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Archive for January, 2008

I feel famous

Michael Stephens head shotMichael Stephens, Library 2.0 expert and Tame the Web blogger, is my faculty advisor for this project. I’m honored to be working with him and was excited to see he’s blogged about my research project.

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I can only be me

The time has come to resolve my avatar identity crisis. Creating an avatar can feel like creating an “other,” an entity disconnected from the self. It’s easy to somehow believe that avatars are somehow different because they have wings or crazy hair. But no matter what look an avatar brings to the table, an avatar is essentially a communication vehicle. An avatar really only departs from one’s essential sense of self if a person chooses to play a role within a virtual world that is substantially different from who they are in real life. This can sometimes be accompanied by a much different physical presentation too. This is a part of the allure of places like Second Life for many people, and it can be a fun identity experiment. For the purposes of my research, however, I’ll be leaving my “ideals and fantasies” at the door to play the role (a la Mortensen) of myself and only myself. If I have to identify pieces of me that will be more prominent, I’d say that student, scholar, thinker and learner would top the list. Wife, home owner, friend, etc. may be less prominent.

In other words, my avatar will probably look more like me on a day I have class or when I’m at work — not like me at home in my PJs relaxing on the sofa. (more…)

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Information seeking behavior theories + Online gaming theories + Library 2.0 = grounding framework for my research

I know this will evolve, but I just had to record this thought that came after many hours digging up sources for my literature review.

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I currently have two avatars in SL, neither of which I’ll be using for this research project. Instead, two new online personalities will be born – one as my “researcher” avatar I’ll use for 1|1 interviews. The second will be my “covert” avatar for virtual ethographic participant observation. In other words, one will be talking to people and one will be watching people and recording specific data.

Who will these two avatars be? What should they look like? Media theory scholar Torill Mortensen and BBC commentator Paul Mason lend interesting insights into this question…

When it comes down to it, avatars – online characters – project your ideals and fantasies before you’ve had time to think of them. – Paul Mason

In conversations where the participants present themselves through a “handle” or an “avatar”, the potential for over- or under-representing certain aspects of the “self” is conspicuous. (more…)

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I constructed this research project because I desperately want to know more about people who use virtual worlds. Knowing more about the users can help librarians who are experimenting with how to provide library services and information there.

Virtual worlds present a unique opportunity for librarians to creatively apply the mandate they have to serve user communities. A better understanding of user traits, preferences, needs & behaviors can help design the best services and resources for, and in collaboration with, the denizens of virtual worlds like SL.

I’ve ripped this from my research project proposal put together a couple of months ago. If you’re inclined, you can read the whole thing here. virtual_worlds_proposal.pdf

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