An Insiders’ View of Social-Networking within Socially-Shaped Virtual Realities: : A Virtual Ethnographic study, to explore the effects of how Social-Networking can attribute to the Social-Construction, Shaping & Use of ‘Massive Multiplayer On-Line Realities’ Ryan E. McGarrie Supervisor: Dr. Ben Light Informatics Research Institute: Information Systems, Organisations and Society University of Salford, Salford, United Kingdom
Introduction: Research Brief <ul><li>Given the rapid growth of ‘persistent online virtual worlds’ over the past few years and the obvious trajectories each iteration has taken, from genre, navigation, appearance and functional design – e.g. gaming (e.g. WoW), socialising (e.g. Second Life) and collaborative development (e.g. Croquet). </li></ul><ul><li>This research aims to explore and highlight the intended, unintended and perceived issues that social-networking mediums, (in this case) MMOR (Massive Multiplayer Online Realities), can have upon the way they are socially-shaped & constructed. </li></ul><ul><li>– for instance; through power, cultural values, ideologies & anti-social behaviour </li></ul>
Research Brief: Aims & Objectives <ul><li>To explore a geographically, ethically & objectively diverse user-base to highlight how each will use or misuse ‘massive’ socially-constructed virtual environments for different purposes. </li></ul><ul><li>To do this, I intend, to spend as much time with these groups as possible, to look at the attitudes they hold towards the technology, society and the environment. By exploring a variety of ‘relevant social groups’ & societies in very different environments to highlight how the various methods & forms of social-networking can attribute to the design, construction and use of a technological artefact. </li></ul><ul><li>Although MMORs are prime real-estate for researchers & ethnographers. This research aims to (hopefully) make a unique contribution by combining key principles of SST & SCOT with regards to anti-social-behaviour, power, perceptions and interpretive flexibility – within a social environment, rather than a traditional gaming ethos. </li></ul>
Research Environment: Persistent Virtual World’s <ul><li>A Virtual World, often set in an online fantasy environment . </li></ul><ul><li>Navigated & explored in real-time via an avatar – an in-world, 3-Dimensional representation of your fictional-self. </li></ul><ul><li>Runs continually, independent of whether the user is connected or not. Thus, the world doesn’t stop just because your not their. </li></ul><ul><li>Created, explored & changed by its residents. </li></ul>
What is: Second Life <ul><li>A persistent 3D virtual world, created, maintained and owned by its (12 million registered) users, also known as a MMOR (Massive Multiplayer Online Realities). </li></ul><ul><li>Supporting its own ‘virtual capitalist’ economy, with virtual-currency, real-estate and intellectual property rights of in-world creations. </li></ul><ul><li>To provide a social environment allowing its residents to design, build, sell, or give away their own property, as we do in the real-world – or simply, just to socialise. </li></ul><ul><li>Provides a social ethos to MMOR, rather than traditional MMORPG’s (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games) like Dungeons & Dragons & World of War Craft. </li></ul><ul><li>“… a masterpiece that represents the world in a microcosm” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>(Philip Rosedale, CEO, Linden Labs) </li></ul></ul>
Research Process: Methodology <ul><li>Virtual Ethnography (Hine, 2000) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Facilitates the researcher in retrieving rich data through field observation and interaction </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Holistic or Critical approach? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Extensive field records over a lengthy period </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Importance of culture, context & reflexivity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Complex ethical considerations </li></ul></ul><ul><li>In-World & Real-World Structured & Semi-Structured Interviews </li></ul><ul><li>Focus-Groups & Seminars with likeminded Researchers, from in-world ‘Research Societies’ </li></ul>
Research Process: Social-Shaping & Construction of Technology <ul><li>Looking at this from two well established, but conflicting, approaches; </li></ul><ul><ul><li>SST (Social Shaping of Technology): “…is the concept that there are `choices' (though not necessarily conscious choices) inherent in both the design of individual artefacts and systems, and in the direction or trajectory of innovation programs […] concerned to explore the material consequences of different technical choices” (William & Edge, 1996) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Social Context </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>SCOT (Social Construction of Technology): argue that technology does not determine human action, but that rather, human action shapes technology (Bijker, 1994 ) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Interpretive & Design Flexibility </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Technological Determinism </li></ul></ul></ul>
Ethnographic Study within: Second Life <ul><li>What made SL ideal for ethnography? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>It’s new </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>It’s popular </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ethically & geographically diverse user-group </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Socially-Shaped & Constructed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Highly political with both real-world & in-world issues </li></ul></ul>
Ethnographic Study: Ethical Considerations <ul><li>What types of information can you use? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>for instance, if data contained within a public profile is openly displayed, is it ethically sound to use that data? – Or, is that data only intended for (open) use within that specific community? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>To mitigate against most of these , I’ve created </li></ul><ul><ul><li>a personal website – www.ryanellis.eu/research/ , accessible from within Second Life for residents to volunteer information, or request that data pertaining to them (or their avatar) be omitted. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>a HUD above my avatar notifying users that I’m affiliated with the ‘ SL Researchers Group ’. </li></ul></ul>
References: Bibliography <ul><li>AUNGER, R. (1995) On Ethnography: Storytelling or Science? Current Anthropology, 36 , 97-130. </li></ul><ul><li>BIJKER, W. E. (1994) The Social Construction of Fluorescent Lighting, or How and Artefact was Invented in Its Diffusion Stage. IN BIJKER, W. E. & LAW, J. (Eds.) Shaping Technology/Building Society: Studies in Sociotechnical Change. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press. </li></ul><ul><li>CARTER, D. (2005) Living in Virtual Communities: An Ethnography of Human Relationships in Cyberspace. Information Communication and Society, 8 , 148-167. </li></ul><ul><li>GOLES, T. & HIRSCHHEIM, R. (2000) The paradigm is dead, the paradigm is dead...long live the paradigm; the legacy of Burrell and Morgan. Omega - The International Journal of Management Science, 28 , 249-268. </li></ul><ul><li>HART, C. (1998) Doing a Literature Review, London, Sage. </li></ul><ul><li>KIM, A. J. (1999) Community building on the Web : secret strategies for successful online communities, Berkeley, Calif., Peachpit ; Harlow : Addison-Wesley. </li></ul><ul><li>KLIEN, H. K. & MYERS, M. D. (1999) A Set of Principles for Conducting and Evaluating Interpretive Field Studies in Information Systems. MIS Quarterly, Special Issue on Intensive Research, 23 , 67-93. </li></ul><ul><li>NGUYEN, D. H. & MYNATT, E. D. (2002) Privacy Mirrors: Understanding and Shaping Socio-technical Ubiquitous Computing Systems. Georgia Institute of Technology. </li></ul><ul><li>OATS, B. J. (2006) Researching information systems and computing, London, SAGE Publications Ltd. </li></ul><ul><li>PAPARGYRIS, A. & POULYMENAKOU, A. (2005) Learning to fly in persistent digital worlds: the case of Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games. SIGGROUP Bull., 25 , 41-49. </li></ul><ul><li>RYMASZEWSKI, M., AU, W. J., WALLICE, M., WINTERS, C., ONDREJKA, C. & BATSTONE-CUNNINGHAM, B. (2007) Second Life: The Official Guide, Hoboken, New Jersey, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. </li></ul><ul><li>TAYLOR, T. L. (2006) Play Between Worlds: Exploring the Online Game Culture, Cambridge, MA, MIT Press. </li></ul><ul><li>WARNER, D. E. & RAITER, M. (2005) Social Context in Massively-Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs): Ethical Questions in Shared Space. International Review of Information Ethics, 4 , 46-52. </li></ul><ul><li>WELLMAN, B. (2001) Computer Networks as Social Networks. Science, 293 , 2031-2034. </li></ul>
Thank you. Any Questions? Further reading available at: www.ryanellis.eu/research/ Or to download these slides, visit: www.ryanellis.eu/research/progress/ Please feel free to post any comments via my site; or email me at: [email_address]
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