Hanging out is Hard to do: Ethnographic Methodology in Non-Avatar Environments
1. Hanging out is
hard to do
Ethnographic Methodology in Non-Avatar
Environments: Eve Online
2. What about you?
Going to start here...
Writing style: Current draft is toned
down a little from the version you have.
Comments on results: How does it
compare to other environments - VW’s,
Social networks, Forums?
Other methodologies -- bricolage.
7. Why Virtual Worlds
Ren Reynolds says “we study VW's
because the legal norms being
established there will come to dominate
But what are Virtual Worlds?
8. Greg Lastowka
I chopped this video a little to fit time
constraints. Full version at http://
Greg’s book is “Virtual Justice”, available
in free PDF from his website.
10. Greg Lastowka
How many times did he just say
Virtual Worlds go beyond the
classically studied environments.
Eve is setting many precedents for
player politics, hybrid economies, and
‘legal’ purchasing of in-game currency.
11. So what methodology?
Much Virtual World research (Taylor,
Dibbell, Humphreys, Banks etc) is
‘Participant Observation’ Ethnography.
Can we apply that methodology to non-
(My) answer is “kind of...”
12. Eve 101
Paranoid community. Fraud/scams
Community split. Newbies/established.
High-security / Low-Security. Public
space / wormholes.
As you may have guessed, no Avatar
(until recently). Instead, ‘pod goo’.
Not going to repeat everything in the
paper, but some highlights...
Chat is largely text based - whether
WOW or Eve. But do conversations feel
different when you ‘see’ each other?
And more importantly, what
opportunities are there to chat?
Some games are designed for chat. Star
Wars Galaxies Cantinas are social
spaces, Trade hubs and the routes up to
them (in most MMO’s) encourage
bottlenecks/crowding & chat. Auction
houses encourage chat.
Eve is often a vast nothing...
15. Establishing oneself
Ethnographers normally fill a role.
Whether that is community manager,
healer etc, you take on a role.
Most MMO’s allow you to chose a role
and advancing is a question of skills
EVE roles are limited by total time
Bartle, discussing the design of MUD’s,
notes that group missions (as in WOW)
force players to communicate. Eve
follows a far more ‘solo’ path.
Essentially then, Eve follows a different
model than traditional MUD-origin
games. Less in-game communication,
thus more use of external channels.
Almost impossible to get a clear picture
of the Eve community from the
Limited in access to end-game spaces
(by virtue of skills / time).
Limited in access to sub-cultures (by
practicalities / Ethics disclosures).
Ignore end-game spaces. I liken this to
claiming to do a comprehensive
ethnography of New York, without
Combine results of multiple
ethnographers. Elements of other studies
may apply to Eve.
Use meta-game: blogs, IRC, forums
(leaked and public) to complete
Ultimately, I am arguing for a
combination of (2) and (3). And, I
contend, these approaches have
implications for social networks &
avatar-based environments too...