Mediated communication has been around for years. Since Web 2.0, it has been used to communicate via text-based, audio-visual information communication. Over the last few years, the emergence of the Metaverse, the third generation of the World Wide Web (Web 3.0), has taken mediated communication to the next step. By conveying verbal and non-verbal behaviour through positional tracking and stimulating other senses such as touch (feeling), immersive Virtual Reality (IVR) seems to offer the possibility of deepening social interaction through mediated environments. Perhaps even moving towards social interaction resembling face-to-face communication. This raises the question: “How do users experience social interaction in an immersive VR environment?” The question is answered using the social interaction model Kreijns et al. (2022) proposed. This model consists of the three concepts social presence, sociability and social space. The research subsequently tested the model by means of a qualitative experiment, in which five couples (N =10) were put in an immersive VR environment. Afterwards, through in-depth interviews, they were asked about their experiences regarding interaction with each other and the environment. What emerged was that social presence - the ‘realness’ of a person - is partly perceived by, on the one hand, the technological affordances for the transmission of non-verbal and verbal cues and, on the other, the social affordances offered by immersive VR, such as the possibility of playing a game. Positional tracking also appears to contribute to social interaction; through characteristics such as the height of the other participant, some form of recognition takes place. The prerequisite is that an interpersonal relationship is already present before participants experience social interaction in an immersive VR environment. However, the analysis shows that due to the current flawed state of immersive technology, social interaction in an immersive VR environment is still far from resembling face-to-face communication. Nevertheless, a high level of presence was observed during this research, mainly via interaction with both the other person and the environment. The research concludes that even though no immersion takes place, the users can still experience presence.

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Dr Izabela Derda
Media & Business
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Micky Wouter. (2022, October 7). Being close but at a distance Social interaction in an immersive Virtual Reality environment. Media & Business. Retrieved from