Work-Life Strategies & Solutions

On the Evolution of Work Systems in the Digital Economy

Thoughts on Running the Flipside Workspace versus Videoconferencing Study

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, so I’ll first address the slowdown on my blog. Thankfully, this isn’t about running out of steam but, rather, preoccupation with projects – including the Flipside Workspace user experience study which I mentioned in January 2015. As it is wrapping up, this is a good time to revisit it and provide detailed information. What I left unmentioned previously is that this study contrasts users’ experience meeting in Flipside Workspace with videoconferencing across various psychological dimensions.

For those who’re new to Flipside Workspace, this is an avatar-based,  3-dimensional digital workspace. It’s best described at Flipside Workspace’s site as, “an immersive online business district that takes those perks of real-life office dynamics and brings them into a virtual environment.” To see how elaborately crafted the environment is, watch this video.

Cross-Cultural Differences

While interacting with participants, some pointed out the practicalities of meeting face-to-face via video conferencing (i.e., people want to see who they’re dealing with, facial expressions provide more information, etc.), which leads to the question, “Why have an avatar-based platform?” However, I ask instead, should we believe everything we see? A view on face-to-face meetings that’s often missed is that facial expressions can also be a source of misinformation when culturally-specific facial expressions and body language differ. I’ve addressed this issue here and here.

Optical illusion

-Isms like Ageism

Besides misreading unfamiliar, culturally-based facial expressions or body language, some of us want our work, not our faces, to represent our professionalism and competence. For instance, despite not being a member of Generation Y by a long-shot, I know that an unflattering Gen Y stereotype exists because it’s often been projected onto me during video or face-to-face interactions (or even after people view my social media profile picture). Though I correct the mistake, some are prone to forgetting and continue patronizing (unknowingly) out of habit.

Many wish to have this problem, but they haven’t experienced how severely it can impact one’s credibility. It’s not uncommon for a young-looking person’s opinions to be ignored since a youthful appearance is associated with a lack of life experience and wisdom – and this can function as a handy scapegoat for brushing off opinions one doesn’t want to consider. Whether or not lack of life experience or wisdom is the real problem, of course, depends on the particular case in question (and even older people can lack both if they’ve “lived under a rock”). Correlations and averages aren’t useful when dealing with people on an individual basis.

Furthermore, when judging whether people are wise for their age or lacking in experience and wisdom, some arbitrariness is involved. At any given time, you may receive contradictory evaluations that supposedly have something to do with your age. Older individuals of the same age can can come to different conclusions simply because some agree with you (so you’re “wise for your age”) while others don’t (i.e., “you need more life experience”). Also, individuals of just about any age group have different abilities to comprehend you to begin with (since individuals develop in different ways and at different rates).

To be sure, ageism towards the old exists too. Older people may experience being written off as “behind the times” or “senile” for example. And, on another note, by stating that ageism and other -isms exist, I’m not saying that they are everywhere because individuals vary in their propensity to perpetuate them. However, the absence of visual cues encourages people to deal with information on its own merit. For this reason, I enjoy non face-to-face forms of communication like writing.

Blindness to Demographic Information

While I understand that most people I work with will want to see who I am in the flesh, interacting in Flipside Workspace has been a welcome respite. During this study, participants observed that there wasn’t any basis upon which they could guess my age (along with other normally visible features). There was a sense that we were on an even playing field and that we only earn respect through our words, deeds, and actions.

On a final note, I’d like to see more opportunities to practice focusing on how people communicate and work (instead of facial features) in order to arrive at a true representation of their professionalism. Hence, I’d like to see usage of platforms like Flipside Workspace gain traction. Until then, I’ll toy with the idea of having my mother sit in my stead during video conferencing meetings (since she looks my age) and silently move her lips while I throw my voice, ventriloquist-style.

Coming up soon: The Flipside Workspace versus videoconferencing report and more!


7 responses to “Thoughts on Running the Flipside Workspace versus Videoconferencing Study

  1. cindy knoke October 13, 2015 at 10:26 pm

    Fascinating and complex possibilites here Lynn. You explore all sides and aspects fairly from many perspectives. I think it sounds potentially very positive.

    • L. P. October 13, 2015 at 10:29 pm

      Thank you Cindy! I’m an avid online gamer and have noticed young people collaborating on avatar-based games like World of Warcraft. They’re able to complete complex missions together, so I just think, isn’t it possible for working professionals to coordinate and work together as avatars as well? I hope to see this as a future possibility! 🙂

  2. lemonchronicle October 14, 2015 at 3:52 am

    I think that it is good for information exchange, networking, launch off meetings to the real meeting.

    • L. P. October 14, 2015 at 3:59 am

      Yeah, we’re contrasting different online collaboration platforms (Flipside vs. video) for the purposes you named since they’re meant to serve the same purposes (information exchange, networking, launch-off meetings to the real meeting). Another non-video based platform, for example, is Sococo (which has a more 2-dimensional “bird’s eye” view layout of the office building – I compare it to “Pac Man,”) but I think Flipside Workspace creates a more realistic “office experience” than Sococo.

  3. Mike October 15, 2015 at 11:05 pm

    Very interesting, Lynn! I’m glad you’re back.😃

  4. Pingback: Blogging Hiatus: December 2015 – May 2016 | Work-Life Strategies & Solutions

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