Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Second Life as a Research Platform

An article at Nature.com discusses the use of Second Life for research.

From the article:

"With thousands of people using Second Life at any one time, Nick Yee and colleagues at Stanford University realised it presented a chance to assess whether users interacted in similar ways to people in the real world.

After using a computer program to monitor the behaviour of over 1,600 avatars in one-on-one interactions, they conclude that the answer is 'yes'. Male avatars (whether created by a man or a woman) stood further apart than female avatars, for instance, and were more likely to avert their gaze.

"Social interactions in the online virtual environments such as Second Life are governed by the same social norms as social interactions in the physical world," Yee and colleagues conclude in a paper (PDF) in press at CyberPsychology and Behaviour.

The authors say this means that these online gaming environments are a goldmine of social data as well as a potential experimental research platform, which have "a far larger population and broader demographic than the typical undergraduate pool".

"Many researchers have already bought and set aside space in Second Life," says Dmitri Williams, a communications expert who studies social impact of computer games at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "



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