I truly love this paper which describes an approach to co-designing new Internet of Things devices and interactions (Berger et al., 2019). It brings together a few things that I think embody timeless approaches to designing:
They abstracted the essence of the design space into two dice, one for sensors and one for actuators.
They used a set of cards to help create different design scenarios.
The used prompts for the participants to say what kind of interaction they were trying to create.
All of this led to some great examples of novel designs, three of which are included in the paper. Inspiring stuff.
Berger, A., Odom, W., Storz, M., Bischof, A., Kurze, A., & Hornecker, E. (2019, May). The inflatable cat: Idiosyncratic ideation of smart objects for the home. In Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 1-12).
The role of learning designer is poorly understood. In practice, learning designers within universities are often given jobs associated with learning technology (“can you please just put this up on the learning management system for me?”, etc.) In theory, though, learning designers are supposed to be concerned with the practice of designing for learning.
As Steven Kickbusch (2022) describes in his thesis on the topic of How learning designers work with teachers, learning designers need to be good at designing for learning (what activities need to be designed to make desired learning happen?), facilitating a co-design process (how can I work with a subject matter expert to ensure a good outcome from our design work together?), and also mentoring/coaching teachers (how can I ensure that the capabilities of my organisation to design for learning improve over time through my doing my job?).
I had the good fortune to work with Steven in developing a paper about ways to represent the process of designing for learning (Kickbusch & Kelly, 2021). Steven came up with the notion of Learning design process flow maps (LDPFMs) that capture the progression-over-time of the design for learning process.
The figure below (following Kickbusch & Kelly, 2021) shows an example of a LDPFM. I really like these figures as they show how a learning designer, teacher, or anyone else engaged in design for learning is proceeding with their process. The headings represent important aspects of a design for learning. LDPFMs are simple to create and obvious once you see one which is a good sign that they are helpful. They are very useful for understanding what’s going on in the design process when designing for learning.
Are the designers considering objectives before jumping into activities? The order in which things happen really matter and become visible through these figures.
I feel like there are many uses for these types of figures and I do hope that further research is conducted by Kickbusch and others to better understand the practice of learning design and the nature of expertise in design for learning.
I’ve recently published a paper with my colleagues Claire Brophy, Lisa Scharoun, Melanie Finger, and Deanna Meth. The aim of the paper is to suggest that when universities are designing professional development for their staff (whether about policy, learning and teaching, research, compliance or anything else) there are three recognisable approaches:
Help-yourself portals, like a website or set of videos where you access the learning yourself.
Drive-by workshops, where you attend a one hour-ish talk from someone about what you need to know (from an implicit transmission of knowledge standpoint).
Co-design of knowledge with staff, where staff are actively involved in creating the knowledge and bring their own experiences into the learning.
Each has its place but co-design is often neglected.
The paper concludes with these guidelines for how to use co-design for professional develoment:
Guidance for professional learning through co-design
Professional learning in universities here is conceived of as existing in a broad range of circumstances, from new policies to new processes to new paradigms and across the scope of academic, professional, and executive staff. A case study in the context of (staff) learning about designing for transdisciplinary learning experiences (for students) has provided an example of co-design for professional learning in practice. This final section aims to share heuristics about the use of co-design within professional learning and can be considered as partial responses to the questions: Should I use co-design here? How do I use co-design? Is it really co-design? (Moll et al., 2020).
These heuristics are:
For co-design to be authentic it requires that the problems being addressed are of significance to those taking part in the co-design. In our example the academics involved had expressed interest in addressing the challenge of creating new transdisciplinary learning experiences for the institution-wide development.
Those facilitating co-design need to be experienced design facilitators to overcome common pitfalls, such as overcoming participant reticence to engage and the need for time management. The professionalism of design facilitation is poorly understood by those who lack these skills (Evans et al., 2021; Mosely et al., 2021).
There are circumstances where other approaches of help-yourself platforms or drive-by workshops are more appropriate. The benefit of using co-design over these approaches is that learning happens whilst simultaneously meeting the basic needs of staff: valuing their competency, permitting their autonomy, and creating connections through authentic, shared problem solving.
Co-design is only authentic (rather than performative) if the power to co-generate knowledge is shared within the space and has meaning to the organisation outside of that space.
Co-design takes time. Knowledge that could be disseminated through a drive-by workshop would (by our estimate, based on experience) take at least three times as long to share through an authentic co-design process.
Co-design is situational. There is no cookie-cutter template for how to run a co-design session. Extant kits for running design thinking workshops are no substitute for planning a co-design session to suit the specific learning circumstances. The idea of designing a co-design session through consideration of set design, social design, epistemic design, and design for co-configuration can be a useful way to approach a particular situation.
Professional identity and trust as significant factors in designing PD
This suggestion for co-design as PD fits well with recent analysis of the types of PD that staff at a regional university consider to be successful (Herbert et al., 2023). The authors found that PD was more likely to be successful when it considered the professional identity of the staff involved and when it involved placing trust in those staff.
This fits well with the case for an increase in the amount of co-design for professional learning in universities. I do wish that our university leaders would read this kind of research and use approaches that involve trust and recognition of staff expertise more frequently!
Obviously only when appropriate as it does take more time and resources but too often such approaches are not even on the radar.
Herbert, K., van der Laan, L. & Danaher, P. A. (2023) Towards an Australian regional university professional development typology: a qualitative exploration of the academic voice, International Journal for Academic Development, DOI: 10.1080/1360144X.2023.2242816
Kelly, N., Brophy, C., Scharoun, L., Finger, M., & Meth, D. (2023). Co-design for staff professional learning within universities: a case study. Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education. https://doi.org/10.1108/JARHE-12-2022-0381
Moll, S., Wyndham-West, M., Mulvale, G., Park, S., Buettgen, A., Phoenix, M., Fleisig, R. and Bruce, E. (2020), “Are you really doing ’codesign’? Critical reflections when working with vulnerable populations”, BMJ Open, British Medical Journal Publishing Group, Vol. 10 No. 11, e038339, doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-038339.
The Pacific nation of Tuvalu is planning to create a version of itself in the metaverse, as a response to the existential threat of rising sea levels. Tuvalu’s minister for justice, communication and foreign affairs, Simon Kofe, made the announcement via a chilling digital address to leaders at COP27.
He said the plan, which accounts for the “worst case scenario”, involves creating a digital twin of Tuvalu in the metaverse in order to replicate its beautiful islands and preserve its rich culture:
The tragedy of this outcome cannot be overstated […] Tuvalu could be the first country in the world to exist solely in cyberspace – but if global warming continues unchecked, it won’t be the last.
https://www.youtube.com/embed/sJIlrAdky4Q?wmode=transparent&start=0 Tuvalu turns to metaverse as rising seas threaten existence, 16 Nov 2022.
The idea is that the metaverse might allow Tuvalu to “fully function as a sovereign state” as its people are forced to live somewhere else.
There are two stories here. One is of a small island nation in the Pacific facing an existential threat and looking to preserve its nationhood through technology.
The other is that by far the preferred future for Tuvalu would be to avoid the worst effects of climate change and preserve itself as a terrestrial nation. In which case, this may be its way of getting the world’s attention.
What is a metaverse nation?
The metaverse represents a burgeoning future in which augmented and virtual reality become part of everyday living. There are many visions of what the metaverse might look like, with the most well-known coming from Meta (previously Facebook) CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
What most of these visions have in common is the idea that the metaverse is about interoperable and immersive 3D worlds. A persistent avatar moves from one virtual world to another, as easily as moving from one room to another in the physical world.
The aim is to obscure the human ability to distinguish between the real and the virtual, for better or for worse.
Kofe implies three aspects of Tuvalu’s nationhood could be recreated in the metaverse:
territory – the recreation of the natural beauty of Tuvalu, which could be interacted with in different ways
culture – the ability for Tuvaluan people to interact with one another in ways that preserve their shared language, norms and customs, wherever they may be
sovereignty – if there were to be a loss of terrestrial land over which the government of Tuvalu has sovereignty (a tragedy beyond imagining, but which they have begun to imagine) then could they have sovereignty over virtual land instead?
Could it be done?
In the case that Tuvalu’s proposal is, in fact, a literal one and not just symbolic of the dangers of climate change, what might it look like?
Technologically, it’s already easy enough to create beautiful, immersive and richly rendered recreations of Tuvalu’s territory. Moreover, thousands of different online communities and 3D worlds (such as Second Life) demonstrate it’s possible to have entirely virtual interactive spaces that can maintain their own culture.
The idea of combining these technological capabilities with features of governance for a “digital twin” of Tuvalu is feasible.
There have been prior experiments of governments taking location-based functions and creating virtual analogues of them. For example, Estonia’s e-residency is an online-only form of residency non-Estonians can obtain to access services such as company registration. Another example is countries setting up virtual embassies on the online platform Second Life.
Yet there are significant technological and social challenges in bringing together and digitising the elements that define an entire nation.
Tuvalu has only about 12,000 citizens, but having even this many people interact in real time in an immersive virtual world is a technical challenge. There are issues of bandwidth, computing power, and the fact that many users have an aversion to headsets or suffer nausea.
Nobody has yet demonstrated that nation-states can be successfully translated to the virtual world. Even if they could be, others argue the digital world makes nation-states redundant.
Tuvalu’s proposal to create its digital twin in the metaverse is a message in a bottle – a desperate response to a tragic situation. Yet there is a coded message here too, for others who might consider retreat to the virtual as a response to loss from climate change.
The metaverse is no refuge
The metaverse is built on the physical infrastructure of servers, data centres, network routers, devices and head-mounted displays. All of this tech has a hidden carbon footprint and requires physical maintenance and energy. Research published in Nature predicts the internet will consume about 20% of the world’s electricity by 2025.
The idea of the metaverse nation as a response to climate change is exactly the kind of thinking that got us here. The language that gets adopted around new technologies – such as “cloud computing”, “virtual reality” and “metaverse” – comes across as both clean and green.
Kofe is well aware the metaverse is not an answer to Tuvalu’s problems. He explicitly states we need to focus on reducing the impacts of climate change through initiatives such as a fossil-fuel non-proliferation treaty.
His video about Tuvalu moving to the metaverse is hugely successful as a provocation. It got worldwide press – just like his moving plea during COP26 while standing knee-deep in rising water.
Yet Kofe suggests:
Without a global conscience and a global commitment to our shared wellbeing we may find the rest of the world joining us online as their lands disappear.
It is dangerous to believe, even implicitly, that moving to the metaverse is a viable response to climate change. The metaverse can certainly assist in keeping heritage and culture alive as a virtual museum and digital community. But it seems unlikely to work as an ersatz nation-state.
And, either way, it certainly won’t work without all of the land, infrastructure and energy that keeps the internet functioning.
It would be far better for us to direct international attention towards Tuvalu’s other initiatives described in the same report:
The project’s first initiative promotes diplomacy based on Tuvaluan values of olaga fakafenua (communal living systems), kaitasi (shared responsibility) and fale-pili (being a good neighbour), in the hope that these values will motivate other nations to understand their shared responsibility to address climate change and sea level rise to achieve global wellbeing.
The message in a bottle being sent out by Tuvalu is not really about the possibilities of metaverse nations at all. The message is clear: to support communal living systems, to take shared responsibility and to be a good neighbour.
The first of these can’t translate into the virtual world. The second requires us to consume less, and the third requires us to care.
We’ve developed a web app, which launches today, that lets Australians learn which threatened plants and animals live in their federal electorate.
For example, we found the electorate with the most threatened species is Durack in Western Australia, held currently by the Liberal party’s Melissa Price. Some 61 threatened animals and 198 threatened plants live or used to live within its boundaries, such as the Numbat, Gouldian finch and the Western underground orchid.
Our goal is to help users engage with their elected representatives and put imperilled species on the political agenda this election and beyond. We urgently need to convince federal politicians to act, for they hold the keys to saving these species. So what can they do to help their plight?
Threatened species in your neighbourhood
Our new app, called Threatened Australians, uses federal government data to introduce you to the threatened species living in your neighbourhood.
By entering a post code, users can learn what the species looks like, where they can be found (in relation to their electorate), and what’s threatening them. Importantly, users can learn about their incumbent elected representative, and the democratic actions that work towards making a difference.
For example, entering the postcode 2060 – the seat of North Sydney, held currently by the Liberal Party’s Trent Zimmerman – tells us there are 23 threatened animals and 14 threatened plants that live or used to live there.
This includes the koala which, among many others, have seen devastating losses in their populations in recent decades due to habitat destruction.
We’ve also put together data dividing the number of threatened species that live or used to live across each party’s electorates, as shown in the chart below. Labor-held seats are home to 775 of the 1,800-plus threatened species, while Liberal-held seats have 1,168.
So how can we address this mismatch of widespread public desire for environmental action yet political candidates are focused on other issues?
What can local MPs actually do about it?
For change to occur, communities must effectively persuade elected representatives to act. There are a few ways they can exercise their democratic powers to make a difference.
Federal MPs often champion and advocate important issues such as developing new hospitals, schools and car parks in their electorate. By speaking out and advocating for their electorate in parliament and with the media, they can garner the support, such as funding and reform, to deliver change for their electorate.
Local MPs can help protect threatened species by instigating and voting for improved policy.
Let’s say, for instance, legislation for approving a new mine was before parliament, and the development overlapped with the habitat of a threatened animal. If protecting a certain plant or animal was on an MPs agenda thanks to the efforts of their community, it would help determine whether the MP votes for such legislation.
This has broader applications, too. Making the threatened species crisis a priority for an MP would determine the lengths they would go to for conservation in their electorate and Australia wide.
Our app can help users engage with the current sitting MP in their electorate with the click of a button, as it helps users write an email to them. It’s time federal representatives were asked about their policies on threatened species and what they plan to do for them in their electoral backyards.
While climate change has, for decades, unfathomably been the subject of fierce debate in the Australian parliament, threatened species can be a cause of unity across the political divide.
We need an honest and urgent dialogue between local communities and their representatives about how to deal with the challenge these species face and what each prospective candidate intends to do about it.
Authors: Nick Kelly, Jess Greentree, and Sam Hobson
Okay, so you want to have a career as a UX designer. You know that you need to develop the necessary skills and get to the point where you have a portfolio. Something that is confusing for many people entering this world is the question of “what do interaction design (IxD) degrees have to do with the UX profession?”.
A lot of universities around the world offer degrees in IxD—how useful are they for people wanting to get into the UX industry? In this article we take a look at the way that IxD degrees around the world are promoted by universities and show some patterns in what they offer. This is helpful for understanding what you’re likely to find within an IxD degree.
How does IxD relate to UX?
In short, the term UX is used more often in industry and IxD more often within universities in many countries, yet they refer to similar sets of skills. UX design includes the entirety of user experience yet definitions tend to be a bit confusing: they focus upon the extents of UX (what it covers) rather than upon its limits (what lies outside its scope). I’m sure you’ve seen some kind of Venn diagram about the area of influence of UX. These suggest that professional UX designers are required to be across an improbable number of areas: from marketing to computer science, architecture, human factors, and sound design.
IxD is more clearly defined in academic literature, but the term isn’t used widely in industry. IxD is ususaly defined as “shaping digital things for people’s use” (Löwgren & Stolterman, 2004) or “the practice of designing interactive digital products, environments, systems, and services” (Cooper et al., 2014). We like to define it as “designing for dialogues between people and complex things”, because the skills for interaction design are useful regardless of whether you’re working with digital.
Every country has its own culture around interaction design and UX design. In Australia, we’re in a situation where you can find hundreds of jobs that are looking for a UX designer and hardly any that say they are looking for an interaction designer. Yet nearly all of the degrees are badged as interaction design degrees or majors. This is a confusing situation for many—the IxD degrees are useful for UX but it’s hard to find anybody telling you how it works.
What’s in an interaction design degree?
We analysed a selection of interaction design degrees across USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK, Table 1.
There are four patterns that stand out within these descriptions of interaction design degrees:
Many of the degrees explicitly mention the fact that they will help people to gain entry into the UX profession
Many will teach you how to design for emerging technologies and list off technologies you will work with, such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), internet of things (IoT), and artificial intelligence (AI).
Many emphasise that you will learn general design skills, such as creativity, systems thinking, creating experiences for users
Many reference the fact that we don’t know the kinds of design that will be needed in future and that an IxD degree will help you be ready for it and shape it
Should I study an degree in interaction design?
In an interaction design degree, your studies won’t be as focused as they would be in a UX-specific qualification. There are plenty of non-university UX qualifications that can be found online that can provide a much cheaper and faster way to gain skills and develop a portfolio if you’re really clear that you’re just wanting to get a job and enter industry.
What a good interaction design degree will do is fulfil all four of these promises. You’ll be taught explicitly about the UX industry and how to thrive within in, through assistance with critical steps like developing a portfolio and learning the skills any employer would expect. You’ll be exposed to a range of technologies that you might otherwise not get the chance to try out—at the moment, for example, many universities are giving students the chance to experience designing for augmented reality. You’ll also gain a much broader understanding of how to design in a way that isn’t dependent on any particular tool or technology. These are the universal skills for interaction design: tools and methods for working with complexity, designing for dialogues between people and things, and how to develop a process that involves researching, prototyping, and testing. You’ll be introduced to ways to think critically about technology that will be useful in a changing world. There is no right answer as to whether an interaction design degree, a UX degree, or a non-degree qualification is right for you. The aim of this article is to resolve a common question of “what’s the relationship of the IxD degree to the UX profession?”
About the authors:
Nick Kelly, Jess Greentree, and Sam Hobson teach interaction design at the Queensland University of Technology, Australia. Nick is a Senior Lecturer in Interaction Design. Jess is currently studying a PhD in interaction design. Sam is currently studying an MPhil in Interaction Design while working as a designer in industry.
Are you excited to work at the cutting edge of design, creating meaningful experiences with emerging technologies? The Interaction Design program places you at the centre of new creative practices such as strategic design, information architecture, game design, creative coding, visual + sound design, and behavioural insights.
Learn human-centered design methods and make sense of complex problems for more-than-human centered contexts. Choose your own path and learn to design games, services, medical applications and interactive spaces, using hybrid technologies as basic as pen and paper, or as sophisticated as virtual reality.
In response to high employer demand, Sheridan has developed Ontario’s first four-year interaction design honours bachelor’s degree. Our unique, multidisciplinary interaction design program cultivates a big-picture perspective and diverse set of skills, laying a foundation for interaction design careers and fostering entrepreneurship.
What you’ll learn Design theory and process. Visual communication and visual culture. 2D and 3D design. Digital media design and production. Physical computing and sensors. Programming a variety of devices. Business practices and entrepreneurship.
The Interaction Design programme at The Glasgow School of Art combines technology with visual thinking and creative problem-solving. As a student of Interaction Design, you will learn to work with creative code to generate engaging interactive digital media for a wide range of platforms. You will graduate with a diverse range of skills enabling future career opportunities in interactive art, design, motion graphics, app development and more.
We are characterised by actively engaging with creative coding and digital culture. The course is highly experimental allowing students to develop their own approaches within an art and design context. We consider our materials to be computers, cameras, sensors, lights, motors, projectors, networks and more. By framing the use of technology within a creative context, students learn practical and technological skills as well as how to articulate creative ideas and meaning behind work.
Graphic and interactive design merges creativity with technology. From designing innovative mobile apps to crafting eye-catching websites, this field offers you the opportunity to express your unique creative vision.
Interaction design is concerned with designing interactive digital products, digital environments, systems, and services that can satisfactorily meet the needs and desires of the intended users. The Master of Interaction Design prepares and equips students with up-to-date theoretical knowledge and requisite practical industry-standard skills in this rapidly advancing field.
Shape new technologies and design solutions for problems that matter and make the world better. Our Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interaction Design (IxD) focuses on building compelling relationships between people and the systems around them. We focus on design in the context of technology, the designed world and the natural world. Moving beyond screen interfaces, Corcoran IxD is an incubator for design-based problem solving and the development of interactive spaces, products and services. Imagine, prototype and create concepts that ultimately shape people’s everyday interactions with the world.
How we interact with our devices, with apps and websites is constantly evolving. As an interaction designer you can shape that evolution. Removing complexity. Making interactions more intuitive. Creating responsive media. In many ways, optimising the experience and putting people at the heart of design.
BA (Hons) Interaction Design Arts is a multidisciplinary design course, working with multiple mediums to craft purposeful communication and experience. Students are encouraged to actively play as they pursue projects through a core methodology of research, testing and iterative prototyping.
This is a practice-led course that explores the communicative potential of physical experience. Focusing on the relationships between people, designed objects and experiences, students will work with interaction, narrative and moving image, alongside processes such as design prototyping, film-making, coding and physical computing.
You will develop a personal perspective from which to answer complex design problems, embracing approaches such as critical design and exploring design for social change.
Interaction designers play a vital role in creating digital products that are useable, uncomplicated, and human-centred. If you’re looking to develop advanced knowledge about the design process for interactive products – this is the program for you.
Interaction with electronic devices is a major part of our daily lives. From early childhood onwards we are connected to the internet, telecommunications and networks of computer-based technologies. The emerging challenges in this radically evolving field are not so much with the nature of new technologies, but with their design. How should these technologies be experienced in our lives? How can they support and enhance our everyday practices? What should they help us become? These programs train students to address these issues through the design of new interactive technologies.
Studying on BA (Hons) Design Interactions, you will be at the forefront of future-focused design. You will experiment and develop emerging technology such as AR/VR (XR), AI, game engines, electronics, sensors, Internet of Things (IoT), ‘Big Data’ and robotics. You will play a role in shaping the world around us with free thinking ideas and opportunities.
Bachelor of Design Innovation (Interaction Design)
The goal of interaction design is to create products that enable people to achieve their objectives in the best way possible. Often the products are apps or websites, but can also be games or physical interactive products. It’s one of the newest and fastest-growing fields of design and has a big overlap with User Experience (UX) design.
Studying Interaction Design, you’ll learn how to develop and use design strategies to bring together words, visual representations, physical objects or space, time, and people’s behaviour to create digital systems and interfaces that improve aspects of human life. Interaction designers envision how people experience products and bring that vision to life in ways that feel inspired, refined, delightful and even magical.
As a student on this programme, you’ll gain a broad understanding of the tools and concepts driving the discipline. You’ll cover topics that investigate the human condition, such as design psychology and design for experience (UX). You’ll explore the latest technology in areas such as web and game design, healthcare design, and design of interactive installations. Interaction design offers pathways to learn coding; from advanced to just enough to help you communicate your design to developers and other disciplines.
Interaction designers are social and empathetic, and they enjoy working in groups. They have an understanding of people’s backgrounds, interests, and cultures. If you have an interest in improving the quality, health, and efficiency of human endeavours, Interaction Design is a great study option for you
Every technology interaction you experience in a day—from using mobile apps to playing games to wearing smart accessories to engaging with other digital environments—has been designed to maximize user experience (UX). By pursuing a bachelor’s degree in interaction design at ArtCenter, you will gain strategies and skills for creating person-first interactive environments and prepare to enter a burgeoning field of highly sought-after professional digital designers.
Table 1: Analysis of interaction design degrees around the world
How should we define interaction design? There have been plenty of attempts to do this in the literature, most notably by Jon Kolko in his 2010 book Thoughts on Interaction Design. Defining IXD is difficult because it means different things to different people.
I have taught a subject, DXB110, Principles of Interaction Design for four years. With two of my fellow teachers–Sam Hobson and Jess Greentree–we have thought long and hard about this question of definition. A definition needs to work for describing the industry (“what interaction designers do”) as well as the academic domain (the study of designing for interactions). It needs to be relevant for the past and the future as well as for today. It’s a tricky problem.
We have come up with some criteria for what a definition of IXD should do, analyzed a number of definitions of interaction design, and proposed our own definition. All of that is described in a journal paper that is still under review. I look forward to sharing that once it’s published.
We’ve developed a very short version of that work to use in our teaching that is much more accessible. It addresses the question: how should we define IXD?
I recently published a review paper with Bernadette Mercieca and Paul Mercieca in BERA’s journal Review of Education. This paper looks at how 96 different studies by researchers all over the world have analysed teacher activity within social network sites. These are sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and many others. What it shows is that there are serious and systemic methodological concerns in how researchers are studying teachers within these platforms.
The essence of the findings are that any researchers looking at teachers within social network sites should:
Report on the specific qualities of the groups of teachers that they are studying, including its size, origins, privacy, thematic focus, regional focus, and platform
Consider re-using existing frameworks for analysis (such as the ACAD framework of Goodyear & Carvalho, 2014)
Consider re-using or building upon existing coding schemes or research instruments and publish such schemes and instruments with their work to permit them to be re-used in future (a description of instruments that might be re-used are included in the paper)
Consider the sampling methods adopted and ensure that sampling is described in detail with all limitations made salient, with particular attention being given to self-selection and to recruitment within the platforms being studied.
Consider the claims being made and ensure that they are specific with respect to the population that they apply to and the conditions under which they are likely to apply
Of all of these, number (4) is the biggest concern in my opinion. Many studies use self-selection during recruitment; where that self-selection is taking place within a group that is already self-selected by being on that platform. As in, say, teachers using a Twitter hashtag are only a small proportion of all teachers, and then to just sample the teachers who respond to your survey really doesn’t say much about the population of all teachers. Yet many papers seem not to take care with the claims (point (5) here).
The paper also includes a summary of all of the key themes that are addressed with respect to teachers in social network sites (or social media as people sometimes refer to it still). This is Figure 2 within the paper. It shows an abstract model of relationships between domains of change, observable teacher behaviours (within social network sites), and the outcomes that have been hypothesised as resulting from these behaviours. Arrows in this figure do not presume causality; they represent relationships that may come to be understood through future research
This provides a useful map for those studying teachers in social network sites to place their work within a broader framework.
I’ve recently published an article on The Conversation about the metaverse and what it means. I wanted to follow that up with a short and more accessible piece explaining “what is the metaverse?”
The metaverse is best understood through the idea of extended reality.
We all live in the physical world which we experience through our different senses. Humans have for years been able to design new experiences for humans through technologies that add things to our senses.
These designed experiences over the top of the physical world constitute extended realityand most notably includes augmented reality and virtual reality.
We can augmentreality by overlaying something on top of it, and the game Pokemon Go or some fun video filters to add facial features or age you are great example of this. This is already used for purposes in the construction industry and in education.
We can also create virtual worldsof many kinds, where sci-fi visions of completely immersive virtual reality are at one end of the scale but many popular games like Fortnite or Roblox give an idea today of just how popular virtual worlds can be. There are many niche uses currently around, like in education, training, and entertainment.
The metaverse then is a vision of what our world might look like if all of these different extensions to reality were to come together into a single online world. For example:
Facebook gives us a model of a single persistent persona which goes into different groups and has different interactions. What might this look like if Facebook became spatial?
Games like Fortnite or Roblox give us an idea of how people might choose to spend large chunks of time online, to interact within virtual worlds, to overlay the virtual on the physical
We’re used to cryptocurrency through things like blockchain, what happens when we start having virtual markets of space, as is happening in Upland and Decentraland (and in Second Life before them)
We all know what it’s like to have work meetings through Zoom, what would happen if that was more like a persistent 3D virtual world? That’s what Facebook is trying to do with their Horizons project
To be clear, I’m super critical of the vision of the metaverse being promoted on the basis that:
It’s a continuation of our current trend of the virtual world eating the physical world. The internet and its infrastructure are already estimated at 4% of global GHG emissions. How much would this go up if we embraced the metaverse? That’s not including the estimated 1% of worldwide GHG emissions that are created through cryptocurrency.
Where we put our attention matters. There is no good end to this path of trying to make our lives more full of dopamine and convenience. An alternative path tries to think about ways that we could use these technologies to create better societies–as a part of design for social innovation
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg recently announced the tech giant will shift from being a social media company to becoming “a metaverse company”, functioning in an “embodied internet” that blends real and virtual worlds more than ever before.
So what is “the metaverse”? It sounds like the kind of thing billionaires talk about to earn headlines, like Tesla chief Elon Musk spruiking “pizza joints” on Mars. Yet given almost three billion people use Facebook each month, Zuckerberg’s suggestion of a change of direction is worth some attention.
The idea of the metaverse is useful and it’s likely to be with us for some time. It’s a concept worth understanding even if, like me, you are critical of the future its proponents suggest.
The metaverse: a name whose time has come?
Humans have developed many technologies to trick our senses, from audio speakers and televisions to interactive video games and virtual reality, and in future we may develop tools to trick our other senses such as touch and smell. We have many words for these technologies, but as yet no popular word that refers to the totality of the mash-up of old-fashioned reality (the physical world) and our fabricated extensions to reality (the virtual world).
Words like “the internet” and “cyberspace” have come to be associated with places we access through screens. They don’t quite capture the steady interweaving of the internet with virtual realities (such as 3D game worlds or virtual cities) and augmented reality (such as navigation overlays or Pokémon GO).
Just as important, the old names don’t capture the new social relationships, sensory experiences and economic behaviours that are emerging along with these extensions to the virtual. For example, Upland mashes together a virtual reflection of our world with non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and property markets.
Facebook’s announcement speaks to its attempts to envision what social media within the metaverse might look like.
It also helps that “metaverse” is a poetic term. Academics have been writing about a similar idea under the name of “extended reality” for years, but it’s a rather dull name.
“Metaverse”, coined by science fiction writer Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel Snow Crash, has a lot more romantic appeal. Writers have a habit of recognising trends in need of naming: “cyberspace” comes from a 1982 book by William Gibson; “robot” is from a 1920 play by Karel Čapek.
Recent neologisms such as “the cloud” or the “Internet of Things” have stuck with us precisely because they are handy ways to refer to technologies that were becoming increasingly important. The metaverse sits in this same category.
Who benefits from the metaverse?
If you spend too long reading about big tech companies like Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft, you might end up feeling advances in technology (like the rise of the metaverse) are inevitable. It’s hard not to then start thinking about how these new technologies will shape our society, politics and culture, and how we might fit into that future.
This idea is called “technological determinism”: the sense that advances in technology shape our social relations, power relations, and culture, with us as mere passengers. It leaves out the fact that in a democratic society we have a say in how all of this plays out.
For Facebook and other large corporations, determined to embrace the “next big thing” before their competitors, the metaverse is exciting because it presents an opportunity for new markets, new kinds of social network, new consumer electronics and new patents.
What’s not so clear is why you or I would be excited by all this.
A familiar story
In the mundane world, most of us are grappling with things like a pandemic, a climate emergency, and mass human-induced species extinction. We are struggling to understand what a good life looks like with technology we’ve already adopted (mobile devices, social media and global connectivity are linked to many unwanted effects such as anxiety and stress).
So why would we get excited about tech companies investing untold billions in new ways to distract us from the everyday world that gives us air to breathe, food to eat and water to drink?
Metaverse-style ideas might help us organise our societies more productively. Shared standards and protocols that bring disparate virtual worlds and augmented realities into a single, open metaverse could help people work together and cut down on duplication of effort.
In South Korea, for example, a “metaverse alliance” is working to persuade companies and government to work together to develop an open national VR platform. A big part of this is finding ways to blend smartphones, 5G networks, augmented reality, virtual currencies and social networks to solve problems for society (and, more cynically, make profits).
Similar claims for sharing and collaboration were made in the early days of the internet. But over time the early promise was swept aside by the dominance of large platforms and surveillance capitalism.
The internet has been wildly successful in connecting people all around the world to one another and functioning as a kind of modern Library of Alexandria to house vast stores of knowledge. Yet it has also increased the privatisation of public spaces, invited advertising into every corner of our lives, tethered us to a handful of giant companies more powerful than many countries, and led to the virtual world consuming the physical world via environmental damage.
Beyond the one-world world
The deeper problems with the metaverse are about the kind of worldview it would represent.
In one worldview, we we can think of ourselves as passengers inside a singular reality that is like a container for our lives. This view is probably familiar to most readers, and it also describes what you see on something like Facebook: a “platform” that exists independently of any of its users.
In another worldview, which sociologists suggest is common in Indigenous cultures, each of us creates the reality that we live in through what we do. Practices such as work and rituals connect people, land, life and spirituality, and together create reality.
A key problem with the former view is that it leads to a “one-world world”: a reality that does not permit other realities. This is what we see already on existing platforms.
The current version of Facebook may increase your ability to connect to other people and communities. But at the same time it limits how you connect to them: features such as six preset “reactions” to posts and content chosen by invisible algorithms shape the entire experience. Similarly, a game like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (with more than 100 million active users) allows limitless possibilities for how a game might play out – but defines the rules by which the game can be played.
The idea of a metaverse, by shifting even more of our lives onto a universal platform, extends this problem to a deeper level. It offers us limitless possibility to overcome the constraints of the physical world; yet in doing so, only replaces them with constraints imposed by what the metaverse will allow.