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Accelerating possibilities

This has been another good week starting with my setting up a new Second Life (SL) group called ‘Accelerating Possibilities Cohort’.  The group’s mission is to offer support and peer coaching to doctorate student members who are researching some aspect of SL.  It already has 9 members spanning the globe including Canada, USA, UK, UAE and New Zealand!  The name of the group came from a discussion with Deanya Zenfold.   I was trying to explain the feeling I was getting from global collaboration and communication changes using web 2.0 technologies… in a sense our possibilities for knowledge contribution accelerate when people come together to share, critique and converse.  The first meeting will be 24th September.

One realization this week is that SL can be a very lonely place except when you have something to do.  For example, I enjoyed very much my first in-world event organized as part of the Virtual World Roundtable and Aj Brooks from Montclair State University.  The group invited Terrance Linden, manager of Customer Strategy and Development at Linden Lab (LL) to discuss with educators – issues and future direction of education in SL and LL support for educators.  Aj did Parkinson proud, and with the help of the Google Moderator software he engaged Terrance with his and the audiences questions with ease.  There were I think over 60 avatars on the SIM when it got underway.  It was delivered in voice and to say the least it was awesome, there were few performance problems and it was like I was there, and at one stage I even got a bit nervous as my rather inflammatory question on Linden Labs recent marketing disasters climbed up the list of questions to be asked.  In the end however, my question reached the top – and then they ran out of time!  Was that timing or not an appropriate question to ask when someone so important was on stage?  It certainly seemed to me a perfectly good enough medium to run a full size SBS lecture!

Now turning to my own research, last week I found myself playing a bit with where my research might fit in the subjective-positive spectrum of research philosophies – stating the I preferred the social construction end of the continuum.  Well, I’m afraid I need to swallow a humble pill as this week while I don’t make a 180 degree turn, it is certainly 90 degrees with a new suggestion that mixed methods may serve the project best.  Let me explain, I have been trying to nail the ‘values’ question for quite some time i.e. where values sit with my research.  Perhaps I was putting off answering the question using research philosophy as my excuse!  Nevertheless, I was being pressed for an answer, and this past Friday I put my ideas up on the whiteboard about what I considered important.  Concepts like awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and power all stayed prominent.  In my opinion its these concepts that enable a person to change.

Then as I was looking around for research on these concepts, I stumbled across the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB), an instrument for measuring what Icek Ajzen (1991) calls Behaviour Intention.  Roughly described it looks at an individual’s beliefs toward a particular behaviour, toward the norms around the behaviour (group, organisation, or society), and finally his/her perception of his/her ability to execute the behaviour.

It was here that I begin to get excited as this theory has much of my own experience reflected in it, and extends it including the normative constraints that exist around us – for me a real barrier to sustainable behaviour in organisations.  As I looked into the credibility of the theory I find that there are 100s of study’s across many disciplines that have used it successfully.  I note that in the few thesis’s they also extended it or combined it with other models.  TPB is not the only theory in the game as I have previously mentioned Value-Beliefs-Norms Theory (VBN) in a previous blog, nevertheless, TPB even though a quantitative analysis simply gets much closer to seeing an effect on behaviour from interventions without actually observing the behaviour!  Perfect.

Not wanting to leave my subjective preferences behind, I think it will still be possible perhaps even desirable to use ethnographic observation of 3D virtual world interactions, and action research to iterate and improve the model of intervention towards the optimum the medium will allow.   An important space for the qualitative and subjective!

So, in summary I have moved back up the positivist continuum suggesting mixed methods will be a good move – in this case it could certainly be a pragmatic one.

Look forward to hearing your views.

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