Principles of Social Presence for Virtual Reality: How Avatars Affect Presence

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Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Bachelor's thesis
Date
2023
Department
Major/Subject
Design
Mcode
ARTS3101
Degree programme
Bachelor's Programme in Design
Language
en
Pages
33 + 15
Series
Abstract
The current focus of the field of Virtual Reality (VR) is on developing novel experiences and graphical enhancements; however, there is a gap in research when it comes to understanding the principles of VR social presence. This thesis aims to explore the principles that promote social presence in a VR environment for users using a head-mounted display. The research in this paper has been conducted primarily via theoretical research. Field research involving seven expert interviews was conducted to corroborate and confirm the findings of the literature review, as well as provide insight into the issues specialists face when designing for social virtual worlds. The findings from the interviews are divided into three main categories: user interaction, environment-centric design choices, and player-centric design choices. The literature review was divided into two main categories as well; avatars and social virtual worlds. The segment of “social virtual worlds” explores the intangible elements designers need to consider when constructing the digital environment wherein social interaction will take place – it offers an exploration of what social presence is, and defines social virtual worlds. The section “avatars” primarily explores how users relate to the avatars they control, what the uncanny valley is, and how it may subconsciously affect user’s behaviour and their sense of presence. The three main finding categories of the interviews contain similar elements as the literature review and provides more insights into virtual social communities as a whole. Specific social spaces in virtual environments need to be brought to the users attention; most social communities are formed by a group consistently going to the same spaces. Oftentimes, users will emulate the behaviour of an “influencer” figure. The stylisation does not have a profound influence on the social components although realism may negatively impact the experience due to triggering the uncanny valley. Avatars allow users to properly express themselves, but also influence the way they interact with other users, and how they see themselves. This thesis has found that multiple facets of virtual environments impact the global sense of presence, which in turn, influence social presence. Future research on the topic should explore the further links between the uncanny valley and social presence, as well as the links between social presence and the longevity of online communities in virtual worlds.
Description
Supervisor
Leinonen, Teemu
Thesis advisor
Chumaira, Tania
Keywords
virtual reality, social presence, interaction, HMD, avatars, virtual worlds
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Citation