Avatar technology and cyberbullying

In this project (funded by Kent County Council), we investigated the effects of gesture-based avatar-mediated communication on younger users (12–13 years old), in comparison to video-mediated communication. Specifically, we looked at how these technologies were used by school pupils to brainstorm and negotiate ideas in a bullying context. 64 school pupils were divided into two conditions (Skype and AvatarKinect) and were instructed to carry out two tasks (a brainstorming and a negotiation task).

avatarkinect

 

A screenshot of AvatarKinect

Objective task performance, perceived satisfaction and perceived partner’s characteristics were compared. We found no difference in term of perceived satisfaction.

perceptionpartner

AvatarKinect users reported more positive changes in perceptions toward their partner.

  • People liked and trusted their partners better after using AvatarKinect than Skype
  • People prefer self representations which were “neither too true-to-life to their own appearance nor too abstract
  • less realistic self-representation could elicit more self-disclosure.
objectiveperformance

 

The results on task performance were ambivalent; Skype users seemed to generate more ideas, whilst AvatarKinect produced better quality ideas (although the results were borderline significant).

In summary, gesture-based avatar technology appears to be a useful modality to help resolve bullying in schools.

 

If you are interested, feel free to download and read the whole study.