If you can’t talk about it, click on it …

Posted July 12th, 2010 by wonko

One issue in a multi-user environment is effective communication, particularly when there is a plethora of media through which you can communicate – buth synchronously and asynchronously.

Activeworlds (well, MyWorld at least) is VOIP enabled – so punters can speak to each other physically, while their avatars congregate virtually – quite neat actually.

A "Conversation Circle"

A "Conversation Circle"

So I decided to see if I could get a seating arrangement I have heard called a “conversation circle” working. A circle of crates makes sense in this location, turned into seats (well, user-controlled movers with movement disables, and a sit sequence applied to the activate event, controlled xyz displacement so most avatars seem to rest their sitting bums on the top surface naturally) and we have a campfire circle.

*tap tap tap* is this thing on?

*tap tap tap* is this thing on?

Controlling the flow of ideas is sometimes desireable, so I decided to use what has been explained to me as an indigenous idea of handing a “totem” to the talker, whilst every one else listens respectfully. This is, in essence, a “token-ring” mediated conversations [any real geek out there will get what I mean, it is a network flow control strategy for managing overlapping messages]

I wracked my puny brain for something that would naturally work as the “talking stick” and decided that a microphone stand makes perfect sense, in a rock and roll sort of way.

…so I made one, made it a “pick up item” mover and linked it to the left hand of whosoever clicks on it. I adjusted it’s angle when held slightly (so you feel like a rockstar leaning into the mike) and I think this will work.  I put down a high-tech rug to give a sense of space and inclusion… fairly happy with the result.

All that is left is to see if it needs a “cone of silence” zone object around it to isolate the chat to just the local area – will know when it is tested what the range of the discussion is in-world.

Attaching objects to parts of an avatar seems to work quite well [remember the hats, see previous post] – avatar body locations can not however assume to all be there on every avatar – if you try to attach to, say, the fingers of a hand and that avatar has no finer articulation, then the linking gets confused, the world panics and sticks the object to your pelvis instead … which can result in much hilarity

Avatar body locations

Avatar body locations

In truth, I miss the sophistication of chat mediation tools in something like a MOO, where you have moderation rights, speaker roles and conversation recorders … must explore what is available here also.

One Response to “If you can’t talk about it, click on it …”

  1. DebJ

    Peter, I think this is brilliant. Esp. in this environment but would work well in any environment. The benefits in this environment tho. will support the lack of ‘body language’ from an avatars point of view. Plus teaches good listening skills 🙂