One of the main promises of collaborative virtual environments (CVEs) is that they would decrease the need for travel and face-to-face meetings. In this study we aim at comparing the dynamics and content of group discussions in desktop virtual environments with physical-world discussions. We have conducted an experiment in which four groups of 7–12 participants each carried out a political discussion on the same topic; specifically, global warming. Two groups conducted the experiment in a face-to-face setting and two other groups conducted a similar discussion inside the virtual world SecondLife ( Virtual-world discussions were found to include shorter sentences on average, have a smaller number of themes discussed, discuss a smaller number of themes in depth, and require a longer time for discussion threads to form. In this paper we provide a quantitative analysis of the similarities and differences between virtual-world and physical-world discussions.

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