Guimaraes’ ideas about “social environments” will come in particularly handy in my thinking of how to define an informant population for the participant observation portion of this project – a type of virtual ethnographic fieldwork. As Guimaraes states:
Nevertheless, when the focus is the culture developed inside bounded social groups, it is more appropriate to look at their actual behaviour and how they employ different resources in order to perform their social life. … it was possible to trace the group’s boundaries through its network of social relationships and through the shared meaning that gave a sense of ‘group’ to its components. … it was very difficult to specify a single location in cyberspace where this group lived. The main platform employed was The Palace but the group used to travel around different Palace servers. Often instant messaging…was also used to counter temporary network ‘lags’…or to create another layer of interaction…web-based chat rooms or IRC were used. There was also an email list used to publicize events and web pages were maintained with news pictures and links.
Picking a place in SL such as a region or institution may unfairly circumscribe or unnaturally define a user group. Instead, broadly considering the full range of social relationships and ways that people construct community may be a better framework.