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Journal article

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Interactive Learning Environments

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Taylor and Francis Group


avatars, social interaction, transformed self-concept, virtual environments


This article describes the findings of a 3-month study on how social encounters mediated by an online Virtual Immersive Environment (VIE) impacted on the relational self-concept of adolescents. The study gathered data from two groups of students as they took an Introduction to Design and Programming class. Students in group 1 undertook course activities conducted in the Second Life VIE, where they envisioned themselves as college students five years in the future and developed representational avatars based on that idea. Students in group 2 undertook the same course activities in a different order, without the VIE component during the study period. Changes in self-concept were measured at the conclusion of the study period using the Relational Self-Concept Scale, a survey instrument that examines the impact that different social encounters within and around the school context have upon the formation of self-concept (Schott, G., & Bellin, W. (2001a). The relational self-concept scale: A context-specific self-report measure for adolescents. Adolescence, 36, 85–103.). The study found evidence that the VIE experience of group 1 had a significant impact on the students' relational self-concept, specifically a positive change in how content they were with their social selves. This study provides evidence that the development of representational avatars and socializing in a virtual immersive environment can change how adolescents think about themselves in reality.



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Knutzen, B. & Kennedy, D. (2012). Designing the self: the transformation of the relational self-concept through social encounters in a virtual immersive environment. Interactive Learning Environments, 20(3), 271-292. DOI: 10.1080/10494820.2011.641680