Journal of Virtual Worlds Research Volume 3, Number 1 released

I’m a big fan of the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research – it’s not just because they’re one of the few journals around devoted to the topic, but it’s the variety of articles in each issue.

The latest volume is titled The Researcher’s Toolbox, so as you’d expect its focus is research methodologies. That said, there’s plenty of different topics to sample. I’ll showcase the couple of the articles over coming weeks as I hopefully get time to read them.

In the meantime, here’s the full list of articles:

Editor-Chief′s Corner

Virtual Worlds, the IRB and a User’s Bill of Rights
Jeffrey M. Stanton .

Peer Reviewed Research Papers

How to approach a many splendoured thing: Proxy Technology Assessment as a methodological praxis to study virtual experience
Lizzy Bleumers, Kris Naessens, An Jacobs

dint u say that: Digital Discourse, Digital Natives and Gameplay
John Grantham

A Design Research Approach to Developing User Innovation Workshops in Second Life
Remko Helms, Elia Giovacchini, Robin Teigland, Thomas Kohler

What are users thinking in a virtual world lesson? Using stimulated recall interviews to report student cognition, and its triggers
Lyn Henderson, Michael Henderson, Scott Grant, Hui Huang

Applying Constant Comparative and Discourse Analyses to Virtual Worlds Research
Peter Leong, Samuel R. H. Joseph, Rachel Boulay

Learning spaces, tasks and metrics for effective communication in Second Life within the context of programming LEGO NXT Mindstorms™ robots: towards a framework for design and implementation.
Stewart Martin, Michael Vallance, Paul van Schaik, Charles Wiz

Conducting Empirical Research in 3D Virtual Worlds: Experiences from two projects in Second Life
Shailey Minocha, Minh Tran, Ahmad John Reeves

eLab City: A Platform for Academic Research on Virtual Worlds
Thomas P. Novak

Process, Paratexts, and Texts: Rhetorical Analysis and Virtual Worlds
Christopher A. Paul

Interviews within experimental frameworks: How to make sense of sense-making in virtual worlds
CarrieLynn D. Reinhard

Using Design-Based Research for Virtual Worlds Research Projects
Antonio Santos

Research Papers

The Neil A. Armstrong Library and Archives: That’s One Small Step for a Virtual World Library, One Giant Leap for Education!
Shannon Bohle

Encouragingly, the editors are putting out a second volume of this theme due to the volume of submissions received.

Merged realities – events and issues for virtual worlds


1. Virtual London is coming soon to Twinity and they’re asking for people to apply to create some innovative spaces. There’s 200 Euros in prize money up for grabs plus your own space in Twinity. All the details here

2. Volume 2, No. 3 of the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research is out. The theme of the issue is Technology, Economy and Standards.

3. If you want a comprehensive summary on accessibility and virtual worlds, then you can’t go past this post by’s KerryJ.

4. Another study has been published on the link between gaming and violence, and not surprisingly the results aren’t black and white.

5. The US Government is revising their National Educational Technology Plan. Anyone interested in having a say should head to ISTE Island in Second Life on the 5th November at 6pm SL time (Midday AEDT).

The full details:

The federal government of the United States of America has assembled an 18 person team to update and revise the National Education Technology Plan. Their report deadline is November 11, 2009. There will be a community meeting in Second Life for educational technology stakeholders to provide input into the planning process. Currently, we expect that a representative of the national team will be present as an observer at the SL event.

The event coordinator is Perplexity Peccable (RL: Patricia F. Anderson, Perplexity is the University of Michigan Emerging Technologies Librarian for the Health Sciences, and the community manager for Wolverine Island in SL. Contact Perplexity for more information or to volunteer support or services for this event.

Information on prior versions of the plan is available here.

Information on the current planning process is available here,

The team is seeking input from the public. You can join the conversation on their website here.

“If you had five minutes to talk with President Obama about educational technology, what would you say?”

The key topic discussion points are these.

* Learning: Providing unprecedented access to high-quality learning experiences.
* Assessment: Measuring what really matters and providing the information that enables continuous improvement at all levels of the education system.
* Teaching: New ways to support those who support learning.
* Productivity: Redesigning systems and processes to free up education system resources to support learning.”

Healthcare Support Groups in Virtual Worlds

(originally posted over on Metaverse Health)

As promised, I wanted to spend some time going over the recent handful of peer-reviewed papers submitted for the health-focused recent issue of the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research.

First cab off the rank is the paper titled The Growth and Direction of Healthcare Support Groups in Virtual Worlds by John Norris. Its focus is a review of four virtual worlds (Second Life, Kaneva, There and IMVU) and the breadth and popularity of support groups in existence around health issues.

For the regular virtual worlds follower, there’s nothing too surprising in the findings, but they’re noteworthy all the same:

– Second Life support groups revolved predominantly around disabilities and mental health issues in regards to numbers of members.

– IMVU groups also featured mental health issues heavily,mainly due to a very popular ‘Suicide, Depression, and Relationships’ group.

– skewed toward general health topics with a significant cohort of interest in the disabilities area.

– Kaneva had a slightly different focus on Gay, Lesbian and Transgender issues, as well as autism.

There is a caveat openly referred to by John Norris in his work: the numbers of participants in these groups are relatively small, particularly when compared to the burgeoning 2D health support space with its myriad discussion forums and other community mechanisms. That said, he makes some good assertions:

1. That the advent of virtual worlds provides another means for people to seek highly customised healthcare support, meaning the potential for finding the exact niche being sought is higher as adoption grows.

2. That, like any emerging area of healthcare, there needs to be more research done on the efficacy of the approach.

3. That the lack of access to good quantitative and qualitative data poses a challenge for those who see the need for more research.

Merged realities: events and issues for virtual worlds

1. The latest Second Life Education in New Zealand blog has an interesting update on a NZ-based Second Life creative project that’s exploring issues around public urban spaces.

2. Volume 3 of the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research is now available and as usual contains a range of interesting research. A glimpse of some of the peer-reviewed research papers:

Spectacular Interventions of Second Life: Goon Culture, Griefing, and Disruption in Virtual Spaces
Burcu S. Bakioglu
Abstract  |  PDF
Knee-High Boots and Six-Pack Abs: Autoethnographic Reflections on Gender and Technology in Second Life
Delia Dumitrica, Georgia Gaden
Abstract  |  PDF
Jigsaw Worlds and Avatars – Puzzling Over Property and Personhood. New Challenges for Intellectual Property Law.
Norberto Nuno Gomes de Andrade
Abstract  |  PDF
On the Dark Side: Gothic Play and Performance in a Virtual World
Mikael Johnson, Tanja Sihvonen
Abstract  |  PDF
Analyzing Social Identity (Re) Production: Identity Liminal Events in MMORPGs
Javier A Salazar
Abstract  |  PDF
Gorean role-play in Second Life
Tjarda Sixma
Abstract  |  PDF
“Because it just looks cool!” – Fashion as character performance: The Case of WoW
Susana Tosca, Lisbeth Klastrup
Abstract  |  PDF
Things you can do in a virtual game world, when you are dead: collective memory constitution and identity of virtual refugees.
Anthony Papargyris, Angeliki Poulymenakou
Abstract  |  PDF

3. The Virtual Worlds: High Performance or Hype? discussion paper is still available as a free download.

Journal of Virtual Worlds Research – second issue

The latest issue of the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research has been released and this time consumer behaviour is the focus.

There’s eight research papers, of which five are peer-reviewed, plus there’s six ‘think pieces’ on related topics.

The full contents:

Peer Reviewed Research Papers

Consuming Code: Use-Value, Exchange-Value, and the Role of Virtual Goods in Second Life (Jennifer Martin)
Virtual World Affordances: Enhancing Brand Value (So Ra Park, Fiona Fui-Hoon Nah, David DeWester, Brenda Eschenbrenner, Sunran Jeon)
On the Relationship between My Avatar and Myself (Paul R Messinger, Xin Ge, Eleni Stroulia, Kelly Lyons, Kristen Smirnov, Michael Bone)
The Social Construction of Virtual Reality and the Stigmatized Identity of the Newbie (Robert E. Boostrom, Jr.)
The “New” Virtual Consumer: Exploring the Experiences of New Users (Lyle R Wetsch)

Research Papers

Ugly Duckling by Day, Super Model by Night: The Influence of Body Image on the Use of Virtual Worlds (Enrique Becerra, Mary Ann Stutts)
Symbolic and Experiential Consumption of Body in Virtual Worlds: from (Dis)Embodiment to Symembodiment (Handan Vicdan, Ebru Ulusoy)
Demographics of Virtual Worlds (Jeremiah Spence)

“Think pieces”

Surveillance, Consumers, and Virtual Worlds (Douglas R Dechow)
Second Life and Hyperreality (Michel Maffesoli)
Having But Not Holding: Consumerism & Commodification in Second Life (Lori Landay)
Metaverse: A New Dimension? (Yohan Launay, Nicolas Mas)
Virtual Worlds Research: Global X Local Agendas (Gilson Schwartz)
Real Virtual Worlds SOS (State of Standards) Q3-2008 (Yesha Sivan)

There’s some serious reading time in it all and if virtual goods, branding, avatar identification, new user experience or demographics are of interest, this is one must-read issue from a journal hitting the ground well and truly running. Well researched quantitative and qualitative studies will be key as virtual worlds expand in scope and popularity – this Journal deserves kudos as one of the pioneers of empirical observation of virtual worlds.

A typology of virtual worlds

As mentioned previously, the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research launched its first issue and there’s some fascinating reading that we’ll continue to refer to in coming weeks and months.

First cab off the rank is A Typology of Virtual Worlds: Historical Overview and Future Directions . Written by three academics from the Universities of Alberta and Toronto, the paper looks at the usefulness of a typology proposed in 2004 for virtual communities. A typology is a descriptive structure, in this case used to explain all the virtual world variants. The one the authors looked at has five aspects:

1. purpose (content of interaction)
2. place (location of interaction)
3. platform (design of interaction)
4. population (participants in the interaction)
5 profit model (return on interaction)

The categories are broad enough that I’m struggling to find anything that wouldn’t fit the typology and the article comes to the conclusion that it’s particularly effective when applied to the history of virtual worlds:

We, thus, see that the five typology elements are useful for interpreting the historical
progression of electronic gaming and online social networking that ultimately led to virtual
Indeed, the five elements (purpose, place, platform, population, profit model) focus on
critical questions that journalists, marketers, and service providers are taught to ask: (1) For
what purpose? (2) Where? (3) How? (4) Who? and (5) How much?

The second use for the typology argued by the authors is in examining future uses of virtual worlds and in identifying research areas:

because of the growth of consumer participation in virtual worlds, firms will
need to learn to manage the utilization of these worlds for the following business decisions:
(1) Choosing in which worlds to promote, advertise or engage in other
(2) Selecting in which worlds to open e-commerce stores, e-government
activities, and virtual service offices;
(3) Choosing in which worlds to offer classes; and
(4) Choosing in which worlds to perform market research, such as focus
groups, surveys, and test markets.

It all may sound a little dry but its research and discussion like this that’s laying the foundation for the evolution of virtual worlds in mainstream society. The full article is well worth reading just for the historical perspective on virtual worlds.

What do you think? Does typology get your motor running or bore your socks off?

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