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