Tuesday, November 11

"Transformed Social Interaction in Virtual Reality"

A discussion with 

Jeremy Bailenson, PhD

Director, Virtual Human Interaction Lab
Stanford University

Tuesday November 11, 2008

6:00 to 7:30 p.m.

Over time, our mode of remote communication has evolved from written letters to telephones, email, internet chat rooms, and videoconferences. Similarly, virtual environments promise to further change the nature of remote interaction.

Dr. Bailenson's main area of interest is the phenomenon of digital human representation, especially in the context of immersive virtual reality. He explores the manner in which people represent themselves when the physical constraints of body and veridically-rendered behaviors are removed. Furthermore, he designs and studies collaborative virtual reality systems that allow physically remote individuals to meet in virtual space, and explores the manner in which these systems change the nature of verbal and nonverbal interaction.

Unlike telephone conversations and videoconferences, avatars have the ability to systematically filter their physical appearance and behavioral actions in the eyes of their conversational partners, amplifying or suppressing features and nonverbal signals in real-time for strategic purposes. These transformations have a drastic impact on interactants' abilities to influence others in social contexts.  Dr. Bailenson will discuss his research exploring the manners in which the use of avatars qualitatively changes the nature of remote communication, as well as insights into nonverbal communication and social identity. Implications for tele-immersive communications and social interaction will also be discussed.

Jeremy Bailenson is founding director of Stanford University's Virtual Human Interaction Lab and an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at Stanford. He earned a B.A. cum laude from the University of Michigan in 1994 and a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from Northwestern University in 1999. After receiving his doctorate, he spent four years at the Research Center for Virtual Environments and Behavior at the University of California, Santa Barbara as a Post-Doctoral Fellow and then an Assistant Research Professor.