With one pilot interview now under my belt, I’ve learned a few things about the logistics of in-world research:
Check for grid updates. My first scheduled pilot interview was foiled because my subject had trouble accessing SL. Checking the Second Life blog earlier that day could have prevented this, as it was down due to scheduled periodic grid re-starts.
Expect technical difficulties. My second scheduled pilot interview was foiled because my interview subject had some connectivity issues at home. Crashes (where your interview subject *poof* disappears) are to be expected as well; usually they’ll reappear in a few minutes if you just patiently wait.
Busy mode. During interviews, when it’s critically important for me to fully attend to one interview subject, I’ve found it helpful to put my avatar in ‘busy mode.’ This blocks extraneous IM’s, group notices and other things that are potential distractions. At the same time, I do not utilize ‘busy mode’ during observation, as I want to be experiencing a typical SL user experience myself, which is filled with multiple IM sessions, constant friendship offers, regular chat, and so much more.
- Follow-up then ask again. During my interviews, I’ve used iterative questioning to continue to pose the same query until the subject has totally exhausted what they have to share on the subject. This is helpful in textual chat communication, when I’m often unsure if the other avatar is truly done talking or not — a byproduct of not having those body language & verbal cues we all rely on so much.
- Personal sharing. I’ve found myself sharing my own personal information with interview subjects in particular, particular my RL demographic information. After all, I’m asking for their age, gender, race/ethnicity, educational background and profession. Socially, it feels very awkward and almost downright slimy to be asking someone in SL for this information without reciprocating by sharing the same information about yourself.