Decision-making factors in selecting virtual worlds for events: Advocacy, computer efficacy, perceived risks, and collaborative benefits

Arhlene A. Flowers, Ithaca College
Kimberly Gregson

Abstract

Virtual worlds present more options on how people can "meet," attracting corporations, nonprofits, and government entities to navigate these new worlds that demand computer skills yet offer benefits in reduced travel time, expenditures, and carbon footprints. This study utilized qualitative interviews with experienced hosts of social virtual-world events representing a variety of industries. Questions were designed to elicit responses about the decision-making process in selecting virtual worlds for meetings and events for business applications, as well as to discover opportunities and challenges in in-world collaborations. The research extends the technology acceptance model by examining use of technology beyond the individual's intention to the decision making of choosing technology-specifically virtual worlds-on behalf of an organization for attendees to use. Responses raised practical implications on the unique attributes and sense of presence in a 3D virtual world. This includes fantastic environments evoking fun, playfulness, and creativity, to limitations of the technological learning curve and risk factors, such as loss of control, privacy, and security. This study can be used as a basis for future research on Second Life and other virtual worlds for business-to-business and business-to-consumer collaboration, particularly for the meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibitions (MICE) industry. Findings also provide real-world considerations that are beneficial for meeting and event planners exploring virtual-world events or hybrid events. © 2012 Cognizant Comm.