This report assesses the possibilities for social interaction that could take place in Second Life and will also draw upon the views put forward by researchers in arriving at its conclusions and propositions.
Hiltz and Johnson (1990) apply the systems contingency approach which views interactive computer systems as socio-technical sub systems which interact with each other. The subsystems in question are as follows (a) the individual human with certain skills and attributes (b) a CMCS with certain specific attributes related to functionality and interface and the hardware used to access it and (c) a user group existing within a specific social culture and tasks Hiltz and Johnson, 1990: 739). Each of these systems functions within a larger environmental context, such that the behaviour of one subsystem is likely to influence the behaviour of other systems as well.
The online environment poses one significant drawback, i.e., the lack of verbal communication and a warm, personal environment, because the online environment could be perceived as cold and unsociable. The lack of non verbal cues could function as a limiting factor for improving the perception in regulating social interaction (Hiltz and Johnson, 1990: 740). In the case of Second Life, this lack of verbal interaction is ameliorated somewhat because there is the facility available to communicate using text messages or audio, which could be an aid to improve social interactions among those moving within this virtual environment. Additionally, assuming a virtual avatar also allows for communication using non verbal cues such as gestures and animations which could further help in expressing oneself, although the perception of a somewhat cold and impersonal environment would be difficult to dispel completely because it is an online, virtual environment where the potential for actual warm contact may be limited.
On this basis, it could be argued