Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Roskilde day III - Sisse Siggaard Jensen

Sisse Siggard Jensen's talk is entitled "Researching Virtual Worlds: analytical strategies and methodologies" and describes a small part of her research in Second Life. The dissertation she is writing at the moment is tentatively called "Making Sense of Virtual Worlds." Her five analytical foci (the word is appropriate since she is mainly doing video-analysis) are:

The actors' decision to move in and settle in a virtual world and with that the choice of world(s). What is it, the movements we make, that makes the actors of this study choose a virtual world like Second Life or EverQuest? What creates the conditions for being in the virtual world, and what makes the actors remain in the world, or stop?

The actors' decision to move in and settle in a virtual world and with that the choice of worlds What is it that makes the actors of this study choose a virtual world such as Second Life or EverQuest? What creates the conditions for being in such a world?

The different ways of being together and interacting with other avatars and actors of the world(s). How do the actors of this study communicate in various practices and with the use of their avatars as mediators in battle, business and competition as well as in grouping, guilds and networking? What leads them to act and communicate the way they have chosen? How do they do it? How come that they continue or quit?

Perceiving the self in the light of the chosen avatar(s) and the ways of being in the world. How do the actors of this study describe the way their chosen avatars present themselves in-world? How do they view and understand the figure they have created and the interrelations of self and avatar?

The movements back and forth between the actors' in-world wirtual lives and the lives they live in the outside world. How do the actors move and navigate between their inworld life and the outside world? What is it that makes the actors continue or want to stop?

She describes her methods in the following way: Pre-understandings, inference and abuductive reasoning is in the background. The theories she uses are actor-network theories, sense-making methodologies, (cyber-ssemiotics), new media theory. (Trajectories of human and non-human actants, chains of connections, transformations, movements, intermediaries, mediators, assemblages, gapinesses, and bridgings, situation movement states, remediatio, immediacy and hypermediacy.) She argues that empirical data are produced rather than collected. Moreover, she sees the two modes "online and off-line" as an integrated part of the case studies. Literature studies, for instance of EverQuest and MMORPGs websites and webcommunities, are also a part of her information gathering, as well as video interviews, case studies, and participant observation.

Observing. Her observations fall into four periods of time. They form a curve of increasing and decreasing involvement.
• Period I: Remediation. Introductory observation to get an overview.
• Period II: Getting involved and settled. Participation, construction and cases selected.
• Period III: Belonging. Participation and observation at certain places and with time.
• Period IV: International. A phase-out aimed to identify possible new cases from the international scene.

She describes how settling in the world (buy land, build a house etc) makes a huge difference from only being the more passive by-stander. Her subsequent collaborative projects taught her more about the interface, about how to organize events and navigate the different ways of creating content for the environment. Belonging has to do with her possibility to follow how things unfolded, to see a process. Her fourth phase marks a more international involvement and an expert view and knowledge of the platform.

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