Early in graduate school, scholars are introduced to the foundational epistemologies and ontologies of their fields. Similar to the way in which children tend to adopt the world-views of their parents, young scholars tend to acclimatize to the theoretical and methodological assumptions of their advisors. In this process, scholars learn to harness the tools of their chosen focus of study, often at once mastering one tool-set and becoming blind to the potential utility of others. In this presentation, we present the results of a line of research on player-avatar relationships (PARs) that has successfully leveraged the seemingly-inherent friction of two very divergent approaches to research: interpretative scholarship aimed at generating rich data from conspicuous participants (in which the data analyzed are subjective accounts of human experiences gathered using quasi-ethnographic methods) and post-positive scholarship aimed at gathering broad data from anonymous participants (in which the data analyzed are observed cognitions, attitudes or behaviors produced through survey and experimentation). Initial solutions from both camps produced competing explanations regarding PARs – the former suggesting them to be best framed as authentic social relationships, the latter suggesting them to be best framed as para-social affinities. Subsequent studies theoretically and methodologically blended both approaches, resulting in a broader and deeper conceptualization of PARs that accounts for counterintuitive patterns in the qualitative data and substantially improves variance explained by data models designed to understand uses and effects.
Talk delivered at the University of Muenster, Thursday July 24. Images contained are not property of authors, with exception of data tables and figures.