Can you guess one truth against the two lies in this talk title? [Spoilers ahead] The meatverse may have become enamored with the concept of the metaverse during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the term “metaverse” is three decades old and the concept even older. What is so meta-different now? Do we finally have access to an interconnected universe of immersive virtual worlds powered by decentralized platforms that facilitate private ownership over digital goods!? No! Can we teach classes in virtual reality headsets? Yes, and I did so for the first time in spring 2022! Does this mean the end of the Zoom fatigue era? Maybe, but unlikely! During this talk, I will describe my VR class, my recent research on perceptions of the metaverse, and my research on zoom fatigue as an issue of gender and racial equity. I will connect these studies to questions about how avatars may serve as an important facet of improving equity and inclusion in virtual meetings, particularly through the Proteus effect (the phenomenon that people conform behaviorally to their avatars’ identity characteristics).
About the Speaker
Rabindra (Robby) Ratan is Associate Professor and AT&T Scholar at Michigan State University’s Department of Media and Information as well as Director of the Social and Psychological Approaches to Research on Technology-Interaction Effects (SPARTIE) Lab. Dr. Ratan conducts research on the effects of human-technology interaction, focusing on how media technologies (e.g., avatars, agents) influence meaningful outcomes (e.g., equity, inclusion, motivation) across societal contexts (e.g., education, health, business). He is particularly interested in the Proteus effect (i.e., avatar characteristics influencing user behaviors), artificial social agents, virtual meetings, the metaverse, and toxicity in online gaming. Dr. Ratan has authored over 50 peer-reviewed articles, has been awarded over $2M in grant funding, and has received multiple teaching awards. He also hosts SpartieCast, his lab’s podcast, and regularly contributes articles to TheConversation.com.