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Multi-User Virtual Reality Technology as a Laboratory for Learning
about Social Research: Issues and Prospects
5. Multi-User VR Systems
Multi-user VR systems have a number of sociologically interesting features. Typically, such systems borrow extensively from other technologies and formats, particularly text-based MUDs and computer games. The same applies to the behaviours of users, who often display traits found in other forms of electronically mediated communication such as aggressive verbal exchanges. There is evidence to suggest, however, that users are much more involved in VR worlds than in text-based MUDs or in 2-D worlds with limited interaction. Moreover, aspects of social differentiation, stratification and spatial concentration can be found in VR worlds (Schroeder, 1997). So far there is relatively little known about social interaction in high-end fully immersive VR systems. They have been used mainly for short periods, over local area networks and for demonstration or proof-of-concept purposes. With the recent take-off in the number of domestic Internet users, desktop and second-person systems have been widely available via the Internet, mainly for entertainment. However, limited bandwidth means that at present it is only possible to exchange text messages and to represent avatars in a two- and latterly simple three-dimensional world.
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