Towards Transdisciplinarity: Leading Collaboration in Virtual Environments as Embodied Avatars

Session Description
Addressing wicked problems across time, distance, and national boundaries holds promise. This session will share results from a doctoral study conducted fall 2013 that explored high-performing, collaborative groups using virtual environments. Over 40 groups within multiple industries were among 61 respondents from seven countries who participated. Environments were mostly Second Life, OpenSim, and World of Warcraft. Of interest was how individuals use dialogue to collaborate in their social and professional groups. Results indicate that cultivating identity through the relationship created as an avatar has its advantages for personal and professional development, including leadership.

The mixed methods study assessed an instrument and two constructs developed to help measure factors based on the National Cancer Institute’s Team Science Toolkit and MIT researchers’ work on building learning organizations. A taxonomy of avatar embodiment was built upon Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Transdisciplinarity represented the highest embodiment level where respondents’ self-actualize and transcend ‘self’ by collaboratively pursuing the art-of-the-possible. Many group endeavors were not possible in physical life opening pathways beyond interpolating the future.

A spectrum of virtual engagement was developed to identify heuristics for avatar dialogue and collaboration. The heuristics were based on extensive literature review, study results, and ethnographic experience. Implications of the study impact virtual team science, virtual community learning organizations and transdisciplinary research endeavors requiring collaboration assessment. Trends in blending virtual and physical community events and future directions to apply study finding will be discussed.

Barbara Truman
Barbara_Truman_64Dr. Barbara Truman is a social entrepreneur who was a former faculty administrator from the University of Central Florida where she helped establish online learning. Barbara’s background is within Instructional Systems Design, Human Performance Technology, and Computer Science. She recently launched a non-profit corporation in Orlando, Florida to promote collaboration using virtual environments across industry sectors and beyond formal learning. Barbara studies how immersive learning environments promote transdisciplinarity using avatars and dialogue.
Cynthia Calongne
Cynthia_Calongne_64Dr. Cynthia Calongne is a researcher of virtual worlds, games, and immersive learning experiences with over 18 years teaching experience. She was a founding leader of Colorado Technical University’s Emerging Media Program in Computer Science Program after serving as a software engineer including the US Space Command. Cynthia, aka her avatar Lyr Lobo, was a co-recipient of the $25,000 1st prize for the Federal Virtual Challenge with Dr. Andrew Stricker in 2010 for their Mars Expedition Challenge. Cynthia’s presentations can be found at:
Andrew Stricker
Bio coming soon!

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