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Business Professionals' Perspectives on the Disillusionment of Virtual Worlds

Bateman, P., J. Pike, N. Berente & S. Hansen 2012. Time for a Post-Mortem?: Business Professionals' Perspectives on the Disillusionment of Virtual Worlds. Journal of Virtual Worlds Research 5 (available on-line: http://journals.tdl.org/jvwr/index.php/jvwr/article/view/6324/6299, accessed 17 January 2013).
Abstract
Virtual worlds (VWs) are powerful three-dimensional technologies where users can assume identities and interact with others. While designed as open-platforms for creativity, expression, and experimentation by recreational users, VWs were once lauded for their potential applications to business. Today, much of the business community has either moved on from the hype of VWs or struggles to understand whether value can be obtained by using VWs. This paper attempts to provide an understanding of these outcomes through the analysis of assessments written by 59 business professionals, who each spent an extended period of time in a popular VW during the peak of the hype. From these assessments, four broad perspectives on the value of VWs to organizations (or lack thereof) were identified, along with challenges facing use of VWs if they are to become more widely used within business.


Overall

• A useful paper – good analysis of hype, why hype did not materialise in the VWs with regards to business opportunities/being a space for business activities

- Notes a prediction in 2007 that "80 percent of active Internet users would have a VW presence by the end of 2011 (Gartner Research, 2007)." (p2)

--> This might have been the key point - if there were loads of people in VWs, there would be business potential (see p11 also). Since there wasn't such an influx, there wasn't - hence the real question might be: 'Why weren't more people in VW?'

--> Surely, e.g. in gaming, there are many opportunities for advertising, but in a relatively limited market?

• Data derived from an exercise done by postgraduate students in business course who were asked to go into Second Life and develop opinions as to the usefulness for business. Only those with prior business experience were used

• Overall (p7) – 36.8% saw it as having some value, 41.4% no value, 14.3% contingent value, 7.5% future value

- Most value seen as advertising platform, enhance customer experience, training, meetings

- Main problems seen as need to learn the platform, inability to control the environment, technology no fast enough, wrong kind of users

--> This actually suggests the need for a limited form of virtual world, tailored for business users only. On the lines of LinkedIn or something.

• The argument revolves around affordances, and how the technologies are relevant in one context but not in another [i.e. relational] – thus SL is good for people who want freedom, gaming environment, but this is not useful for businesses

--> The environment of freedom etc. actually is not what businesses want… In fact, businesses thrive on limited social openness - i.e. they need to lock people into certain discourses, perceptions, etc which will lead them to directed purchase decisions [- this must relate to the markets approach somehow – Callon etc…. i.e. markets are about developing assemblages with particular dynamics…]

• Good point about hype (p11) – that for much research

- "the primary focus is on how business might use VWs, not if. This approach creates an unspoken assumption underlying prior work – creation of affordances naturally leads to business utilization. However, capabilities of a technology do not determine use (Wasko, et al., 2011). In fact, additional capabilities and functions afforded by virtual worlds have been found to be harder to utilize, even for experienced users, thus reducing willingness and expectations of use for business activities (Luse, Triplett, & Mennecke, forthcoming)." (p11; original emphasis).

--> Good point I think - i.e. hype-discourse assumes the potentials will be used, and thus develops a number of positive scenarios. By focusing on a couple of examples, e.g. IBM, this is taken as proof that they will be used, hence the positive assumption is taken as justified and then developed

Please note - these are rough notes only, based on a first reading. They may be useful to someone interested in an alternative perspective on this paper.
However, these notes do not necessarily represent a final opinion, and are subject to revision in the future.

"There's an app for that" - women and mobile technology

Frizzo-Barker, J. & P. A. Chow-White 2012. ‘There’s an App for That’ Mediating mobile moms and connected careerists through smartphones and networked individualism. Feminist Media Studies 12, 580–589 (available on-line: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14680777.2012.741876, accessed 21 December 2012).
Abstract
The ubiquitous use of mobile smartphones and Internet-based applications commonly known as "apps," can be viewed as simultaneously empowering and constraining for women's experiences and identities due to their potential to foster "always on" forms of sociability in both public and private spheres. We conduct in-depth interviews with women who daily use smartphone apps to understand how they use and make meaning through social media and popular apps to do with parenting (using the "Total Baby" app), fitness ("Runmeter"), finances ("Mint") and daily tasks ("Evernote") through Judy Wajcman's technofeminist approach, which suggests that people and artifacts co-evolve, and technology can facilitate and restrain gender power relations.


Overall

• Quite a short article (relatively) and with less discussion of the feminist angle than I expected – i.e. how apps help a woman/mother in her daily caring duties, but also reproduce patriarchal structures etc.

- This article contains more a number of interesting examples of app usage although nothing that I didn’t expect.

- Basically arguing that apps/smartphones get used in different ways that reflect women’s roles in society, and are integrated into their household management

• Interesting bit about a certain ‘computer logic’ [my term]

- “Smartphone apps add an additional layer of logic to the execution of daily tasks. In her ground-breaking study of computers and automation in the workplace the 1980s, Shoshana Zuboff (1988) highlights the distinction that computers “informate” tasks; that is, they produce precise information about the tasks in such a way that the data takes on a life of its own. We found evidence of how smartphone apps motivate women’s daily practices with information about their finances, health and fitness.” (p586)

--> The way in which the smartphone organises the information that it gathers (e.g. about organising calendar, details of the child’s vaccinations etc., have an effect in organising the user’s life too [though to be sure people don’t always do what the apps say, and one wonders how much the respondents are talking of ideal situations, rather than in practice forgetting to check and so on]

• Definition of apps: “small stand-alone software that connect to Internet data without using a web browser portal.” (p580)

• Notes the rapid spread of mobile technologies – overtaken fixed lines

- “over 60 percent of the worldwide population has access to wireless communication (Manuel Castells 2010)” (p580)

- “Mobile phone subscriptions surpassed 3.4 billion globally in 2008, eclipsing landline telephone connections in the early 2000s, as the most rapidly diffused among all human communication technologies in history (Castells 2010).” (p582)

• Draws upon Castells’s ‘networked society’, ‘networked individualism’, and Wajcman’s technofeminism

- “Where networked individualism depicts the freedom to connect to various community networks, technofeminism draws attention to women’s often overlooked role in cultivating and maintaining these community networks.” (pp582-3)

• Interesting tensions and guilt feelings relating to using apps/smartphone

- “paradoxical double standard—they felt guilty letting their children use a smartphone while they completed a task, and also while using their smartphones when with their children.” (p586)

• Also note that it's in a special issue that deals with feminism and new media

Please note - these are rough notes only, based on a first reading. They may be useful to someone interested in an alternative perspective on this paper.
However, these notes do not necessarily represent a final opinion, and are subject to revision in the future.