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Business research in virtual worlds: possibilities and practicalities

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Abstract:

Purpose ‐ It is predicted that virtual business and related research possibilities will expand significantly. In this context, the aim of this paper is to use insights from a virtual research project to present a theoretically-informed toolbox of practical suggestions to guide the conduct of virtual world business research. Design/methodology/approach ‐ Archival evidence is presented, and data from a study conducted in Second Life® in 2007 is interpreted through Llewellyn's framework (physical, structural, agential, cultural and mental dimensions). Findings ‐ With the burgeoning of virtual business applications, appropriate systems that encompass the dynamics of both the real and the virtual will need to be developed by and for accountants, auditors and business professionals. Researchers of virtual business activities will need to adapt to the physical, structural, agential, cultural and mental dimensions unique to virtual worlds. Research limitations/implications ‐ While based on reflections from a single study in Second Life, this paper identifies possibilities for future virtual research on issues of accountability and accounting relating to virtual worlds. Practical implications ‐ The practical toolbox will assist virtual researchers to deal with the possibilities and practicalities of conducting research in virtual worlds. Originality/value ‐ Despite the proliferation of virtual worlds, predictions of virtual business applications, and consequent accountability and accounting implications, there is a paucity of academic literature on conducting business research in virtual settings. This prescient paper develops a conceptual framework to guide the conduct of research in virtual worlds, and identifies the unique opportunities and challenges they present.

Keywords: Accountability; Avatar; Research; Second Life; Virtual business; Virtual research; Virtual worlds

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09513571311311856

Publication date: March 22, 2013

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