Disruptive play or platform colonialism? The contradictory dynamics of Google expeditions and educational virtual reality. Zoetanya Sujon
This paper provides an exploratory case study Google Expeditions (GE), a virtual reality (VR) toolkit designed for the classroom, and it’s roll-out in the UK through the “pioneer program”. Drawing from existing research on Google, platform studies, and interdisciplinary work on the digital landscape, this paper examines the conflicting tensions around the logic of Google for Education (GFE) and the tangled user experiences of GE within a higher education context. Findings are drawn from participant observation of a one day GE trial; participant observation of 396 people’s mostly first time experience with GE; a post-trial survey with those predominantly first-time users (N = 100); and participant observation of invite-only GFE events organized by Apps Events on GFE’s behalf. In addition to providing a detailed insight into the rollout of a rising educational Google product, findings suggest GE engages contradictory dynamics. On one hand, users experience exciting, disruptive play, and on the other, the pioneer program extends Google’s platform empire, colonizing educational space and those within it.
The Changing Landscape of Literacies: Big Data and Algorithms. Victoria Carrington
This paper begins with a young British woman – Sophie - and her interpretation of the customized advertising and news she encounters on the social networking and search platforms she accesses via her mobile phone. The paper adopts Sophie as a provocation for identifying and thinking through a range of issues that arise from these new contextual landscapes. To unpack Sophie’s perceptions and experiences, the paper turns to a framing discussion of the impact and reach of data in contemporary culture and the discourses that have grown up around it. The paper then turns to the challenges posed by this new economic and cultural landscape for the ways in which we approach identity, text and being an effective literate citizen-worker.
Commenting across difference: Youth Dialogue in an intercultural virtual exchange program. Alyssa Kreikemeier & Carrie James
The promise of online dialogue for building cosmopolitan sensibilities in youth has driven the rise of educational programs that leverage digital media for intercultural virtual exchange. While a growing body of research documents the role digital media play in young people’s lives, relatively few studies have examined how young people dialogue in diverse online spaces and what they learn as a result. We present findings from an exploratory qualitative-dominant mixed-methods study of how youth in one online program dialogued with their peers. Our dataset included online posts and comment threads, survey data, and selected interviews. Three themes emerged from our analysis: evidence of youth identity exploration, signs of global competence and cosmopolitanism, and enhanced digital communication skills. This study suggests that intercultural virtual exchange programs offer valuable opportunities for youth in these areas, yet also cautions of risks. We discuss the study’s limitations, further research questions, and implications with an emphasis on specific supports and design features needed to meet the promise such online experiences offer for dialogue across difference.
‘I Didn’t Tell You Sooner Because I Didn’t Know How to Handle it Myself’. Developing a Virtual Reality Program to Support HIV-Status Disclosure Decisions. Kathryn E. Muessig et al.
HIV status disclosure is associated with increased social support and protective behaviors against HIV transmission. Yet disclosure poses significant challenges in the face of persistent societal stigma. Few interventions focus on decision-making, self-efficacy, and communication skills to support disclosing HIV status to an intimate partner. Virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies offer powerful tools to address this gap. Informed by Social Cognitive Theory, we created the Tough Talks VR program for HIV-positive young men who have sex with men (YMSM) to practice status disclosure safely and confidentially. Fifty-eight YMSM (ages 18 – 30, 88% HIV-positive) contributed 132 disclosure dialogues to develop the prototype through focus groups, usability testing, and a technical pilot. The prototype includes three disclosure scenarios (neutral, sympathetic, and negative response) and a database of 125 virtual character utterances. Participants select a VR scenario and realistic virtual character with whom to practice. In a pilot test of the fully automated neutral response scenario, the AI system responded appropriately to 71% of participant utterances. Most pilot study participants agreed Tough Talks was easy to use (9/11) and that they would like to use the system frequently (9/11). Tough Talks demonstrates that VR can be used to practice HIV status disclosure and lessons learned from program development offer insights for the use of AI systems for other areas of health and education.