The Social Technology

April 2nd, 2010 in .Blogs .News .Tech
Mrs Mario

A lot of research has pointed out that using the internet and playing games has a negative effect on a person’s social skills and ability to interact with the real world. However, there is just as much research saying the opposite.

Virtual reality is one tool that’s been extensively analysed by experts in various fields to determine how it could be used to improve upon the social skills of a wide ranging number of people. From children with autism to adults with poor social development, it has been shown to make a difference.

In a study by Eryn Grant, a PhD student at the School of Humanities, Queensland University of Technology, she proved that some virtual reality applications, such as Second Life, were actually a good way to getting people to socialise more.

There are not many places we go in the world where we are guaranteed social contact, in real life it is harder and less likely that you will go up to a stranger and start a conversation,” said Grant (Source)

She believed that such virtual environments, which include things like Facebook and MySpace and other such Web 2.0 social applications, were a platform upon which people could show themselves to others as who they truly were. She felt that they were an extension of who we are as social beings and that they provided people with the opportunity to reach out even further.

Interestingly, she pointed out that while social networks are seen by some as not being as effective as genuine physical interaction, the study proved that “no one can have a healthy online behaviour if the bases for it have not been established in real life.”

Another study, held by researchers at the University of Sussex in 2003, found that children between the ages of four and six who used a digital toy connected to a desktop PC, interacted more with their peers and the researchers than those who only used a PC.

What came out of our study was quite unexpected,” says Dr Luckin, reader in computer science and artificial intelligence, “We were looking to see how children sought help through the computer, but we found that, for the children who had the toys, there was a significant increase in socialisation in their help-seeking behaviour. The children who were working in pairs were twice as likely to talk to each other. The children who were working along were three times more likely to seek the help of researchers.” (Source)

This study conflicts with a study by the Government’s basic skills agency which suggested that parents were largely to blame for their children’s inability to speak audibly because they left them to play with computer games, rather than spend time talking to them. Teachers were claiming that half the children starting school could not speak clearly or be understood properly.

While this may just serve to show that studies can prove anything you want them to, it also indicates that perhaps the benefits of technology require more investigation. Perhaps it is time to stop assuming that everything surround it is bad. Of course, like anything in this world, too much of it is not going to be a good thing, but as a tool it works. And it’s a source of fun that may just turn you into a social genius.

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