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Intersubjectivity and social presence Francesca Morganti, PhD University of Lugano, Switzerland Istituto Auxologico Italiano, Milano - Italy.

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Presentation on theme: "Intersubjectivity and social presence Francesca Morganti, PhD University of Lugano, Switzerland Istituto Auxologico Italiano, Milano - Italy."— Presentation transcript:

1 Intersubjectivity and social presence Francesca Morganti, PhD University of Lugano, Switzerland Istituto Auxologico Italiano, Milano - Italy

2 Virtual spaces People access a variety of existing scenarios on the web designed for communication and cooperation. If based on 3D technologies they provide users with a variety of interconnected places (virtual environments) through which people navigate and carry on tasks People socially interact through their embodiments, named avatars Generally, each virtual environment can provide access to a number of tools, awareness of on-going events and can also encourage open communication and cooperation with other occupants


4 Shared spaces Multi-agent VR environments are not only composed of multiple actors but also, and especially, of multiple viewpoints about reality Managing the possibility of combining multiple perspectives multi-user VE provide a sense of mutual awareness among users when they are involved in an interaction A new chance to shed light to this perspective is based on the concept of presence and social presence

5 A backward step: Telepresence The term presence derives from “telepresence” and refers to the phenomenon that a human operator develops being physically present in a remote location through interaction with a technological interface (Minsky, 1980). The term “telepresence” is used when the virtual experience dominates the real world experience and describes the feeling of being in the environment generated by the technology, rather than in the surrounding physical environment (Steuer, 1992).

6 The sense of presence “Presence is a psychological state or a subjective perception in which the participant, although working with an instrument, fails to understand the role of technology in his experience. Although the subject might assert (except in extreme cases) that he is using technology, up to a certain point, or a certain degree, the subject gets involved in the task, in objects, entities and event perception, as if technology was not present” (Lombard, 2000) Presence is widely accepted as the key element to consider in any research involving human interaction with interactive technologies and by many researchers as the essence of any experience in a virtual reality environment. The concept of presence is very broad and has been developed over the past decade since its original description.

7 Two ways to be present ? The VR systems comprise two main components: ▫a technological one ▫one related to psychological experience The different relevance given to each component produced two different but coexisting perspectives on presence: ▫the mediated presence perspective ▫the experiential presence perspective (Coelho, Tichon, Hine, Wallis, Riva, 2006)

8 Mediated/experiential presence Mediated presence: ▫VR system is a a collection of specific technological tools, the interaction with which needs to be explained in terms of presence. ▫The sense of presence is a function of the experience of a given medium  Lombard 2000  Schubert, Friedmann & Regenbrecht, 1999  Slater & Wilbur, 1997 Experiential presence: ▫Presence is a cognitive phenomenon ▫The sense of presence evolves through the interplay between our biological and cultural inheritance, whose main function is the control of human activity  Biocca, 2001  Carassa, Morganti, Tirassa, 2004; 2005  IJsselstein, 2002  Mantovani, Riva, 1999; 2001  Riva, Waterworth & Waterworth, 2004

9 The emergence of CVE The recent evolution of technology has focused on the design and development of collaborative virtual environments (CVEs) CVEs are virtual arenas within which people are able to meet, communicate and cooperate by interacting synchronously with each other Interaction and cooperation are allowed by virtual reality software, even while users are physically located in different places over the world Several authors attribute to this kind of media the function to create the possibility to collapse space and time, in order to provide not only the limited illusion of ‘being there’ but also of ‘being together with other people’ (Biocca, Kim, Levy, 1995) Like the feeling of being there in a computer-simulated environment is defined “presence”, the subjective illusion of being together within a virtual place is generally agreed as “social presence”

10 Social presence The sense of social presence is distinguished by the following five common features: ▫a shared sense of space (the illusion of being located in the same place with other users) ▫a shared sense of “co-existence” (supported by introduction of virtual representation of self and others: avatars of participants) ▫a shared sense of time (by providing real-time interaction not only with the environment but also with other users) ▫a way to communicate (writing, talking and acting with other users) ▫a way to share (the possibility of sharing knowledge and “digital objects”, interacting within the environment) Singhal and Zyda (1999)

11 Co-presence The concept of social presence mostly derived from the term co-presence originated in the work of Goffman: ▫co-presence existed when people reported that they were actively perceiving others and felt that others were actively perceiving them “co-presence renders persons uniquely accessible, available, and subject to one another” (Goffman, 1963, p. 22). Co-presence in this sense solely refers to a psychological connection to and with another person. It requires that interactants feel they are able to perceive their interaction partner and that their interaction partner actively perceives them

12 Social presence has been frequently invoked to evaluate people’s ability to connect via telecommunication systems (Rice, 1993; Short et al., 1976; Walther, 1996) Short et al., (1976) defined social presence as “the degree of salience of the other person in the interaction and the consequent salience of the interpersonal relationships” There is large evidence that the efficacy of computer based learning systems and their productive performance in teleconferencing and collaborative virtual environments are largely based on the quality of the social presence they afford. What social presence afford?

13 How to define, measure, and design social presence has become one of the most challenging problems in communication theory and in the psychological definition of technology-enhanced involvement Up to now, measures of social presence have been shown to relate more to the user’s perception of a medium’s ability to provide salience of another as opposed to measuring the actual perceived salience of another person It emerges the necessity to investigate how humans are able to project “a sense of self” through the resources and the limitations of a medium using virtual reality technologies as possible communication and cooperation scenario (Morganti, Riva 2006)

14 Interpersonal relationship Characterizing social presence as the degree of “salience of the interpersonal relationship” it will be necessary to define the degree of psychological involvement with the other On one side, Rice claims that social presence “is fundamentally related to two social psychology concepts; intimacy and immediacy” (Rice, 1993, p. 72) On the other side it is possible to define social presence starting from the “theory of mind” assumption: it involves a degree of mutual awareness - social presence results when an user is aware of the mediated other, and the other is contemporaneously aware of the user (Heeter, 1992)

15 To access another intelligence One of the key defining element of social presence is the sense that one has “access to another’s intelligence” (Biocca, 1997) Social presence is activated as soon as a user believes that an entity of the environment displays some minimal intelligence in its reactions to the environment and to the user The key issue for social presence becomes the “moment- by-moment awareness” of the co-existence of another sentient being, accompanied by a sense of engagement with the other (Biocca, Harms, Gregg, 2001)

16 The “moment by moment” awareness The ability to perceive the others; it does not imply that one understands what they believe or want The ability to share attention; it is out in the open for subjects A and B that one of them (or both of them) attend to object X The ability to represent the intentions of others; being able to understand the objective that may lie behind another individual’s behaviour

17 The ability to perceive the virtual others Can user’s feel the same level of social presence with virtual bodies that appear less-human (anthropomorphic) as compared to virtual bodies that conform more closely to the shape of the human body? How the visual representations of computerized others influence person perception? When the bodily cues are computer generated and not natural, will people rely on them for person perception and social judgment or ignore them because they are completely fabricated and, therefore, untrustworthy? The disembodied others encountered in mediated environments may not provide all (or even any) of the traditional cues that people have come to rely on for perceiving others. At the same time, virtual environments may provide various kinds of new, dramatic embodiment cues that might enhance interpersonal interaction.

18 When the virtual human appeared non- anthropomorphic, people feel they had less access to another mind They also feel less social presence that is they felt that the medium was less able to support a social interaction. People feel a reduced sense of presence in the place where the social interaction occurred Users may feel less socially comfortable with forms of the body that deviated too much from what they experience in the physical world This raises the question of why the anthropomorphism of the user’s virtual image influence not only the user’s judgment of co-presence with the other, but also their judgment of the appropriateness of the medium for social interaction and the users sense of presence in the place.

19 Shared attention in VR Situation awareness does not consist therefore of a collection of “objective” information relative to "how things are" in the environment, but rather it consists of multiple situated scenarios shaped by meanings which participants attribute to the current situation We can recognize different layers of situation awareness, from the most superficial which gives us information about the participants to the environment, to the deeper one, which introduces a plurality of perspectives on the virtual space How the technological systems have to be able to support a set of social behaviors? WISIWYS vs WISIWYD design frameworks

20 WYSIWIS systems provide participants with information about the space in which other participants are moving, so that a user can know in every moment where other users are and what the focus of their attention is. ▫The information provided by WYSIWIS systems is generally of a graphic type, and is integrated into the system automatically, without distracting the attention of the participants. ▫The effectiveness of these tools diminishes with increase in the shared space visible to each user, and with increase in the complexity of actions permitted to participants by the system WYSIWID systems have three fundamental parts: ▫Elements of knowledge that analyzes the workspace, identifying what type of information the users in the shared space are exchanging ▫Process of maintaining awareness that regards the information obtained from the first part, and indicates in which way the information must be presented to the users ▫Uses of workspace awareness that consists of a process, which helps the designers to understand the situations by means of an analysis of the interactions developing in the groupware (In spite of the variety of the awareness widgets introduced, the WYSIWID system does not provide cues to understand the intentions of the other participants) A scenario design that is able to provide not only information about the users’ placement in the environment, but also about the main actions they undertake will better support social presence (Gutwin and Greenberg, 1998; Cottone, Mantovani, 2003 )

21 Intentionality in VR By convention, a virtual human controlled by a human in real time is labeled “avatar,” but it would be labeled an “agent” if an artificial intelligence or a computer controlled it In the networked social places inhabited by virtual humans, the user may feel some level of connection with those he/she encounters while at the same time automatically constructing a representation of the other. This representation is extended and clarified as the user works to understand and predict the intentions, and future behaviors, of the virtual other Does it matter if the mind controlling the virtual human body is human, or is it enough to feel a connection to another mind whether it is human or artificial?

22 When behavior and embodiment is the same, in a very short interaction users may feel equally present with what they know to be artificial agents as they do with human avatars In very simplified interactions users felt they had access to another mind and that the mind was attending to them (copresence) whether it was an agent or avatar. People respond to computers in ways that are very similar to the ways they respond to other humans (Reeves and Nass, 1996) In more complex interactions there are significant differences in users perception of the medium’s ability to provide a connection to another mind (social presence), and there are significant differences in the extent to which people felt physically present in the virtual world (presence as transportation)

23 Final remarks Social presence phenomenon give us an example of “mirroring” even where some sensorial information cues are not directly avaliable in the interaction scenario. Social presence derives from human ability to create sense in interaction more than in technology’s ability to provide salience of others Even if technology “fails” in provide users with salient information in interaction humans are cognitively able to fill this gap.

24 Thank You for your attention



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