Polling in Wonderland

As part of the +Spaces project, we at the University of Essex have been tasked with the job of exploring ways in which Virtual Worlds like Wonderland could be used to capture users’ responses to polls. As a first step, we identified two dimensions that could characterise a poll:

  • Visibility—other users can determine that a user is engaged in a poll
  • Privacy—other users can determine the answer(s) that a user has given to a poll

Combining these two dimensions gives us four possible kinds of poll. To explore how these might be used, we created some throwaway demos, as follows:

1) An invisible, private poll—the users clicks on an object in the virtual world, which in turn opens a web browser on the user’s client. The url used by the web browser may include the user’s credentials. The video below provides an example.

As an alternative to this approach, the poll could take place in the Heads Up Display (HUD), as shown below.

2) A visible, private poll—the list of users currently taking a poll is displayed in the virtual world, but the user interacts with the poll itself via the HUD. For example:

3) A visible, public poll—the user positions his/her avatar in a location which determines whether s/he agrees with a question. Users can determine that other users are participating in a poll and users’ responses are not private. The video below was inspired by work undertaken by Drew Harry in his InfoSpaces project.

Finally, the last of the four combinations is an invisible, public poll which doesn’t seem to make much sense in a virtual world.

The demos have raised some interesting issues, especially the visible public poll. Questions include:

  • when does the voting finish?
  • if I leave the carpet is my vote lost?
  • will users be persuaded by herd instinct?
  • could I silently leave something behind on the carpet to indicate my vote?

One of the benefits of being to be able to create these demos so easily is that we don’t have to invest too much time in the technology and yet at the same time we are able to use them to prompt our users to come up with questions and ideas.

Please feel free to contact us for more details,

Bernard Horan & Michael Gardner

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6 Responses to Polling in Wonderland

  1. Bernard, Michael,
    For the invisible/public poll, I can think of demonstrators who wear a shirt in a color that supports their opinion (we see this in real life – Thailand, Brussels), so it can fit VW too.
    The act of voting here is invisible, but the opinion is public.

    In SNSs, actions are invisible (you don’t know that I write a new status or visit a new group to join it, before I actually publish the results). So this is an invisible/public action.

  2. Nigel says:

    One thing I like about the public visible poll is the ability to change your mind after you’ve voted, which seems more difficult with the other approaches. Scalability is more of an issue with the carpet – the carpet size determines how many avatars can vote (well, it would if avatars collided with each other.)

    What happens if you walk off the carpet? Does that remove your vote? How do you call an end to the vote?

    I think you need a simple yes/no instead of a percentage option, where the center line demarcates between the choices.

    It might be interesting for avatars to be able to raise different colored flags to indicate their vote visually – you’d make voting a gesture, perhaps triggered by clicking on an in-world or on-HUD voting interface.

    It’ll be interesting to see which approach you ultimately choose.

  3. […] an earlier blog posting about the +Spaces project, I described how we were using Wonderland to host polls for users to express their opinions about proposed governmental policies. In the next stage of the […]

  4. […] of years ago, I described how we were using the Open Wonderland virtual environment platform to host polls for users to express their opinions about proposed governmental policies, as part of […]

  5. […] about the +Spaces project, Bernard described how we were using Open Wonderland (OWL) to host polls and debates, so that citizens could express their views on potential government policies. In this […]

  6. […] three applications in Open Wonderland (OWL) by which citizens can be engaged in policy discussion: polls, debates and role-play simulations. In the earlier blog posts, I focused on the way in which the […]

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