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Human Factors and Online Identity

Like the first lecture, this is just an outline.

Human Factors

Virtual Reality HCI


Essential for CSCW, including NVE, because the impact of each bug or crash is multiplied.

If given application crashes about 1 day in every 100, and lose 5 minutes each time:

Build robust or resilient systems.

Internet survives component crashes because there is no centralised essential point of failure. Empirical evidence that it is very dangerous to have everyone running the same distributed software:

On Oct 27 1980 (see RFC 789) the entire ARPANET crashed, since every router on the network (then) was identical. One failing router transmitted a corrupt packet that not only crashed all the others, but kept circulating when they rebooted.

On Jan 15 1990 two-thirds of the North American AT&T phone system exchanges crashed due to another software propagation error. The other one third had not been upgraded.

Grudin Principle

Jonathon Grudin, Microsoft, 1988: In any kind of CSCW, those doing the work should be those who benefit.

Counter example: networked calendars. Everyone had to fill them in, but only senior managers gained any advantage - and they had secretaries to manage their own calendars.

How to persuade people to start using CSCW?

Moving an existing group online is easier. Email started with ARPANET computer scientists, most commercial companies introduced local email before connecting to the Internet, even the WWW started as a local distribution mechanism in the CERN physics centre.

Getting students to use it doesn't count (Frederick Brooks). They tend to be enthusiasts (geeks), or have no choice.

If you can get students in another Faculty to use it, that's a good sign. If you can get staff in another Faculty, even better.

Be better than reality

Just because you can create a virtual model of the real world doesn't mean you should.

Good: simulators. Both military and airlines need highly realistic VEs.

Bad: forcing people to walk everywhere in virtual environments. MUDs and MOOs allow teleporting directly and instantaneously to any given location.

Example: signposts in VE.
Real world signposts are often difficult to read due to angle or darkness. In a VE they can be billboarded so the signpost is always facing the user, no matter where they are.

Example: Mac desktop for navigating file system.
Command line interfaces relied on user memory and symbolic commands. The Apple Mac introduced a 2D spatial layout for the filesystem, so users could rely on recognition instead.

This is breaking down for todays huge internal hard disks, and doesn't work for the far more complex WWW.

Lots of companies tried/trying 3D version of WWW, "cyberspace."

Real solution to the unthinkable complexity is Google, which isn't even 2D.

Online Identity

NVEs for work

Here we will look at CSCW type software: a team of people who (probably) know each other and who have come together to perform some real world task. The NVE is frequently used for CMC (Computer Mediated Communication) but there may be other tools such as telephones involved.

Tasks and channels

Task is why people are in NVE.
Channel is how they communicate

Task types: (very broad overview):

Consequences or significance of each task increases from first to last.

How rich a channel is how expressive it is in conveying not just ideas but also emotional context.

Response time matters for more expressive channels. The millisecond delays in long distance video conferencing or phone calls are enough to make those channels less expressive than face to face.

The more important the task, the richer channels should be.

Identity and roles

Identity and role are the basis of

You can't have authorisation without authentication, even if the authentication is no more than "somebody."

A real world individual may have multiple online identities, or multiple roles for a single identity depending on the task. Example: brainstorming vs financial meeting.

Online CSCW theoretically removes gender/status imbalances that exist in the real world. Unfortunately, the richer channels put them back! Hope for future (from Donald Norman) is real time special effects generation, which will allow anyone to speak or look how they wish over video/audio.

NVEs for play

NVEs are also created for as public access systems, museum/installation art pieces, and in particular MUDs, MOOs, and MMOGs. Often these people have no initial knowledge of each other except through CMC.

It may not be "work", but this does not mean that users will accept an inferior system or be less emotionally involved in tasks. Since they are paying to use the NVE rather than being paid, they often have much higher expectations and commitment in time or money.

Online identity is virtual, "constructed", and very changeable. This can be disconcerting to those used to the real world where identity is fairly stable.

Gender swapping - males online as females or vice versa - is very common in NVEs.

Avatars are the visual/aural/whatever representation of your identity in an NVE. Your avatar need not have any resemblance to your real world appearance, and participants will expect a great deal of control over the appearance of their avatar.

Guidelines, mostly from Brenda Laurel:

Written by Hugh Fisher

< Internetworked VR : Hugh Fisher's presentations >
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Pascal Vuylsteker / eScience / Computer Science / ANU
Last modified: 27/7/2003
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