically that I am but I don't feel it. Even if the presentation has a quality audio channel, this interaction with flat stuff on my flat screen in my office at my desk drags me out of my shared experience. I'm going to suggest that if your aim is to make people feel closer, WebEx actually hinders rather than helps! Presenting in a virtual environment like SL is totally the opposite. The illusion of a shared space, of being together is so convincing, so powerful that I never used to check if everyone was seeing the slides or the movie or the web page - because "obviously" they are. It's utterly clear to me that when I use a pointer or even my avatars arm to point out something, I'm pointing it out to everyone. Why? Because to my foolish ape brain, we're all looking at the same screen in the same space! Except of course we aren't, it is just an illusion and I should be checking at least at the start that everyone is having the same experience. Indeed, the illusion is so strong that you don't have to be presenting anything, you can just 'be' together. This "Togethering" is the essential quality that distinguishes the immersive environment - so if you want to do more than just transmit information, you want to actually keep a team bonded and whole, look beyond the WebEx and explore the power to point.
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