Thursday, March 01, 2007

I've moved

onwards and upwards, the thoughts of this blogger are now located at

alert your local authorities.

Thanks Vincent!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Social Sim Research Lab library catalogue updated

My Second Life home, the Social Simulation Research Lab, houses a Library with links to over 100 cyber research references (articles, homepages, resources, research institutions, journals). You can access them by clicking on the books on the shelves, which will take you to links on the interweb.

I've updated the catalogue with new articles, reference materials and homepages using suggestions made by members of the community, and have created this handy index (no links there yet, I'm afraid), so you can see what's available. I intend to develop a search facility in-world soon.

So if you don't know your Bartle from your Turkle, your AoIR from your Terra Nova, or your Bargh from your Bruckman and are interested in what the academy has to say about communities, relationships and identity in cyberspace, you should come to the Library, grab a seat and read all about it.

I also welcome suggestions! If there's something you don't see in the library, but think it deserves to sit on the shelves, please email me at

I've also created a new category: Current Research Projects in SL, which includes overviews of social science research projects that are currently underway in the virtual world.

The lecture series schedule is currently in development and will start in the New Year. Already there are some fantastic speakers lined up! Expect to see virtual world luminaries at the SSRL offering their insight and delivering seminars to the Second Life population very soon!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Observer does SL

A really great diary-like article in The Observer by Tim Adams last Sunday about one journalist's experience in the virtual world Second Life has an excellent explanation of the success of this metaverse (applicable to all metaverses, really):
The simple genius of Second Life is that it combines elements of Big Brother culture with the spirit of eBay. It plays to the contemporary urge to project ourselves into every story, to write our own emotions larger than anyone else's, to perform rather than to listen, to blog rather than read. And it also offers unlimited opportunities to shop.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The 1% rule, or how many people actually participate in UGC

Finally! A lead on the numbers of content creators (rather than content consumers)in this thing we call social cyberspace! Charles' summertime article from The Guardian has just come to my attention, and so I share it with you in response to countless requests for information on how many people actually contribute UGC to community sites and how many simply lurk.
It's an emerging rule of thumb that suggests that if you get a group of 100 people online then one will create content, 10 will "interact" with it (commenting or offering improvements) and the other 89 will just view it.

It's a meme that emerges strongly in statistics from YouTube, which in just 18 months has gone from zero to 60% of all online video viewing.
The information I've been waiting for. Hurrah!

Further insight is always welcomed.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Social class in SL

Tony Walsh has an interesting analysis of a recent decision by Linden Lab, makers of the virtual world Second Life, to add another stratifying dimension in the social of its space:
Once upon a time, all residents of Second Life were ostensibly equal, but 3 years after the virtual world was launched, the population was split based into "Verified" and "Unverified" social classes. Classification is based on one's willingness or ability to submit identification and billing information to Linden Lab, maker of Second Life. Faced with a huge spike in service-outages caused by malicious users over the last 2 months, some residents say that the Unverified are becoming vilified.

In a move that further complicates matters, Linden Lab announced yesterday that it is considering adding another social class: The "Trusted" resident. The company aims to make denial of service attacks more difficult by affording global programming powers only to Trusted residents. According to Linden Lab, "It is planned that 'Trusted' Residents will be clearly defined, and there will be processes in place (not all payment oriented) to become 'trusted' if your account currently falls outside of that designation."
A comment contributor pointed out that this delineation is transforming Second Life into a (gasp) game:
Not a game. My ass. We just leveled up. Proceed to the bunkers and defeat the helicoptermech boss. ;-)
A social game, perhaps, but one which reflects social strivings moreso than the objective-oriented software that Second Life is most adamantly not

Point taken, however.

More on the social stratifications wtihin online worlds is here, from a post I wrote donkeys ago for the gamesblog.

Event: My So-Called Second Life

Via Kathryn, here's announcement of a London-based event next week called "My So-Called Second Life". It's been organised by NMK, and thus is going to focus on information relevant to new media professionals, from designers to advertisers.

With MMORPGs (massively mulltiplayer online role playing games) rapidly gaining traction in the media world, will we soon be talking about the latest "virtual" reality shows instead of Big Brother?

In turn, this event will ask if UK creative suppliers, agencies and brands are ready to grasp emerging opportunities in this new media space.
Emerging trends include: Entertainment tie-ins, UGC in games, MMOG software and MMOGs in the new media landscape.

Great speakers: Mind Candy's Michael Smith, RRR's Justin Bovington (hello Fizik), IBM's Andrew Reynolds, Uni of Greenwich's Gauti Sigthorsson and Uni of Sussex's Esther MacCallum-Stewart.

Friday, October 13, 2006

AoIR 7 notes: Uses of Creativity: Creative Content and the Creative Citizen

QUT Creative Industries John Hartley gave the first Keynote at this year's AoIR 7.0 conference, focused on UGC.


Self-expression, self-expression, self-expression.
yadda yadda yadda.
It'll sort us all out.

Look, I (heart) UGC.


I am (well, more) realistic about the possibilities of the internet to ensure a Creative Right For All. The Internet is not a digital utopia. It does not solve all social ills. In many ways, it replicates and reinforces them. Gender (See Lori Kendall's work. among others), race, poverty - all "documented" in cyberspace.

So while I appreciate and am enthused by the wave of optimism which Prof. Hartley brought to the table (outlining the "broadcast yourself" generation, the need for policy to "focus on the daydreaming and mischief of teenagers to tap into innovation and creativity" and the call for a shift in cultural norms in such a way as "creativity is expected in jobs, where workers are allowed to express their creativity") I have a few questions which I need some answers to before I get wrapped up in these utopian sentiments:
  1. What is the ratio of creators to consumers?
    According to research from the UK Children Go Online project presented by Sonia Livingstone, last year's keynote speaker, consumers strongly out-weigh creators. Out of 1,500 9-19 year olds,
    1/3 have set up own website (1/3 of them have never put it online; for a school project 45%, 1/3 doing creative things); of those 2/3 who haven’t, ½ don’t know how to
    Tell me how that bodes well for the future of UGC.DOES ANYONE HAVE ANY OTHER STATISTICS ON THIS?
  2. As one curious attendee asked, how can we live in a "creative" society"? Do I exchange a film I made for a hamburger?
  3. Finally, what are the psychological implications for a society in which every individual is told that he or she has a Creative Right?
    Will there be a greater incidence of depression/anger/violence as the population becomes increasingly “creative” but cannot successfully compete for slots in which to express themselves? Surely there will be limits, as there are now?
    Who's going to be the loser in this creative world? Who'll make the hardware which will facilitate our creativity? Who'll man the help lines? Who'll clean up the mess?

While I don't doubt that UGC will contribute to a small-scale public reasessment of the stronghold one or two multinationals have on creation and consumption of assets, content, and even political systems (enhancing the sense of social capital Prof. Robert Putnam argues internet communication reduces), ultimately the Internet will ONLY be a stepping stone for the next technology, as the revolutionary Telegraph system was for the modern communication age (for more information on this perspective, I highly recommend Tom Standage's The Victorian Internet).

The perspective, while noble, is too Western. Too privileged. It's too idealistic.

AoIR 7 notes: impact of Web 2.0 on social activism

I found the Association of Internet Researchers conferences in Brisbane a bit sparse this year. I don't want to suggest it was because few Yanks managed to make the trek (a shorter flight but more jet lag?! what a crazy world), but their emphasis on quantiative, action-outcome research does offer a few more concrete talking points than theoretical essay analyses of internet phenomenon which predominated the sessions this year. I seem to recall that the speaking roster in Chicago wasn't as chokka with grad students (myself included, of course), which lended a bit more gravitas and pragmatic research-driven thinking than the blue-sky stuff we PhD candidates get smooshed out of us as we venture away from training and into the "real world" of the ivory tower.

Cynical opinions aside, there were a few moments of cohesion over the three days (plus the day for the Doctoral Colloquium), where I found myself excited by the forward-thinking research that's happening. A couple of presentations in particular really floated my boat. Darren Sharpe (old profile) at QUT's Creative Industries proved inspiring with thoughts on the future of the technology of things (i.e., UGC, RFID), and Brett Rolfe, presented some of his thoughts on the impact of Web 2.0 on social activism. Here are my notes from Rolfe's session:

Social movement – a collective group with an agenda

Repertoire of contention – need to contend with government bodies/opposition; the tactics used to contend (e.g., barricades, marches/rallies); the set of tactics you can draw on.

What can we do online? What is our e-repertoire of contention?

Diffusion: “cyberdiffusion” – allow different movements to communicate with one another.Note: a quick search for "cyberdiffusion" produced predominantly French pages, with only 7 English results (Google). A good-looking article, From the streets to the Internet: the cyberdiffusion of contention by JM Ayres (1999) in Annuals 566, 132-143, doesn't come up when I search for it...

Internet = resource (e.g., library) and venue (e.g., location of protest)

Avenue of communication

Venue for contestation (e.g., G8 rally; virtual Edinburgh)

Taken offline and reinterpreted in online space (rally in online world) ****relay for life****

“hothouses of innovation” – venues are small, techno-savvy organisations who create activist tactics and pass them on

Web 2.0 = repository for information to platform for service: building, searching (sharing material)

(e.g.,) Google = functional but developed with a new form of contestation (e.g., type in “Miserable Failure” and get an autobiography of George Bush): aka googlism/linking

Mobilise people around and issue

(e.g.,) Flickr = resources and venue; sharing (H2 “flipping the bird”), socialising (MySpace: Rock The Vote – engaging people in the demographic by using the tools that bring and link people; develop advocates, apostles and generate a movement; convert more people to the cause

(e.g.,) Second Life Liberation Army: based upon suffragette movement – American Apparel protest (Reebok protest)

social movements are key to identity and behaviour.

As online behaviour changes, our engagement as social activists in this space changes

These and other environments will remain rich sites for research.

They invite and extension of social movement methodologies, but also CHALLENGE these methodologies

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Event: The Long Tail in SL

This just in from James:
I'm proud to announce that I'll be interviewing Chris Anderson, acclaimed Editor-in-Chief of Wired Magazine, and author of the profoundly influential New York Times bestseller The Long Tail: The New Economics of Culture and Commerce. He'll be appearing in-world in avatar form to chat with me and a live audience about the book, then signing copies of the virtual edition (an excerpt from the full print version.) Seating is limited, but open to the Resident public. To reserve a place, send an Instant Message to event coordinator Rodica Millionsofus by the end of Thursday.
Timely, I was just on Amazon looking at the book and thinking of finally plonking down some cash for it. Then again, my birthday's coming up soon...

Special edition of JCMC - call for papers

I've been in Australia for the Association of Internet Researchers conference, and while my notes will be up soon, I discovered this in a trawl for any research that's been done on the diffusion of plug-ins and/or other social phenomena on MySpace. It's all call for papers for a special social network edition of the Journal of Computer Mediated Communication (JCMC), and abstracts are due 28 November. Via the CFP:
Recently, social network sites like Cyworld, MySpace, orkut, and Facebook have captured the public's attention and attracted millions of users. Such sites typically enable individuals to create a profile that defines their online personae through the use of photographs, text, and multimedia elements. More importantly, social network sites enable individuals to articulate their social connections visibly on the site, a practice that may help individuals meet self-presentational and social goals. "Friends" links offer users a window into an emerging and fluid social landscape, allowing them to explore and interact with a larger network via profiles and the communication tools they offer. Together, profiles, traversable "friends" links, and communication tools comprise the backbone of social network sites. This special issue seeks to bring together scholarship on social network sites to highlight current understanding of the practices, implications, culture, and meaning of such sites.
I've already been in touch with one of the guest editors, danah boyd, when she was looking for any researchers doing work in online social networking, but it seems they're interested in only formal social network sites like MySpace, orkut, Friendster etc.

If this suits you, head here for more information and for submission guidelines.