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Hanging out is Hard to do: Ethnographic Methodology in Non-Avatar Environments

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Hanging out is Hard to do: Ethnographic Methodology in Non-Avatar Environments

  1. 1. Hanging out is hard to do Ethnographic Methodology in Non-Avatar Environments: Eve Online
  2. 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.
  3. 3. Eve Marketplace
  4. 4. From here
  5. 5. WOW Auction House
  6. 6. Or maybe: It feels different...
  7. 7. Why Virtual Worlds Ren Reynolds says “we study VW's because the legal norms being established there will come to dominate our lives” But what are Virtual Worlds?
  8. 8. Greg Lastowka I chopped this video a little to fit time constraints. Full version at http:// www.ustream.tv/recorded/18456637 (hour-plus panel) Greg’s book is “Virtual Justice”, available in free PDF from his website.
  9. 9. Greg Lastowka
  10. 10. Greg Lastowka How many times did he just say ‘Avatar’? 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. 11. So what methodology? Much Virtual World research (Taylor, Dibbell, Humphreys, Banks etc) is ‘Participant Observation’ Ethnography. Can we apply that methodology to non- avatar environments? (My) answer is “kind of...”
  12. 12. Eve 101 Paranoid community. Fraud/scams actively encouraged. Community split. Newbies/established. High-security / Low-Security. Public space / wormholes. As you may have guessed, no Avatar (until recently). Instead, ‘pod goo’.
  13. 13. Chat 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?
  14. 14. Space 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. 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 played.
  16. 16. Grouping 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.
  17. 17. Implications Almost impossible to get a clear picture of the Eve community from the environment itself: Limited in access to end-game spaces (by virtue of skills / time). Limited in access to sub-cultures (by practicalities / Ethics disclosures).
  18. 18. Implications Those access mechanisms there are, would likely fall foul of IRB/Ethics Pay to access (cheating?) Non-disclosure of role and/or use of pre-existing character.
  19. 19. Options Ignore end-game spaces. I liken this to claiming to do a comprehensive ethnography of New York, without leaving Manhattan. Combine results of multiple ethnographers. Elements of other studies may apply to Eve.
  20. 20. Options Use meta-game: blogs, IRC, forums (leaked and public) to complete narrative. 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...

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