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Empirical Research Methods In Virtual Worlds

Travis L. Ross, Edward Castronova, Gert G. Wagner

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This chapter summarizes current empirical methods in virtual world research. Since 2001, virtual worlds have become an important form of social media and a new forum for human interaction. Researchers have begun to study virtual worlds both for their inherent interest, as well as for insights about broader human behavior. This chapter addresses the quality of data obtained, as well as early experience with surveys, experiments, ethnography, and direct observation in virtual worlds. The conclusions are that virtual worlds are a valid location for empirical research and many methods from the “real” world are suitable for deployment. Virtual worlds also present challenges in terms of technology and the nature of society, and researchers must not overlook these challenges.