Text vs. voice-based communication in Second Life

In our previous experiments in Second Life (SL), we stick to text-based communication only. Not only because it’s easy and less demanding on the computer, but also because of other advantages it offers, especially in an educational context. Here are some reflections on what have been perceived by tutors and students as pros and cons of text and voice-based communication in SL.

A primary benefit of text-based communication in SL is that students and tutors can have a transcript of what they have discussed during the session, so they revisit later on. It is also useful for those students who were unable to participate in the SL session to have an idea of what happened.

There are other pros using text-based communication:
• Text-based communication offers an opportunity that everybody’s ideas could be equally heard and fairly judged. It encourages people to focus on what was actually being said instead of who said it and how it was said.
• Communication through text might encourage shy people to speak out and help them to bring out their ideas. It might help people to say what they really want to say without worrying being intimidated by others.
• Text-based communication might be preferred by international students whose first language isn’t English.
• Sometimes, it can be easier talking to people you don’t know well through text. It can be easier to start a conversation with a stranger through text too.
• People put their ideas in a more concise way through text. They try to get to the point when they type. Their ideas become clearer and more precise via text, whereas real life spoken conversations are more casual and less thought through.

There are disadvantages of using text-based communication. First of all, talking is a lot easier than typing. It takes more time in putting what one wants to say in text than just saying them. Sometimes, people get fed up or give up easily if the discussion is through text, whereas they would have discussed and negotiated more in a real life conversation.

There are other cons, such as:
• Need certain skills such as typing skills and skills on how to communicate fast and efficiently in a text-based environment.
• Communication could be more formal through text than through voice. People make more jokes in a real life conversation.
• Text-based chat in SL can be unstructured and more difficult to follow up a thread if the answer comes out several statements later. It could also be difficult to make comment to different points through text.
• It could be difficult for people to negotiate and reach an agreement on something through text, if they come around and wouldn’t agree on something easily.
• It is much easier to use text-based tools on a one-to-one basis than in a group setting. On a one-to-one basis, both parties have equal opportunities to speak, whereas in a group setting, participants sometimes have to compete for a chance to speak.
• Voice-based offers advantages over text-based if the nature of the communication is for providing feedback or talking things through, etc.
• Learners with Dyslexia may struggle to follow high paced conversation and may not be confident enough to add a contribution.

However, it can be equally difficult to manage a large group in SL through either text or voice when participants try to speak at the same time.

Ming 19 March 2009

Leave a comment


  1. David

     /  March 19, 2009

    Ming, I do think you’ve summarised the position really well. For sight-impaired people, of course, being in SL poses many problems. They can often type well but can’t see what other people have written. I don’t know whether text-readers have entered SL yet. In RL, a text-reader will automatically read digitised text. Even a robot-like voice is preferable to silence!


  2. bdra

     /  March 20, 2009

    Next month I’m doing some Second Life training for staff from the Royal National College for the Blind.

    Through our discussions an interesting paper was circulated regarding making Second Life accessible to the blind: http://textsl.org/tr01.pdf

    Keeper of the Media Zoo


Leave a Reply to David Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: