Jessica Outlaw is a culture and behavioral researcher who released a qualitative study of the experiences of 13 women in social VR in October 17 2017, and then on April 4, 2018, she released a survey of 600 users in social VR getting some robust data on how much harassment that people have experienced in the early days of social VR. I recorded a Voices of VR interview with Outlaw on the day that she released her survey results in 2018 where she had mentioned to me The Elements of Culture from Andrew Brown’s 1995 book on Organizational Culture.
Outlaw expanded upon these Elements of Culture in a presentation that she gave at XR for Change in New York City on June 17th, 2019. I had a chance to sit down with her afterwards to expand on all of these elements of culture, and how they’re related to cultivating a community:
- Heroes, Archetypes, Mascots
- Stories, Myths, Origin Stories
- Ceremonies, Rituals, Symbolic Acts, Rites of Passage
How to create safe online spaces is not something that can be purely technologically engineered, but something that will require a holistic approach. There are certainly technological architectures that will help, but because human beings are involved with relating to each other, then there are certain aspects of human behavior that can’t be completely controlled and modulated with technology. As a culture and behavioral researcher, Outlaw is advocating that there are ways in which you can cultivate and shape an online culture by focusing on these elements of culture. The intended goal is to create a culture that can be more self-policing. We talk about the onboarding process into a culture, and how these elements of culture could start to subtly shape the aggregate of individual behaviors in order to foster the type online communities with the culture that reflects the values of the creators. We discuss the scalability limits of this approach, and the tension between the top-down architecture and cultivation of cultural practices versus the emergent behavior of the individuals in a community.
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