Ralph Schroeder of the Oxford Internet Institute is about to publish a book on technological determinism and social shaping, Rethinking Science, Technology, and Social Change. A few of us have been talking with him about the book and how it will be received – something to look forward to, anyway! Out in October.

Yesterday, he gave a talk on a different topic, that of “being there together” and (shared) virtual environments. It was a wide-ranging discussion of computer games, videoconferencing, experimental technologies, and more. Ralph was anxious to point out that both ‘mediated’ and ‘face to face’ environments could provide for ‘being there’; he outlined his work on the connected presence ‘cube’, with axes representing presence, copresence and connected presence. I’ll try to add an image here when I can sort one out, because it’s much easier to explain it that way!

Our questions focused on things like the advantages and disadvantages of different technologies, factors of trust and perception, and questioning the definitions adopted by the speaker! I’d recommend reading his 2006 article (subscription may be required) which was optional for this session, and not directly related to the slides, but I found it very helpful in terms of understanding the macro-issues on virtual environments.