The Psychology of Mixed Realities. #WorkingOutLoud [Part 2]

Yesterday i shared the first part of a new piece of work, looking at the psychology of mixed realities: how do virtual and augmented learning spaces differ from those that we are used to, both from a design perspective, and that of a learner experience. This work is part of a wider project around ‘Learning Architecture’, which is intended to provide a contemporary vision of how Organisations can adapt and update their entire view of learning to be fit for the Social Age. Here are the six elements that i introduced yesterday.

The Psychology of Mixed Realities

I shared writing around ‘Consequence’, ‘Neurology’, and ‘Context’, in that piece, and today, i will build out the ideas around ‘Perception’, ‘Geospatial’ aspects, and ‘Manipulation’.

The Psychology of Mixed Realities

PERCEPTION in virtual reality is immediate, the pathway from incoming sensation, interpreted to perception (our ‘sense making’) happening as fast as it does in the real world. That immediacy differentiates the experience from any form of ‘imagination’ or roleplay. There is no leap of faith to take. The experience is taken as ‘real’, as evidenced by the clear fear people display when approaching virtual cliff edges, or when something swoops towards them: we are fooled, at least up to a certain point. The immediacy of our response is significant, because we are more likely to react in the instinctive, normalised ways that we know from real life, but the whole sequence is inherently manipulated, or manipulable: we can change aspects of the ‘virtual’, to stretch credibility, or extend both sensation and understanding. Virtual environments are entirely configurable: we can make aspects visible, add contextual overlays, even change the laws of physics and consequence.

Two interesting aspects are trust and authenticity: if the environment closely reflects what we know from real life, then trust may transfer, and authenticity be transposed, but these mixed realities are not ‘real’, we can vary consequence, and some consequence simply does not apply (for example, if something falls on you, it does not do damage), so in some ways, the experience, lacking consequence, may look real, but be treated as inauthentic. So the ways that people behave in immersive environments may not be true to how they will react in ‘real’ ones, limiting potentially the value for assessment, unless the consequence is made explicit.

One really fascinating aspect of mixed realities is the social collaborative one: in shared social immersive experiences, we mirror the conditions in which strong social ties are built, building the potential to develop virtually facilitated broader webs of strong social ties, something that is directly relevant in induction, and explorations of organisational effectiveness.

The Psychology of Mixed Realities

GEOSPATIAL aspects are fascinating in mixed realities: central to the benefits we have are that virtual environments are exploratory, and in the Learning Methodology, ‘exploration’ is a key learning stage. There is not doubt that this exploratory ability will be central to the benefit we feel from mixed realities, at least if the experience design is solid. Our ability to physically engage with objects, even to receive tactile or haptic feedback (in the most advanced work being done on virtual touch), will further reinforce the authenticity and value.

There will clearly be both risks and opportunities around accessibility: we can liberate ourselves from physical constraint, but equally people may be limited in their ability to benefit from geospatial aspects of engagement by their own capability, so at the very least, we need to be mindful of this.

Finally, geospatial engagement provides great opportunity to be playful, playful with physical constraints and physics rules, but also with the ways we engage. We can create playful co-creative and exploratory spaces, especially using puzzle based approaches, and, even better, collaborative puzzle solving spaces.

The Psychology of Mixed Realities

The last aspect to explore is MANIPULATION itself: the ability to build, to move, to interact with the environment, this is what makes these spaces so potentially exciting. Making is, itself, a powerful engager. People can experience pride through creation, and these spaces are superb for supporting rapid sketching and prototyping: some of the newest pre-visualisation tools are high speed to competency, low tech for the end user, close to intuitive. We can unlock creativity if the tools don’t have steep learning curves.

Our ability to vary rules around manipulation (vary virtual weight for example) broaden the scope of our ability to experiment. Mechanisms of experimentation and failure, both the ability to participate in and, crucially, the experience of both these things, can greatly enrich a learning environment.

This has been a brief pass through aspects of the psychology of mixed realities: i wanted to include it within the Learning Architecture work because, already, we see many organisations following predictable paths to failure. If we apply existing pedagogical approaches to new spaces, we will limit or damage our potential. This is a time to explore, but to explore not simply new technologies, but new storytelling and experiential models.

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The Psychology Of Mixed Realities. #WorkingOutLoud [Part 1]

There’s a great buzz. Or certainly a great hype. Virtual, immersive, and augmented realty is a transformative event in learning: not simply from an experiential view but, if we focus on design and pedagogy, an effectiveness one. The technology is not simply emerging, it’s cascading, with the price of both creative and consumer kit tumbling. But effective learning will not be caused by technology: it may be facilitated by it, if we understand the forces at play. If we understand just what changes in ‘learning’ as we move from ‘physical’ through to truly ‘immersive’ experiences.

The Psychology of Mixed Realities

Today, i’m preparing a session to present at the new Realities360 Conference in San Jose. The title is ‘The Psychology of Mixed Realities’, and it’s really a first draft of factors that we can build into an overall Learning Architecture. I’m primarily interested in ‘what’ is different in the experience of mixed realities and, crucially, how that influences our instructional design approach.

The Learning Architecture is an ongoing stream of work i’m developing, bringing together my previous books on ‘Learning Methodology’, ‘Social Learning’, and ‘Mobile Learning’, and attempting to create a holistic view of learning, with a focus on effectiveness and agility, achieved through the creation of spaces and communities to learn within.


Julian Stodd’s 6 stage methodology for learning design

For this session, i’ve sketched out six initial factors to consider: i doubt that these are the final ones that i’ll use, but that’s the joy of #WorkingOutLoud, i can prototype these, and see how the narrative shapes. The initial factors that i want to consider are: ‘Consequence’, ‘Neurology’, ‘Context’, ‘Perception’, ‘Geospatial’, and ‘Manipulation’. An eclectic selection, i’ll warrant, but they let me start the thought process. I’ll take a brief walk through each, to outline my thinking.

The Psychology of Mixed Realties

CONSEQUENCE is immediate within immersive environments: we take an action, and the consequence is as immediate as it would be in the ‘real’ world. I drop something, it smashes. Perhaps i should say ‘physical’ consequence is immediate: reputation based, or behavioural consequence may still be delayed. But there is an immediacy of consequence to action that reflects very closely what we experience in reality: this is fundamentally different from what we experience in eLearning, or abstract classroom based approaches. Immediacy of consequence impacts learning significantly, but unlike in the real world, we can make this fluid: we can play with temporal factors, slowing things down, and allowing us to repeat actions. So, for example, we can simulate experiences, but manipulate the flow and application of consequence. We can provide narratives to overlay it. We can shape the experience beyond what is possible in either classroom or real life contexts.

Our reflexes in immersive reality are more instinctive: the engagement of our vestibular system, the sense of movement and balance, the sensory overload, all of this makes it a more visceral experience, something that reflects in the fact that there is a persistency effect of our feeling: unlike much classroom based training on empathy, for example, experiential training on bullying in virtual environments leads to a persistency of empathy. This is one hint at the power of immersive approaches.

The Psychology of Mixed Realties

NEUROLOGY is a section in which i want to explore the underlying cognitive experience: what’s happening at an intrinsic, instinctive level, in immersive realties? Well, certainly our ‘experience’ is immediate. Super fast in fact. We make millisecond judgements much as we do in the real world. Unlike in, for example, branching scenarios, or roleplay, where we tend to have far more reflective space, we act more closely to how we do in ‘real’ life. We may be highly subject to forces of confirmation bias, be wilfully blind, we may exhibit cultural and ethnic bias in our decisions, made rapidly, according to cognitive processes of ‘normalisation’, as explored in the research around implicit association and unconscious bias. The lack of reflective time (unless we wilfully manipulate the temporal flow) leaves us subject to the same bias and prejudice we exhibit in real life.

The Psychology of Mixed Realties

CONTEXT is a fascinating aspect of mixed realities: because of the inherently artificial nature of the experience, we can precisely replicate the space, either to allow repetition, or to provide shared experience. Of course, the converse is true, in that we can deliberately vary the experience, in either expected, or unexpected ways, which is particularly important for developing resilience, creativity, agility, and collaboration. Or at least it is if we design it right! We can also prime people by pre-visualising a situation, allowing us to explicitly experiment with or test confirmation bias and presumption, stereotyping and categorisation errors. For aspects such as military or emergency service training, this can be highly valuable.

I’ll conclude this post tomorrow…

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Drawing ‘The Trust Sketchbook’

A couple of months ago, i ran a Kickstarter campaign for ‘The Trust Sketchbook’, intended as a short, guided, reflection on ‘what trust means to me’, to be used by individuals, and within teams. I have shared a few early sketches, as i tried to draw it digitally, then experimented with drawing it by hand. I’ve now decided on a hand drawn approach, and written a document with all the text in. With this structure in place, it’s time to knuckle down and draw the Sketchbook. With that in mind, i’ve given myself a quiet two days here in San Jose, and am trying to draw the whole thing. Today, i’m sharing the first few two page spreads.

The Trust Sketchbook

Overall, there will likely be 28 pages, although that may change. And i should stress that, whilst i intend these to be the final illustrations, they may well change too! I haven’t bought my paints on this trip, so can’t do any colouring yet, but these will give a sense of it.

The Trust Sketchbook

The whole book will be arranged around the ‘12 aspects of trust’ that i’ve shared previously. It will likely be a spiral bound book, although i may just do that for the people who backed the project and go with a ‘print on demand’ version for general release.

The Trust Sketchbook

There are two contexts for this work: it can be used by individuals, or co-created with a group, in a room together. I may even do large scale vinyl printouts to put around the wall for this. The whole thing is a bit of an experiment.

The Trust Sketchbook

One the one hand, it makes me rather nervous, as my artistic talent isn’t really quite up to doing everything i need for a sketchbook, and my handwriting isn’t great either… but having called it a Sketchbook, i really want to try to do the whole thing with no ‘fonts’ at all.

The Trust Sketchbook

If i do manage to complete it this week, it will have to wait till i’m home to colour it, but i should be able to get it out in September.

The Trust Sketchbook

In the meantime, if you haven’t yet taken part in the full ‘Landscape of Trust’ research, please do head over here and take part in the scientific study!

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New York: Spaces

New York is one of my favourite cities: disjointed, divided, crowded and perpetually changing. The architecture is massive: not brutalist, but simply prevalent. There is more architecture than air in Manhattan. Layers of it, from the monumental to the prosaic, the sculptural to that which is simply perplexed.

New York Spaces

There’s a clear transition point of design, from the structure engineered on paper, manifestation of dreams and desire, through to the vision designed by computer, abstracted from location and style. Those older building are massive through study and hot forged engineering, whilst the modern structures, more glass than brick, are byproducts of force calculation and the need for globalised skylines and the tourist dollar.

Architecture is always about the expression of desire, rarely a matter of pure function, it’s a devolved personality, but in cities, especially modern cites, that desire has become abstracted from the human. As our cities reach ever higher, layers of humanity cascade down the frictionless frontages, consigned to begging in the doorway, or staring open mouthed up the unscalable sides. Cities are built through architecture, but we exist in the spaces that the walls define.

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The Fear

There are two consistent aspects of the conversations that i have around the Social Age: what can it give us, and what should we fear. More specifically, ‘how can we exploit it’, and ‘what if we don’t like it’. Both sentiments are, to large extent, moot points: this is not a system or a process, it’s an ecosystem shift. Like it or loathe it, welcome it or reject it, the new reality is upon us, and our only options are to adapt, or to fail.

The Fear

The Social Age sees a significant rebalancing of power, the rise of social communities and devolved authority, moderated through reputation, but also the emergence of new types of power, and new modes of knowledge. We cannot yet fully understand the mechanisms that underly the change, but we certainly observe it’s impacts, in everything from politics to retail, research to conflict.

When i new piece of technology lands, or a new market opens up, it’s feasible to exploit it, but with an ecosystem shift, new niches emerge, and our very size and scale, our very success in the current space may actively blind us to new potentials, or, worse, actively prevent us from adapting.

This is a time to learn: to learn our way around this new space, to rapidly prototype adaptive strategies, and to learn how to change. Because one thing is clear: our feelings about the Social Age are less relevant than our demonstrated ability to act upon it.

Living in fear is a fast route to failure.

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Launching the Social Leadership 100 days Podcast series

Alongside the launch of my new book, ‘Social Leadership – my 1st 100 days’, i’m pushing out 100 podcasts, one to go with each development activity in the workbook. There will be a MOOC launching too, next week.

Social Leadership - my 1st 100 days

If you are on iTunes, you can access the podcasts here

If not, you can find them here

The podcasts are releasing one a day, for the next 100 days, which will lead right up to Christmas eve! If you are taking part in the Social Leadership #SL100 journey, then please do #WorkOutLoud and share your story as you go.

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Book Launch: Social Leadership – my 1st 100 days

This week i’m setting out on a seven week tour with the new book, which launches this week. ‘Social Leadership: my 1st 100 days’ is a companion to ‘The Social Leadership Handbook’, and consists of one hundred days of activity to develop Social Leadership capability for individuals and teams.

Social Leadership: my 1st 100 days

Each day consists of an illustration, exploring the topic at hand, some questions, conversations, or activities, and a provocation to take action.

Social Leadership: my 1st 100 days

Based around the core principles of the NET model of Social Leadership, the purpose of the new book is to guide the early footsteps.

Social Leadership: my 1st 100 days

Every tenth day is an ‘Action Day’, where you are specifically encouraged to put the book down and make a real difference out in your community and team.

Social Leadership: my 1st 100 days

I’m touring the East and West coast of America, into parts of Europe, Canada, and then over to Asia later this year, to share the ideas behind the work, and to support emerging Social Leadership communities.

Social Leadership: my 1st 100 days

The book is available on Amazon, around the world, or through the Sea Salt Learning website if you have any problems finding it!

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