Sunday, June 20, 2010

Researching virtual worlds

Yesterday's conference ended the ESRC Seminar Series in an appropriately celebratory style in Second Life - attracting a varied and engaged international audience. In the morning I had a brief spot, summarising some of the main themes that have emerged in the course of the five seminars and I'll be posting that up in the next couple of days. For now though, my immediate impressions are of the different ways in which research is addressing children and young people's engagement with virtual worlds. There are 3 basic orientations. The first is simply to plot what's going on in the metaverse - essentially various interpretations that look for demographics beneath the general statistics offered by organisations like K-Zero and the Kaiser Foundation. There are some built-in difficulties such as the shifting allegiancies of age groups, the problem of determining regional variations and how to look further than statistics about the number of accounts. In a rapidly changing market there is a danger that by the time you publish it your data is out of date. The second orientation is to treat virtual worlds as texts, to look at their social affordances, their communicational possibilities or the identity positions that they offer to inhabitants and visitors. This holds considerable fascination and offers all sorts of challenges - perhaps the greatest of which is how to produce an account that takes into consideration how children and young people read or read against these texts, what sorts of resistance, subversion or parodic uses they create. The third orientation is to try to understand the sense and the meanings that these users actually make as they enter virtual worlds, how they evaluate the experience and their own levels of sophistication and critique. Here there may be a degree of rich description, but the usually difficulty in saying anything that is more general - which simply goes to illustrate that these orientations are by no means new, and simply reframe existing challenges in how we interpret and understand textual landscapes and the interactions that take place within them.


Norma Vanegas said...

May I have your name and last name, pls.
I liked the way you summarize the 3 main orientations on digiworlds' research nowadays.
I would like to cite you and the ESRC Seminar you attented to, so pls. let me know the title of the seminar.
Thanks for sharing the latest things said in this topics.
Bye, Norma

Norma Vanegas said...

I am Norma Vanegas an EdD student researching about digital literacies on the youth's out-side-school lives.
I'll be in Lancaster in the 4-Summer Course.

Guy Merchant said...

Hi Norma the series was called 'Children and young people's digital literacies in virtual online spaces' - see Link text.I'm Guy Merchant. I'll be posting more on the series during this week. Good luck with your research!