Joomi Lee, a postdoctoral researcher in the Games and Virtual Environments Lab at Grady College, has won the prestigious Annie Lang Dissertation Award.
The competitive award is presented annually by the Information Systems Division of the International Communication Association.
Lee received the award based on the dissertation she wrote as she finished her doctoral degree at Michigan State University. The dissertation is titled “Adaptive Behavior in Sandbox Games: How Motivation Shapes Use of Affordances in Virtual Worlds” and investigates patterns of behavior people exhibit while playing a video game.
Lee grew up playing video games and has always been fascinated with the way people socialize and facilitate different types of behavior while playing games.
Her dissertation studied player’s motivations, or what they want to while playing a game compared with their perceptions of in-game affordances, or what do they have the ability to do within the game. For her research, Lee created a sandbox game similar to Minecraft to examine how players with different motivational tendencies, such as risk-taking and risk-aversive traits, make behavioral choices in the game world. As an example, a risk-averse player will not explore the game environment at night with monsters as much as a risk-taking player, who seeks out monsters and threatening situations in the game.
“I am interested in bridging the gap between motivation as a psychological process and the actual behavior of game players as they interact with the virtual world,” Lee said.
Lee said she expects her research will contribute to both communication scholars as well as game designers.
The Annie Lang Dissertation Award is especially meaningful to Lee because Annie Lang was Lee’s advisor while she was pursuing a master’s degree at Indiana University and Lang is retiring this year.
After earning her degrees at Indiana University and Michigan State, Lee came to UGA so she could work with Sun Joo (Grace) Ahn, director of GAVEL.
“Dr. Ahn is my role model,” Lee said. “I wanted to work with Dr. Ahn to see how to apply communication theories and psychological processes with immersive media. I am grateful to work here and to learn from her expertise.”
Lee’s work in the GAVEL focuses on two projects: first, the use of virtual reality for vaccine communication and acceptance, and second, exploring immersive virtual reality to help people overcome physical distance for social and professional applications.
“Here at UGA I am applying those psychological concepts to promote meaningful behaviors in practical terms and change behavior in the real world, not just the virtual world,” Lee said.
Ahn has been grateful for Lee’s insight and experience.
“Dr. Joomi Lee has been a stellar addition to our research team at the Games and Virtual Environments Lab,” said Sun Joo “Grace” Ahn, director of GAVEL. “She has the rare combination of a strong theoretical foundation, methodological rigor and a deep understanding of emerging technologies. I am really looking forward to watching her future career unfold as a rising star in the field.”
Lee plans to use her experience with GAVEL as the building block for the next step of her research and teaching career.
She is off to a good start.