What is it about?

The aim of this study is to explore user experiences in virtual worlds (VWs), patterns of interaction and exchanges of meanings and symbols by using the symbolic interaction theory (SIT) as a theoretical lens. The SIT is built on the assumption that symbolic meaning which users develop and rely upon in the process of social interaction affects the users’ perceptions, in this case of VWs. The study presents an exploratory qualitative analysis of data collected from in-depth interviews and focus group sessions conducted with 25 students from South Africa and Nigeria. The study finds that subjective meanings are given primacy because of the beliefs that people hold about VWs that are crucial, and perhaps not people’s beliefs of what is objectively true of VWs. Users’ adaptation of VWs is thought to be socially constructed through human interpretation of the VW objects and experiences. The results show that user interpretations of each other’s behaviour help to form social bonds that exist in VWs. The results show reflection on social interaction theory and improve current understanding of human behaviour in VWs.

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Why is it important?

The study finds that subjective meanings are given primacy because of the beliefs that people hold about VWs that are crucial, and perhaps not people’s beliefs of what is objectively true of VWs. Users’ adaptation of VWs is thought to be socially constructed through human interpretation of the VW objects and experiences

Perspectives

The results show that user interpretations of each other’s behaviour help to form social bonds that exist in VWs. The results show reflection on social interaction theory and improve current understanding of human behaviour in VWs. The insights from the study map the educational outcomes of using VWs in education and identifies new factors of acceptance of VWs by students.

Dr Gbolahan Olasina
University of KwaZulu-Natal

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This page is a summary of: Exploring how users make sense of virtual worlds using the symbolic interaction theory, Journal of Gaming & Virtual Worlds, September 2014, Intellect, DOI: 10.1386/jgvw.6.3.297_1.
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