The degree of immersion of human users in virtual settings is one of the keys of optimal design of such environments. However, visual aspect is clearly not the only factor contributing to the immersive power of virtual spaces. Beside purely physical aspects, social factors may contribute to the quality of immersion. Using as a model one of the largest and most active communities of the virtual environment of Second Life, the Gorean community, we here tried to analyse the immersive role and dynamics of inter-group interactions. We analysed the example of the trade role-play through the inner point of view of avatars strongly involved in this activity. We show here that non-required social interactions activities can strongly reinforce the immersive process, not only for individuals, but also at the group level. Our results strongly suggest that the visual or structural design of virtual environments is only a first step to facilitate immersion. Social actions apparently non necessary contribute to reinforce the inner cohesion of groups in virtual words. Thus, the inter-individual and inter-group dimensions shall be taken into account in the design of efficient virtual worlds to optimise the immersive aspects of these environments.
|Keywords:||Avatar, Social Density, Social Interactions, Virtual Communities, Virtual Settings, Gorean, Role-Play|
Professor, Centre de Recherche Université Laval Robert Giffard, Faculty of Pharmacy, Laval University, Quebec City, Canada
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