How well can we communicate through digital means? What about body language? Facial Expression? Location?
“¼ people pay attention in conference calls”, says Philip Vanhoutte, Managing Director EMEA of Plantronics. Several studies over the past decade consolidate this view, with some listing as little as 10% paying full attention.
“The reason why,” says Vanhoutte lightly, is that “Conference Calls are not fun.” Although dispersed communications are very useful and productive, and give employees a great deal more freedom, they lose critical aspects required for engaging social interaction.
Conference calling and soft phone usage often entails communication based only on voice, which is a problem, states Vanhoutte. While this means you focus on the content, rather than visual cues and your surroundings, you also lose a great deal of your normal attention span.
When communications are purely voice driven, “your diction, tone and expression become 40% of your message” laments Vanhoutte, highlighting how rare diction and elocution lessons are in the modern business environment.
When people don’t speak engagingly, they lose their listener’s interest, and then everyone is wasting their time. Vanhoutte shares with us a saying that he’s heard over the years, “Every minute someone is late, or not paying attention, it costs the company $2”.
While many popular social services include voice, instant messaging (IM) and video chat integration, it seems that this still compromises greater body language cues, while allowing for facial expressions to be transmitted.
Facebook recently released its video chat service, and Google+ features its group-based “Hangout” service.
But is voice chat enough? Surely seeing a portion of a person is not enough to truly be communicating fully to our human potential?
What about a totally virtualised environment? Jeffrey Ventrella, author of Virtual Body Language, writes that “Most people, given the choice, would rather have their remote conversations using text chat, telephone, or video chat, rather than enter into an online virtual world as an avatar—even if that avatar is built for communication.”
Ventrella says he is one of those people that would rather communicate without an avatar, and he has been involved in various avatar products over his life, ranging from There.com to Second Life.
How is all this relevant to my blog? Well, virtual worlds and avatars are just a step away from gamification, and rather than continuously focusing on commodifying game concepts for cash, I thought I’d take a look at some modern communication theory. Virtual body language and how to convey tone through digital and virtual mediums is something neglected by modern scholars! Know of any awesome ways to communicate (outside of simple IM/video chat)? Drop me a line. :)