Landing : Athabascau University

Social Media Artifact - Blog entry #3

This week I have continued on with building out my environment and implemented several design decisions to make the environment as immersive as I can, but have also noticed some limitations that will impact immersion to some regard.  I have also more clearly defined the purpose, outcomes and growth plan for my artifact. 


While this artifact is admittedly being designed as somewhat of an experiment, their is a clear intent and purpose behind it.  I am designing this system to try and bring back some of the dynamics, behaviors and level of engagement from my team that was present prior to the us working completely virtually.  Since working virtually, I have noticed that peoples behaviors, tendencies and overall level of engagement in work has subsided.  My theory is, if we create a virtual environment that is fun, but at the same time replicates the work environment that people used to know (both in terms of look and functionality), this might bring out some of habits that were built up and reinforced over time while people worked side by side. 

While there are many social systems that offer unique and creative ways for teams to virtually connect, the spaces are just that ... virtual.  I have yet to see a system that tries to mimic actual office spaces (other than experimental augmented reality offerings).  And for good reason.  I can't think of too many use cases where one would want to do this.  Except for mine.  Part of my rational is that I believe, at leas to a certain extent, people behave differently online than they do in person, because over the past several decade we have built up an online personality that differs from our real world personality.  Over the course of the last two years, now more so than ever, people are self identifying more with their online persona than their real life persona.  My intent is to try and create a virtual space that promotes some self identification for my team with the person that used to show up for work Mon - Fri at our brick and mortar location. 


Presentation of this artifact during the presentation will serve as a form of user acceptance testing for the system.  The first real implementation will be when I release this to my team.  The release will be a slow and deliberate one, where I'll target a time period that is typically not too busy for the team to allow for the most optimal conditions for adoption. 

While I have no expectations other than to try and validate my hypothesis, I do plan on being opening up the design and administration of the space to my team if there is traction and they want to take it further.  If there is wide spread adoption from my team, we can plan for a more deliberate expansion to the rest of the Security Team and potentially other Teams within the company as well. 

In my previous post I talked about some aspects of the functional design of the system.  I have developed some parameters on how the system is to be used to further guide these design decisions. 

Another aspect that I am open to is growing the space to be something unique and different than just a replica of our traditional office space.  The only intent behind building a replica in the first place is to try and bring back some of that 'real world' engagement.  If we achieve that and can put that into practice, I don't see why we couldn't let the space grow into it's own thing if that's what the group wants to do with it. 


The time and pace of engagement is exactly he same as it is for our normal work day.  People will be expected to "be in the office" when they are at work, but similar to how we run things in real life, there will be no clock punching or tracking of hours worked.  One side effect I'm anticipating this system to have is on accountability.  It will be a much more deliberate process to seem to be online or "at work" when we confine the definition of "at work" to be when you're in the virtual space.  This could have a net positive effect as people will feel a little more accountable themselves to be seen to be "present", or it could have a negative effective of people finding the are being "clock watched".  I'll have to make it a deliberate intent to address this upon implementation. 


I want to mimic that amount of control one would normally have over their own work environment as they would in the real world.  This is where I see some limitations come in to play.  Gather allows for multiple administrators for a given space, but it is fairly basic in terms of the level of permissions administrators can be given.  For example, I'd want to have some top level system administrators that have control over the entire space, some mid level administrators that have control over certain spaces (i.e. sub team spaces), but I'd also like individuals be able to administer and edit their own spaces (i.e. cubicles and offices).  At present time there is no good way to do that, so we will either have to develop a support/request system, or go completely against the principle of least privilege and open up administration to all members.  I will go with the former for the time being be open to changing if I receive enough feedback to warrant it. 

That's all for this post, I will reflect on more design and implementation consideration ideas in the next one. 


  • Narius Farhad Davar December 11, 2021 - 8:54pm

    Hi Matt,

    Excellent presentation and a well-designed artefact, it was good to explore Gather. I got a good feel of the overall application through your presentation and demo. I feel your design had a very realistic approach by mimicking your work layout, if you are able to push this in your organization then it may completely revamp and change the way meetings are done by adding a fun aspect to it. Also, during the demo when we went into each individual rooms, I felt it replicated a real office like structure where you are unable to hear the person in the next room. I also liked how to you started off your presentation by relating it to different theories.

  • Rayees Khan December 12, 2021 - 1:36pm

    Hi Matt,

    I really enjoyed your presentation and your demo of the artefact. You spent a great deal of time and effort in carefully design and implementation which reflects in the high quality of your artifact. I was instrigued by your theory regarding replicating the work environment office workers are used to in a virutal environment to make working from home fun and engaging. We are definitely creatures of habit and social beings who have been programmed for many years to physically interact and collaborate with other human beings. The pandemic has definitely been hard on most of us especially the social and extroverted ones that gained energy by socially interacting with others.

    I know you mentioned that some of the functionality and integrations with Google Cloud marketed by Gather did not live up to the expectation; however, I found your demo very engaging and really enjoyed the office spaces you created for us. I would be interested to know how your experiment goes in real-life when you have your co-workers try it for the week.

    It was a pleasure being in this course with you. All the best and I hope our paths cross again. I know you had mentioned that you are close to graduating, so good luck with your integration route, whether it is essay, project or thesis.

    Kind Regards,