Having spent most of the last 2 – 3 weeks involved in writing a literature review for the DELVE project, celebrating Easter, doing family things and marking, I can now take breath and spend some time doing what I am really meant to be doing, that is thinking about DPhil stuff and trying to sort out just what I am interested in. Plan is to start doing some serious thinking during course of today, but to get me back on track decided to do some reading and started with a paper I printed (yes! printed) a week or two ago by Steven Pace “A grounded theory of the flow experiences of Web Users”.
The first part of the paper went over what is now familiar territory relating to Csikszentmihalyi (can almost spell that now without checking) and flow with reference to various other studies relating flow and computer usage. An argument was given for the use of grounded theory as an approach and then the study and results were discussed in some detail. Lots of interesting snippets and potential similarities to Second Life which is perhaps not too surprising. Then towards the end of the paper, some findings were discussed where aspects of the web experiences included factors not identified in the various flow studies and in Csikszentmihalyi’s list of 8 characteristics of flow. These included ‘curiosity’ and ‘telepresence’, both of which are very much part of the experience of virtual world users.
Curiosity can be characterised by exploratory behaviour rather than task-focused – in Second Life it is possible to go to an event because one is invited to it or as a result of a specific search or to engage in exploratory behaviour, perhaps just clicking on map and teleporting with the aim of seeing what one can find.
Telepresence relates to the sense of being there which is frequently mentioned in both VR and virtual worlds literature. Pace draws attention to the fact that the Web user (and indeed the virtual world visitor or resident) is simultaneously in two environments – the physical world of their desk and computer screen, and the virtual world of the 2-D web or the 3-D virtual world. He suggests that if telepresence is measured by how much a person feels themself part of the virtual rather than the physical world, then focused attention must be a key determinant of telepresence.
This again raises the question of the relationship between presence, immersion and flow.