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UXA2023 Yasamin Asadi - Designing for a post-lockdown metaverse

uxaustralia
August 25, 2023

UXA2023 Yasamin Asadi - Designing for a post-lockdown metaverse

With the worldwide population of adults over the age of 65 growing faster than any other according to the United Nations, considering their voice in designing the 3D embodiment of the internet (the Metaverse) is necessary for moving away from the deficit model of ageing, especially coming out of the pandemic. This presentation advocates for an ethnographic, co-design approach with older adults for those looking to design in a fully immersive space.

uxaustralia

August 25, 2023
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  1. Note that this is an unedited transcript of a live event and therefore may contain errors. This transcript is the
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    www.captionslive.au | [email protected] | 0447 904 255
    UX Australia
    UX Australia 2023
    Friday, 25 August 2023
    Captioned by: Kasey Allen & Bernadette McGoldrick

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    Page 71
    STEVE BATY:
    Our last talk before lunch is from Yasamin, who will look at
    designing for a post - it is around designing for the metaverse. Join me in
    welcoming Yasamin to the stage. Thank you. (APPLAUSE)
    YASAMIN ASADI: Hi, everyone. My name is Yasamin Asadi. Today I am
    going to talk about designing for a post-lockdown metaverse. I am a PhD

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    Page 72
    student at QUT and I also work as a UX designer at Deswik. I am happy
    to be here today.
    The work that I am going to share today began in 2020, when I
    started my masters at QUT. At the time I wanted to know how we can
    improve social technology, so I could keep in touch with my grandmother
    easier. In the beginning, I was looking for a way to stay connected
    without just using gadgets. I felt like the text messaging doesn't
    communicate the energy that goes on between two people. I find them
    intriguing and we don't give you a sense of thing to present with someone
    else.
    When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, people all around the world
    faced restrictions. In Australia, all the adults were advised to stay at
    home and avoid travelling or leaving their houses, basically, aside from
    essential trips. As a result, a lot of technologies emerged to keep in
    contact with everybody else, one of them being Zoom. The restrictions
    highlighted the need to research how adults were adjusting their life to
    the circumstances of the pandemic and if their technology needs were
    changing.
    Of course, there is also a lot of other types of connections that can
    happen. You can do a bit of tap in your Smart voice and send the
    vibration to someone else. You can play an online game with somebody to
    invite them to come and play with you, something that you love. With
    many people living away from their loved ones in different time zones,
    you need to invest in a synchronous social technologies, so you can keep
    in touch with people even if they are not online at the time you want
    them to be. The metaverse is coming to blur the boundaries between the
    digital and physical world. Think about it as the Internet but 3D and
    immersive. It will give us all new opportunities to stay connected to
    others. For example, there is a lot of concerts being held in different

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    Page 73
    virtual worlds, like Ariana Grande or Travis Scott have held concerts and
    you can watch them, they are fun.
    Other well-known types of virtual worlds are Fortnite, Warcraft or
    Minecraft. A virtual world is a community that is built and maintained
    digitally. To achieve the state of the metaverse that we aspire to go,
    which is blurring the boundaries between the mutual and physical world,
    we need to go through three-phases of digitalisation. The first phase is
    called digital model. A digital model is virtual representation of a physical
    entity. Here, the physical and digital world, they don't really communicate
    with each other. The second phase is called a digital shadow. A digital
    shadow is a virtual representation of a physical entity which is impacted
    by the physical entity. There is no impact coming from the virtual world to
    the physical world but there is impact coming from physical to the virtual.
    Finally, the third one is called the digital twin, this is what dynamic virtual
    representation would look like. The physical and digital world would
    impact each other.
    By going through each phase of digitalisation, we will have more
    opportunities to engage with other people. For example, right now we
    have avatars, with we can communicate through avatars in the virtual
    worlds and research is going on around about how to enhance the
    physical image and body language of avatars. Just the conversation flows
    more naturally.
    Another type of keeping in touch with other people in the virtual
    world is holograms. In Sydney Jewish Museum, there is an exhibition
    called the Reverberations: A Future of Memory, where three Holocaust
    survivors have sat down and answered 1100 questions, so you can go and
    discuss with them their experience and just talk to them within their
    holograms.
    Back to the original question, we wanted to see how we can

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    Page 74
    improve the user experience of connections over distance, how do older
    adults use technologies during the pandemic and the lockdown time? Also
    we want to see how technology could help them to adjust their lives to
    the circumstances of the pandemic.
    To answer these questions, I conducted three rounds of interviews
    with 13 older adults residing in Australia at the time. The first round was
    conducted between May-June of 2020. At the time all states in Australia
    were under a form of lockdown. This round of interviews, I wanted to
    know how was their life before and after the pandemic? If their lives have
    changed and if their technological needs have changed? The second round
    was conducted during August 2020, this time a lot of the states in
    Australia were under a road map to come out of lockdown, so I wanted to
    see if the novelty effect played a role in how they were adjusting their
    technological needs. The third one in October 2021, with
    Melbourne-based participants in particular, because Melbourne had the
    longest lockdown period, so I wanted to know how they lived their life
    during the lockdown and if technology was actually helping them?
    The theme of slowness was generated after the three steps of the
    thematic analysis process. I wanted to clarify the definition of slowness in
    this research. It refers to how the participants sense the passage of time
    or how they have more time to curate activities or take control of their
    lives. Slowness was experienced differently from one person to the next.
    When the pandemic happened, a lot of activities also at peoples' houses
    were cancelled or moved online, freeing up a lot of activities and giving
    participants a lot of free time to slow down their lives and think about
    what is going to happen.
    I would like to acknowledge the fact that not everybody enjoyed
    lockdown or not everybody felt like they slowed down. It was also
    repeated in a lot of other countries with different coverts of people.

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    Page 75
    Nurses in Singapore were reporting that despite having a high stress job
    during those years, they were feel like the time was passing slow still.
    As I mentioned earlier, we began this study to understand how
    peoples' technological needs changed during the pandemic and how the
    slowness was demonstrated. This comes from a human action perspective
    and the previous studies that I mentioned about the slowness, they were
    coming from more of a psychology or sociology point of views, so they
    weren't discussing technologies.
    I want to talk about the findings from now on and how the wide
    range of experiences of slowing down, modified social interactions and
    technology use, depending upon peoples' circumstances, relationships and
    attitudes is one of most notable findings. There are three design pathways
    that I am going to talk about today. They emerge from our methodology
    and they are coming to you to advocate for a more user-driven design
    experience, instead of starting off from a designer-led perspective, like
    Alina mentioned yesterday, and skated out to include a lot more people.
    These considerations were especially important when we move onto the
    metaverse. Because the metaverse is going to be considered immersive
    and it will be all around us and we can't turn off our laptop and move
    away from our gadgets, it is more important to think about what users
    actually want.
    The first pathway is called the Agency Pathway. We found that older
    adults really enjoyed being more in control of their time and how they
    were able to curate their own activities and their activities to develop their
    new routines, wished they were perceiving it as slower. This points to
    design and technologies that supports a sense of control, that the slowing
    down is happening because of external circumstances or whether it is
    coming from their bodily changes. The agency pathway can be found in
    having greater power over one's schedule or enabling them to adjust their

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    Page 76
    routines to the circumstances of their lives. Changes in the situation due
    to the pandemic caused older adults to reflect upon themselves and
    develop new hobbies and routines.
    For example, one of our participants mentioned the early stages of
    lockdown were marvellous because "You got to do all the things you have
    been meaning to do for ages. It encouraged me to go for walks and do
    knitting which I haven't done for 20 years and encouraged me to do some
    sewing which has been hovering like a guilty conscience forever".
    Revisiting an old hobby was something she was able to do because she
    had more time on her hands. A lot of her clubs were cancelled and she
    couldn't meet up with her friends and she turned herself to the
    circumstances of her house. Surprisingly, this is coming from a second
    interview and the state she was residing in had ended their lockdown but
    she was still continuing with this new hobby that she picked up during the
    pandemic.
    I would like to argue that the notion of reflection should be
    considered while we design as well, and in lots of peoples' circumstances.
    We observed two kind of reflections happening in our participants. The
    first type is called the reflection triggered by circumstances. During the
    lockdown, having to slow down, many people reflect upon one type of
    technology they want moving forward. Some of our participants upgraded
    their phones or their data plans, they purchased new technology, so they
    were looking for new ways to stay connected to others. They were looking
    for more efficient technology but they were still finding some aspects of
    this communication frustrating. They were seeking better types of
    communication.
    The other type of reflection was organic reflection. This happens
    when you just have more time on your hands between your activities, so
    you get to think about what is happening in your life and you can make

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    Page 77
    changes and adjust it to your own needs. Following the changes that
    happened because of the lockdown, a lot of activities got cancelled and
    people didn't really have a lot of social commitments outside of their
    houses. They had more time to adjust the activities that they wanted to
    their own routine and follow their own pace.
    Moving onto the digital world, the current form of interaction is
    through avatars. Avatars are the digital embodiment of people, whether
    they are true to form or they are completely different. A lot of researchers
    are actually working on the physical aspects of the avatar and how we can
    communicate within our avatars. Something to note is that in the
    metaverse, you are not going to necessarily communicate with humans.
    There will be a lot of parts, there will be Smart assistance, there will be
    NPCs and designing for them will be very important moving forward.
    We also should consider different scenarios of these interactions in
    the virtual move while we move forward. One study showed that when
    people had to jump from a height in the virtual world, they would perform
    better when they had a robot as their avatar. Once they had a human
    form, they were pursuing this act as dangerous so they didn't want to
    jump as high as their robots. Another one found that when people were
    supposed to wave back to someone in the digital world, they would rather
    do it to a human avatar. They perceived that as scary. This proves that
    we need to design different avatars and different interaction types for
    different contexts.
    Each person will have many different sides and they might not want
    to show it to everybody at the same time. This is something for you to
    consider once we reach the metaverse. Once we reach the state where we
    don't need our gadgets any more to just enter the virtual world, this will
    be something to consider, what face of ourselves are we going to
    present?

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    Page 78
    To sum up. The Agency Pathway advocates for supporting greater
    power over one's personal schedule or activities or enabling a person to
    adjust the situation to their own needs. Current virtual worlds and
    technologies that are on the road to become part of the metaverse are
    designer-led. We put on our VR goggles and talk to the holograms and
    they are all designed by the designers and we need to consider more of
    what the user wants and give them more power over their own schedule
    and routines.
    The second pathway is called the Preferred Interaction Pathway.
    Promising design direction for technology for a slower life, this
    understands the qualities of social interactions that people experience
    online. What their preferred devices should be and how do they prefer
    this form of communication between themselves? Looking at the current
    forms of communications technologies, our participants experience
    insights about the nature of interactions that they want in their lives
    moving forward. In collaborating work, this has been a barrier between
    communication and collaboration but this is also true when it comes to
    social technologies and relationships over distance. For example, one of
    our participants mentioned "I found that some of the Zoom happy hour
    things were getting to me a bit. I felt like I am one of the ones that's
    single. They were couples and they would sit there with their wine and it
    made me feel different to them. It was making me feel a little bit not
    necessarily good, whereas I don't feel like that when I am working out
    with them". These sorts of screen-based interactions, where people are
    confined within a tiny little rectangle and the emphasis is just on the
    individuals makes a lot of people self-conscious and this will lead to not
    have a natural flow of conversation and it can also make some people or a
    participant feel alone. These are for what calls the consideration of design
    of social technologies once we want to move fully virtual.

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    Page 79
    Also sometimes the activities that the people, such as transport or
    garden clubs, were not applicable when we moved online during the
    pandemic. One of our participants mentioned "All the guys, widowers or
    bachelors who live on their own and I have just rung them up, not to
    discuss the world or not, just how is it going? A couple of them said if
    you're not going to talk about transport, I am not interested, they call it
    on and off topic. I didn't want to talk about off topic things and that is an
    eye opener". As we can see, the activity that bonded that group of people
    was cancelled when they moved online during the pandemic. This
    particular participant thought that they were friends besides - apart from
    that mutual activity. How can we design to support this source of
    activities moving online?
    The business model and the designer of current social platforms are
    to appear to a lot of people and they want to gather as much users as
    they want around the same time. This is something that our participants
    didn't wish to continue during their slower pace of life, they wanted
    smaller social circles where they could bond over mutual interests or just
    feel like themselves and feel like they are connecting more naturally.
    Also one thing to note about once we move into the metaverse, is
    the matter of privacy. Our participants were talking about their privacy
    concerns, especially when it came to Smart assistance. For example, one
    of them would lower his voice when he spoke about his Google home mini
    so the device wouldn't pick up on our conversation, or another one was
    telling me that while she was outside gardening, or she enjoyed her jog
    but she didn't know what initiated that conversation. This shows us that
    these sorts of communications in the virtual world, they can be enjoyable
    but only when the timing is right. Once we reach that state privacy
    becomes more essential. We will not only be interacting with humans and
    this might not be something that everybody enjoys. We are going to talk

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    Page 80
    about the format and context of the communication and when the timing
    is right, that communication will become enjoyable.
    Overall, the Preferred Interaction Pathway allows us to understand
    that the design qualities of interaction that suits peoples' needs, bearing
    in mind how accessible they want to be and what is the format that best
    matters with their life. Existing platforms have all sorts of joining and
    participation scenarios but this was something that our participants
    weren't looking for when they had to move online for the communication
    during the pandemic years.
    Finally, the third principle is called the Adapting to Social
    Circumstances and Natural Rhythms. Slowness is not only about the pace
    of life. You can be on the move but you should be moving really fast as
    well, but you still think about your life as very much slow because you are
    your own clock. Another example is cooking can be thought of as a slow
    act, in contrast to ordering take-out, which is fast food. When you decide
    to cook, you pay attention to the process and the material and you go
    through the process and you can perceive it as slow. As a side effect of
    staying at home, people turned their attention more to the surroundings
    of their home. The disruption that happened outside of their houses was
    bringing attention to the routines that they were performing and how
    their lives were adjusting to these circumstances. One of our participants
    expressed the importance of the natural rhythms of daylight, bed time
    and being on their own clock, she said "My garden never looked as good
    because it has never had as much time devoted to it as at the moment. I
    would get messages on my phone saying 'Where are you? We started the
    Zoom meeting' and I was like 'No, there is still a bit of light, I will join you
    at 6 o'clock instead of 5, I can still do gardening, why would I come in
    and sit down and chat'?" Technology can disrupt the natural rhythms, the
    body's behavioural changes that follow the 24 hour cycle and response to

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    Page 81
    light and dark and daily routines and rituals are important to older adults
    but they are very personal and it changes from one person to the next.
    Although our participants turned to video conferencing, technologies
    to replicate their own forms of identity and routines and social practices,
    they were finding it to be frustrating and they didn't want to be available
    at all times. By slowing down our tone, they shifted their priorities to
    more personal activities as well. One of our participants changed his main
    hobby from travelling to sorting out old photographs and he mentioned
    "The main thing is I realised that I feel like I am 71 now. Even active
    travellers know once they get to their late 70s they slow down. My friend
    who is 78, he is less interested in travelling than he was previously. Some
    sort of conscious I am about that and we have lost two years of travelling.
    I think some people might realise age and health issues have sort of
    caught up with them in the two years without them realising that things
    have changed". It is really important to note that as we age, our
    capacities also change and that leads us to rhythms changing as well. This
    is not necessarily a bad thing, so let's move on from that mindset, it just
    means we need to acknowledge the fact that our bodies will change and
    so will our schedules.
    This is also why they are calling for considering social relations and
    the rhythms of people that we want to design for them. Building
    technology allows social connections around rhythms and social
    connections with those hobbies will foster more sustainable
    communications over distance. This reduces social isolation and this is
    what a lot of people enjoy being in virtual reality games and building upon
    that online community. The sense of community that comes from it is
    what enriches their experience and that is what fosters their
    communication.
    Also one thing to note is how to move away from constant

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    Page 82
    interruptions that are caused by notifications to accommodate peoples'
    personal rhythms. We can change the settings of our devices and we can
    go ahead and find those settings and but we argue that a design that
    does not need altering as we use it is something to consider once we are
    moving forward with our slower pace of life. This becomes more important
    once we get to a set of metaverse. When we have a token of log-in and
    we don't need our devices and it is just all around us, there is so much
    that we can control in our physical and digital space to show or hide. We
    need to be conscious of peoples' rhythms and their natural body clock
    once we want to design for them during the metaverse.
    To sum it up, our study of older people residing in Australia and
    experiencing lockdown, revealed they lived life at a slower pace,
    embracing some aspects of the slowness and struggling with others. We
    derived three design pathways from the experiences of slowness to inform
    technology design moving forward. Thank you. (APPLAUSE)
    STEVE BATY: Do we have questions for Yasamin?
    >> Hi. I wanted to ask if you see these principles of design working
    anywhere else besides the metaverse?
    YASAMIN ASADI: Yes, actually my work was - after the theme of
    slowness emerged, I was looking at slow technologies at first and I was
    working on IOT technologies once this became very obvious that this is
    how people want to slow down their lives and live their lives. The
    metaverse is just a natural progression from where I started but I feel like
    this is something that we can take onto any aspect of design that we
    want.

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    Page 83
    >> Hi, thanks for your talk. I like this idea of designing for the natural
    rhythms because another way you could frame that is sort of designing
    with health and wellbeing in mind. Are there any other health or wellbeing
    considerations you think we should think about when designing for the
    digital or physical world?
    YASAMIN ASADI: Good, yes. I think just given the user - the agency to
    change it as much as they want. I understand we cannot have design that
    will suit everybody's needs but giving them the opportunity to change it
    as much as they want, this will result in changes that can happen as their
    body changes, even if their health is deteriorating or it is getting better,
    they can change the design of whatever it is for a particular social
    communication to what they want. For example, if I am - let's say I have
    a prolonged disease and it is getting worse on some days and better on
    some days, I can adjust my technology to not give notifications during
    those worse days and send my loved ones an alert that I am feeling
    better when I am feeling better actually.
    STEVE BATY: Any other questions?
    >> I am going to ask a basic question and now when I hear metaverse, I
    think Meta, just the former Facebook and VR goggles that are too heavy
    for me. I liked your definition at the beginning on more of a twoway flow
    between worlds with very little resistance and as a gamer, I definitely
    know the digital world to some form. What does it look like as a future for
    you, rather than talking about goggles, but if we are talking about a
    twoway connection, I guess, rather than being a hard split between the
    middle - can you talk more about what would that look like if you are
    there and it is not on that kind of weird goggles side and more on the,

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    Page 84
    hey, we can do things? Could you give colour to that, maybe?
    YASAMIN ASADI: Personally what I was struggling with was standing in
    long queues. I was thinking if I can stand my avatar, my virtual form, in
    that queue and if they needed my human form, I would go back and stay
    there. As I mentioned, the definition that I gave is the definition that I
    have for metaverse. It is currently up for debate in the academy space. It
    is unclear and it is not set in stone yet. As I mentioned, for me it is
    something that I can have my physical life and my virtual life and these
    two will impact each other as much as they can but it is not like - for
    example, if I am getting hurt in the virtual world, it will impact me in the
    physical world, I would say.
    STEVE BATY: Yasamin, somebody asked if they could see the last slide, if
    you could go back a slide? I am guessing there is a photo that they want
    to take. There it is for whoever asked for it and requested that. Thank
    you so much. Please join me in thanking, Yasamin. (APPLAUSE)

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