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Hanging out is hard to do: Methodology in non-avatar environments

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Ethnography is now a well-established research methodology for virtual environments,and the vast majority of accounts have one aspect in common, whether textual or graphic environments – that of the embodied avatar. In this article, I first discuss the applicability of such a methodology to non-avatar environments such as Eve Online, considering where the methodology works and the issues that arise in its implementation – particularly for the consideration of sub-communities within the virtual environment. Second, I consider what alternative means exist for getting at the information that is obtained through an ethnographic study of the virtual environment. To that end, I consider the practical and ethical implications of utilizing existing accounts, the importance of the meta-game discourse, including those sources outside of the control of the environment developer, and finally the utility in combining personal observations with accounts of other ethnographers, both within and between environments.
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Keywords: avatar; collaboration; design; ethnography; methodology; virtual worlds

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Queensland University of Technology

Publication date: 2012-11-06

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  • The Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds focuses on theoretical and applied, empirical, critical, rhetorical, creative, economic and professional approaches to the study of electronic games across platforms and genres as well as ludic and serious online environments.
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