During our monthly avalumni meeting, we witnessed a moment that illustrated the powerful sense of presence provided within a virtual world through community. Our group was discussing a future project and each member, in turn, discussed a personal strength or contribution to the team. One member asked to “pass” as she did not feel she had much to contribute to this particular project as it called for writing skills and she had been out of that mode for quite some time. When encouraged to elaborate on her feelings, she began to share her thoughts on virtual worlds and education and became emotional. Suddenly, without a word, the other avatars, one by one, moved closer and sat near her, beside or behind her, or on the ground next to her. It was a spontaneous moment of offering comfort or comradeship because, up until then, the group had been seated in a circle- spread fairly far apart.
What made this moment interesting was that after the colleague finished speaking, the other members of the group realized they had moved in proximity. The experience was as real, they all agreed, as anything felt in the physical world.
UW Avalumni gathering together- photo March 11, 2012