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History - Evolution of the Perspective Simulator

In 2003-2004, a group of us developed a metaphor for our understanding of others' perspectives and our own, called the "cage painting" model of intercultural learning. We borrowed the concept of a "cage" from Hugh Mackay's book, "Why Don't People Listen?" and elaborated on this idea. Our idea was that the cage is initially invisible to both ourselves and to others and it affects our communication. The invisible bars of the cage can interfere with or distort the meaning being conveyed in our communication with others. We don't know why, but the other person misinterprets the intended meaning of our messages and the meanings we decipher from what someone else communicates to us are usually incorrect. Each cage bar symbolizes one piece of knowledge of our perspective and its effect on our communication. The cage is inescapable. Everyone has one. While it is invisible, it can cause miscommunication or misunderstandings, are we a not sure why. 


To a certain extent, we can learn about our cage and that of others, but while our mind is located inside our cage, we have to take it into account as we try to understand our perspective and how it affects our communication. Another "place" our mind can be located, is outside the cage in the space that is between cages, what we call the "third place" or "third space". From this location, it is possible to gaze upon our perspective and how it shapes what we say and how we interpret what other people say to us. The third place is somewhere, where we can learn about each other's perspective and own own perspective and how these influence our communication. Being able to position our mind in the the third place, or to become third place learners, is an advantage, when trying to improve our communication with others, especially those from very different backgrounds. Every time, we learn something new about our own perspective or that of someone else, we are explicating the factors that shape the perspective or the cage bar being painted and how it affects our communication.


There are three factors that shape our individual perspectives. The first is our cultural background, or our shared behaviors, customs, beliefs and set of ethics by which we align our moral compass. This is passed onto us, intergenerationally via our parents, teachers and others, who guide our development. We learn the norms of behavior, the ethical framework, within which our society operates, what is acceptable and unacceptable. Often, this includes religion. A second factor is our life experiences. Just as we learn from influential members of the previous generation, we also learn from unique and shared experiences. Experiences may be traumatic, joyous, frightening, life-changing, unpleasant or gratifying. In some cases, the experiences derive from pushing the envelope of the boundaries or limits that we learn from our cultural background. A third factor is context. Everything changes with context. Our perspective, communication and cage bars will be different in the workplace, home, vacation, sporting venues, where we spend our time. In some contexts, we will be the parents, boss or coach and in others, the children, subordinate or team member. Together, cultural background, life experience and context determine our perspective and how it affects our communication. Using the cage painting metaphor, we can specifically probe our own or others' cultural backgrounds, life experiences or contexts to paint a bar and thus fill in a new part of our or their perspective.


The first version of the Cage Painting Simulator (CPS) (now known as the Perspective Sharing Perspective Taking Simulator) was implemented in 2004 on a CD and had just three scenarios each with a different structure and could not be altered. It was developed in collaboration with NexLearn Inc. in Wichita, KS. During testing in classes at WSU and in professional development workshops in Russia and Australia during 2005, it became apparent that users wanted to add their own scenarios and to modify existing scenarios. Scenarios needed to be challenging and provide a means to learn the same strategies, but would also need to be simple enough for some users to write. Users also wanted to access CPS online from anywhere. The second version was implemented online in 2006 with a small number of scenarios. Scenarios had a common, simple structure and the capacity for users to create new scenarios and to store them in an expanding repository. Further testing in WSU classes and in professional development workshops in Austria, India, Mexico and Russia led to additional refinements. The third version, in 2007, incorporated the collection of user information from initial registration and subsequent performance data when they "played" different scenarios. At about this time, the CPS was renamed the Perspective Sharing Perspective Taking simulator (PSPT).

The PSPT simulator was described in more detail in the Third Place Learning book, which was published in concert with the 5th International InterCultural Communication Competence (ICCC5) that was held in Wichita, Kansas in May 2008. At the same time, the simulator was rewritten. New features of PSPT included, among other things, a multilingual interface, so PSPT could be used by people from different language backgrounds to write scenarios in their native languages. The goal of this change was to encourage users to add scenarios from the perspectives of other cultures, rather than just from a Western, English language perspective. During 2009-2011, PSPT was tested in more WSU classes and in professional development workshops in Nagano and Tokyo, Japan, as well as at a conference at Columbia University, NYC and during an international Academy of Management conference in Chicago.

In 2011, we decided to add an avatar-based interface for the scenarios to replace the use of text. A free, educational avatar software application (Voki) was used to create video clips for each situation in select scenarios. These clips were played in the simulation instead of simply displaying text. These had the advantage of being more appealing and realistic to the user. The disadvantage was that PSPT users could not create their own simulations with the animated avatar. The Voki avatar interface had the capability to speak text from previously created scenarios. A special character "Chippy" served as as a coach, who could provide feedback and hints to increase a player's chance of successfully absorbing the key concepts.


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