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Final Topic Focus

Page history last edited by Joe Essid 10 years, 8 months ago

For this wiki project of about 200 words, not including your sources, you will:


  • State the likely topic for your project and why you want to explore that. A few topics from Fall 2008 follow. Let them guide you to your own topic.  Note how they do not try to cover ALL of their subject:
    • An aspect of car culture in SL
    • An exploration of jewelry-making and its business in SL
    • A look at some aspect of SL addiction
    • A consideration of architecture-design and "good builds" in SL
    • Advice for the first hour: what "noobs" can do to fit in quickly and effectively
    • A consideration of gaming in SL: what makes it work well?  
  • Note any claims you want to AVOID reasoning FROM. In other words, where are your own biases likely to interfere with your analysis?
  • List at the end at least 4 sources, two of which must come from UR's library databases, that you may use.  For each source, include a sentence after the MLA citation that explains why you think this source will help your research process:


Nino, Tateru. "Virtual Marketing Failures: Apathy or Hubris?"  Online posting. 27 October 2008. Massively. 27 October 2008. <http://www.massively.com/2008/10/27/virtual-marketing-failures-apathy-or-hubris/>.


Nino, a noted demographer of virtual worlds, questions why real-life corporations have not learned about the in-world culture of Second Life before launching marketing campaigns and setting up shop there. For my project, Nino's piece provides evidence for a claim about why we don't see more real-life brands in SL.


  • Your final project will run at least 3000 words (that's about 10 pages, double-spaced). Your works cited listings would not count toward that limit.  Believe it or not, it's easy to reach that minimum!  I give that length to help you consider what topic might be too big (it is hard to focus too tightly, however).


Possible starting points for research: no extra credit for boo-boos here--I'm constantly adding to this service to help you get started


Perspectives of Virtual Worlds:

  • (nonacademic source) Linden Lab CEO Mark Kingdon discusses his plans for the company. Includes notes about making SL more business friendly, more intuitive for new users, and more stable. This is an exclusive interview with Tateru Nino at Massively, a site for multiplayer gaming.
  • (nonacademic source)  "The SL Cultural Gap," about why SLers consider their world unique (and gamers do not): a fascinating piece from Raph Koster, former Chief Creative Officer at Sony Online Entertainment and creator of Metaplace. Koster sees SL as part of a long tradition in online entertainment.


Journals & Books:

  • (academic source) The Journal of Virtual Worlds Research is the first academic journal dedicated to studying the topic.
  • (academic source) Castronova, Edward. Exodus to the Virtual World and Synthetic Worlds. Castronova is a faculty member at Indiana University, where I did my own PhD work, and he has a background in economics.  The second title is more descriptive and traditionally academic, The first book listed (his second on this topic) is more speculative and written as creative non-fiction, yet it contains a great deal of strong information.
  • (academic source) Boellstorff, Tom. Coming of Age in Second Life. His background as an anthropologist gives his book a different impact than Meadows' I, Avatar, with its primarily first-person account. Coming of Age in Second Life is the first book-length academic study (to my knowledge) of this world.  Tom appeared at our weekly SL Education Roundtable (link to the transcript of our chat) and you may use that chat as a non-academic source if you wish.
  • (nonacademic source) Au, Wagner James. The Making of Second Life. An insider's look at the business decisions, technological development, native culture, and economic impacts of this particular virtual world. Au was an early employee of Linden Lab and now is the best-known blogger about it.


The Nature of Avatar Identity:

  • (academic sources) Nicky Yee's "The Daedalus Project," with several of his articles about multiplayer games and virtual worlds. Of particular note is his article on "The Proteus Effect," which found that residents of virtual worlds tend to improve their real-life appearances after having an attractive avatar. See his "papers" link for this important article. Yee is considered one of the world's foremost researchers in the field of virtual worlds/gaming.
  • (academic source)  "Is it a game? Evidence for social influence in the virtual world"  by Paul W. Eastwick & Wendi L. Gardner. This article studied race in There.com, a virtual world like SL.  According to the abstract, "the race of the avatar requesting help impacted the success of the door-in-the-face compliance technique, raising the specter that real-world racial biases may also emerge in virtual environments." (I am trying to find a way to get this article on e-reserve for the class).
  • (nonacademic source): "A Virtual Life. An Actual Death." by Mark Stephen Meadows and Peter Ludlow. This is the story of the death of Carmen Hermosillo. Ludlow is a professor of philosophy at Northwestern who writes, in character as his SL avatar. Meadows is author of I, Avatar (our e-copy is linked from our syllabus sidebar).


Technology & How We Think:

  • (nonacademic source) Jamais Cascio's "Get Smarter" and Nicolas Carr's "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" in Atlantic Monthly.  Which writer makes the stronger case? Why? (Hint: any claims that need additional support? Why? Where would YOU start to find that support?).
  • (nonacademic source) Gwyneth Llewelyn on Immersion vs. Augmentation: A way to sensitize writers to the differences between virtual worlds & social-networking sites.  Do writers understand what she calls the "Old Internet"? How were they taught--if they were taught--to comport themselves online? How is their current behaviour different?
  • (nonacademic source) "The Brave New World of Digital Intimacy" by Clive  Thompson. Thompson focuses on social media, not virtual worlds, but the ideas may well apply to how groups (or just couples) of avatars interact.
  • (nonacademic source) "Does Technology Reduce Social Isolation?" The New York Times' story of a study that shows, contrary to popular beliefs, that "people who regularly use digital technologies are more social than the average American and more likely to visit parks and cafes, or volunteer for local organizations."


Virtual Economics:

  • (nonacademic source) "Has Second Life Cut Its Mullet?" An Advertising Age writer, once dismissive of SL during its "hype" phase, takes a second look. Also check out Hamlet Au's take on this article.
  • (nonacademic source) "SL Needs Growth," an editorial by Hamlet Au on SL's market share for gaming/virtual worlds. It gives a snapshot of SL's market share that would be worth following back to its source.
  • (nonacademic source) "The Portrait of the Artist as an Avatar," by Sara Corbett. Jeffrey Lipsky's real-life art career was not going too well until he created the SL artist-avatar Filthy Fluno. Thanks to that exposure, Lipsky's real-life arts studio is doing real business, and he's making a living from SL.
  • (nonacademic source) "No Budget, No Boundaries: It’s the Real You,"  by Ruth La Ferla. Despite hard times for the actual world of fashion, demand for luxury goods remains strong in virtual worlds.


Demographics & Statistics:

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