E40 The Metaverse has Arrived, Hello Classes in VR, Goodbye Zoom Fatigue …April Fools!

This is a recording of a talk Robby gave at Carnegie Mellon University this month. Can you guess one truth against the two lies in this talk title? [Spoilers ahead] The metaverse 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 SPARTIE Lab:

The Social and Psychological Approaches to Research on Technology-Interaction Effects (SPARTIE) Lab performs research on the effects of human-technology interaction, examining how the use of media technologies (e.g., avatars, agents, automobiles) influences meaningful outcomes (e.g., education, health/safety, persuasion).

The SPARTIE Lab is part of the greater academic community at the College of Communication Arts & Sciences at Michigan State University. More information on the lab's research projects, staff, and work can be found on the SPARTIE Lab website.

About the host:

Dr. Rabindra (Robby) Ratan, Ph. D., is an associate professor and AT&T Scholar at Michigan State University’s Department of Media and Information and is the director of the SPARTIE Lab.

He is also an affiliated faculty member of the MSU Department of Psychology, the MSU College of Education’s program in Educational Psychology and Educational Technology, and the MSU Center for Gender in a Global Context. Ratan received his Ph.D. from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, his M.A. in Communication from Stanford University, and his B.A. in Science, Technology and Society, also from Stanford University.

Dr. Ratan conducts research on the effects of human-technology interaction, examining how media technologies (e.g., avatars, agents, automobiles) influence meaningful outcomes (e.g., persuasion, education, health/safety). He is particularly interested in the Proteus effect, media-rich transportation contexts, perceptions of media as self-representations and/or social others, avatarification for health and education, and gender stereotypes in gaming contexts.

Dr. Ratan lives near Lansing with his family. More information on his work can be found on his website.