Anthropology of Virtual Worlds and MMORPGs


Anthropology of Virtual Worlds and MMORPGs

The place to discuss and share knowledge of how anthropology can help us to better understand the developments in various virtual worlds and multi-player online games.

Members: 89
Latest Activity: Jul 26, 2015

Discussion Forum

Universal Model for a Sustainable World

Started by Mr. Jan Hearthstone Jul 26, 2015.

Virtual Ethnography 2 Replies

Started by Ariel Appel. Last reply by Ariel Appel May 20, 2011.

Social interactions in a virtual world vs. First Life 5 Replies

Started by Paul Wren. Last reply by Paul Wren Jul 1, 2010.

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Comment by Francine Barone on January 12, 2010 at 10:26pm
Hi Laura,

I'm sure that Prof Fischer would be happy to help. Dr. Zeitlyn also works on studies of online life (you can read his recent Digital Anthropology report commissioned by TalkTalk here). My own research is not directly related to WoW or Second Life, but online community-making in general. In addition, one of the issues that you may encounter in your studies - should you wish to pursue ethnographic research in this area - is methodology (as Katin indicates below), including grappling with the dynamics of presumed online/offline divides. I'm always available if you'd like to chat about any of these issues or just brainstorm some ideas.

I'm pleased that John Postill has linked you to a very useful list of materials on his blog. I'd recommend syndicating the RSS feed to his blog (media/anthropology), as the resources he shares there are incredibly useful.
Comment by John Postill on January 12, 2010 at 3:50pm
Laura, I've but some bibliographic materials here that may be of use:
Comment by Laura Naylor on January 12, 2010 at 3:42pm
Thankyou so much for the advice, once I've finished this essay I intend to start taking the first steps. Fran do you think Professor Fischer would have any particular idea about this, I know one of his specialities is computing and anthropology but I don't know if that includes online communities.
Comment by Francine Barone on January 10, 2010 at 7:58pm

If you're thinking about 'online communities' in terms of Second Life or WoW, there is some anthropological literature (as mentioned in the comments on this group) available on the web . Boellstorf's Coming of Age in Second Life is available as a Google book and Alex Golub has done work on WoW.
Comment by Raul Castro on January 10, 2010 at 2:14am
Hi all, I am sure you should saw a classic video called "Prometeus" at Youtube, but, just in case you didn´t, here is the link:

it's a bit oldie but always cool...
best. Raul
Comment by Katin Imes on January 9, 2010 at 5:48pm
Hi Laura -

I always love to see undergrads exploring. Incidentally, I think your age would actually be a big asset in perspective and technical chops for work in virtual worlds.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the field is so new, there aren't a lot of basis-for-comparison works out there yet. There is some good stuff that explores some foundational premises - a fine example is the book, "Coming of Age in Second Life" by Tom Boellstorf - but these same premises are explored and discussed on blogs and forums long before they make it to print in a book.

What comes to mind for me is:
- pick a virtual world to focus upon for 3 months to 2 years
- formulate your path for study, data collection, premise, etc. for that world and time period
- and dive in!

This kind of approach means your surfing and in-world time is oriented to support your work. You'll get connected with the relevant forums, blog and in-world communities and activities that support your work as you go, over time. This is one way to deal with that fact that if you don't pick one virtual world and one specific premise at a time, you can easily be overwhelmed by the thousands of sites, blogs and dozens of books and papers being written about hundreds of different virtual worlds.

If you decide to use this style of approach and you end up choosing Second Life as your study world, I'd be happy to introduce you around to some of the communities in-world sometime.
Comment by Laura Naylor on January 9, 2010 at 4:57am
I've been considering starting some work in this particular field, fairly lofty intent for an undergrad I know but if anything it'll be good experience for later polishing. I was wondering if anyone could point me to any free or not tremendously costly work on online communities so I at least have a good basis of comparison for what I'm going to attempt to do.
Comment by Thomas Malaby on October 25, 2009 at 5:45pm
Thanks, Rasmus, for recommending that piece, which was a lot of fun to write. There is so much that can still be talked about when it comes to virtual worlds regarding how they are architected, by whom, and with what cultural imaginings. I think that T L Taylor's book about Everquest (which I just mentioned in a reply to Paul's discussion post) is a must-read, and I would add to that Julian Dibbell's work, especially is two books: My Tiny Life and Play Money. The latter is an absolutely terrific ethnography done by one of the top journalists of technology and social thought writing today.
Comment by John Postill on July 26, 2009 at 4:03pm
Thanks Rasmus, that looks like a terrific resource.

I've recently discovered this paper by Celia Pearce on a virtual world diaspora that looks really intriguing:

The Uru Live server ran for less than a year. Even the last three months, which occurred after the game was released commercially in November of 2003—the period when most of the players joined—were characterized as a “public beta.” In spite of the game’s short life, the closure of the server was a highly distressing event for Uru players. Members of The Gathering, many of whom reported weeping as the clock struck midnight and the avatars on the screen froze in place, reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Much to their own surprise, players grieved not only the loss of their community but also the loss of their individual avatars. The shared trauma of the server shutdown served as a catalyst for fortifying the group identity, which evolved into a sort of fictive ethnicity. This shared group identity created both the necessity and the substrate for migrating their individual avatar identities into to other virtual worlds.
Comment by Rasmus Kolding on July 26, 2009 at 12:53am
I recommend Thomas Malaby's "These Great Urbanist Games: New Babylon and Second Life" for bridging the idea of virtual worlds with older ideas of societal planning and engineering.

Se the blog TerraNova
(also recommendable) for comments...

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