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The Social Life of Virtual Worlds


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for the Girl Geek Dinner in Brighton, 24 April 2007

Published in: Technology
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The Social Life of Virtual Worlds

  1. 1. T he Social Life of Virtual Worlds Aleks Krotoski Brighton Girl Geek Dinner Twenty-Fourth April Two Thousand Seven
  2. 5. Two thousand US Dollars
  3. 6. <ul><li>D ear Jesus – what is she talking about? </li></ul>
  4. 7. Gross Domestic Product
  5. 11. <ul><li>I t’s all about who you know </li></ul>
  6. 12. But before we get ahead of ourselves… <ul><li>The differences between online and offline : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Anonymity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Physical appearance </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Quality of Relationships( </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Absence of social cues </li></ul></ul>
  7. 13. So how can the interactions in cyberspace be meaningful ? In traditional definitions of “community”, there’d be no such thing in cyberspace How can you develop meaningful relationships with people you’ve never met ?
  8. 14. It’s been happening for years These virtual worlds are the places which the online communities are tied to
  9. 15. <ul><li>London Memorial in Second Life </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Between noon and two pm on the seventh of july over seven hundred and fifty Second Life residents visited. It was open for a week and racked up thousands of visitors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fewer than ten per cent claimed any British ties </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Maker’s motivations were altruistic and purely community-driven </li></ul></ul>Places of ritual ?
  10. 16. Places of collaboration ? Neualtenburg: an experiment in collective democracy
  11. 17. Places of friendship ?
  12. 18. Anonymity becomes Pseudonymity
  13. 19. So how does it happen ? <ul><li>The same reasons offline community does: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Make friends , offer support , meet like-minded others </li></ul></ul><ul><li>What we know about online relationships: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Proximity and frequency of contact </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Similarity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Self-presentation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reciprocity and self-disclosure </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Consistency </li></ul></ul>
  14. 20. Virtual worlds are designed for sociability people must rely upon one another to survive and advance Whatever role trust plays in offline communities, it plays in online communities because these interactions are human-bound
  15. 21. So what do we know about the social lives of virtual worlds? <ul><li>Economics </li></ul><ul><li>Politics </li></ul><ul><li>Psychology </li></ul><ul><li>Sociology </li></ul><ul><li>Medicine </li></ul>
  16. 22. Who Plays? Men: Eighty per cent in Fantasy titles Twenty to twenty-Eight years old 25) Students or tech-heads
  17. 23. Who plays? Women Twenty percent of Fantasy-based games Sixty percent of The Sims Online Thirty to thirty-five years old * In a Relationship* Seventy percent play with partner* New mums
  18. 24. Social Virtual Worlds <ul><li>Second Life: </li></ul><ul><li>Forty-sixty gender split </li></ul><ul><li>Older on average </li></ul><ul><li>Unless you’re into Disney </li></ul>
  19. 25. Diving in <ul><li>What does it mean to TRUST in this world? </li></ul><ul><li>Who’s FRIENDS with whom in this world? </li></ul><ul><li>What makes and breaks REPUTATIONS? </li></ul><ul><li>What’s VALUABLE in this world? </li></ul>
  20. 26. Virtual communities operate in very similar ways to other communities – both on and offline They bring together distributed individuals based on common experience, motivations and reputation This is particularly true for virtual world participants because of the explicit social design of the software Trust varies according to communication medium Trust is paramount Don’t jeopardise that trust.
  21. 27. Aleks Krotoski