Friday, May 26, 2006

Virtual worlds, visiting rights and restraining orders

Thought this might be interesting here. It's my post for today on the Guardian Gamesblog. In brief:
OK, now that I've covered the reasons hanging out with people in WoW may be more significant than hanging out in person, I'll get to my point.

What happens when parents get divorced? Say Parent A is given custody of Child and Parent B has visiting rights at weekends or holidays. Parent A doesn't play Online Game X but Parent B does, and plays for a couple of hours every night with Child. Does that undermine the judge's custody decision? Child isn't spending time with Parent A when s/he is hanging in Norrath with Parent B, so if Parent A losing out on important time with Child while Parent B and Child are experiencing enhanced shared experience, what implications does this have for future custody rulings?

Taking a more clear-cut (and probably less-emotional) example, what about virtual stalking? Or virtual restraining orders? As identities in cyberspace are mutable, real selves can be hidden by virtual selves. It is not the role of commercial companies to ensure that Account A is allowed to speak with/be within 10 miles of Account B, surely Account A playing with Account B under different cover is in breach of the court's judgement? When will we see restraining orders including time spent in a virtual world?

Friday, May 19, 2006

InSync's Indie Debate

Here's one for you gamer geeks out there, via the folks at Creative London:
InSync and The Debates invite you to take part in the “Indie Debate”
the second in a series of international seminars exploring the relationship between independent developers and the mainstream games industry.

Linked by video conferencing technology, speakers and participants in the UK, mainland Europe and the US discuss why an independent games sector is important and how the market could support its growth.

In most sectors of the audio-visual industries, there is space, support and a route to market for independent producers. An independent sector provides the mainstream with a vital seed bed for new talent, content and formats but the dynamics and the economics of the games industry seem to stifle such development. As the production cost of mainstream titles increases, the gap between what is established and what is not appears to be growing.. Iterations, sequels and licensed titles are becoming the norm and few original concepts make it to the marketplace.

The games industry needs to nurture and create space for the Tarantinos and Portisheads of the coming generation.

Tuesday the 6th June 2006, all day from 08:00 for 08:30 AM (until 16:00 PM)
01zero-one, Hopkins Street, Soho, London W1F 0HS (on the corner of Hopkins Street and Peter Street) Map
To register, email

This is a free event, with coffee and tea available all day. There will be a drinks reception in the evening. Please email all enquiries to the address above.

The debate will include contributors from Avalanche, Deadline Games, Digital Illusions, EA, Epic Games, IO Interactive, SCEE, Tripwire and Ubisoft. From a non gaming indie perspective there will be contributions from Chicks On Speed, Kristian Hornsleth, Mads Odgaard and Per Fly.

This second seminar will cover areas such as:

* Digital Publishing / Distribution
* Modding
* Casual / Episodic Gaming
* Education
* The Future of Independent Development

As well as following the seminar in Copenhagen, at various points during the day participants at the various Link-ups will be asked to discuss the topics under debate and then feedback live to the main seminar.

IPA conference

Groovy - I've been asked to present at the IPA conference in Brighton (hoorah!) on 11-12 September this year, thus flexing my MSc twice in one month. Here's what I sent to Dr. Richard de Visser:

TITLE: Interpreting online phenomenological experience using IPA

OUTLINE: The Internet is an experiential medium, connecting dispersed actors via technology to augment human-to-human contact. Out of the networks which have emerged from Web interaction have come experiences of anonymity, agency and self-expression which social science is increasingly qualitatively exploring for insight into users’ experimentation with identity. Yet the use of IPA in this domain has been limited.

Based upon the analysis of online transcripts for a study exploring identity play in goal-oriented virtual environments, this talk provides an overview of the issues which arise when using IPA online. Included is an overview of the virtual space as a phenomenon of social experience, the unique potential for the use of IPA in the online medium and the potentials and pitfalls which both support and hinder phenomenological analysis in this domain.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Event and presentation: Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation

Presented today at the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation (CSFI) on the topic of trust in virtual worlds, to accompany (or to act as a double-act with?) Richard Bartle in another Consult Hyperion-led financial services-centred roundtable.

The 20-minute session was well-received, I think. There were interesting insights and questions from the assembled bankers and service authorities.

My content was primarily about how and why the relationships in virtual worlds work. There's a bit of social psychololgy, some virtual worlds research and quite a lot of internet studies knowledge in there.

Here's the PP. Enjoy.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Workshop heads-up: Link Analysis software training at Wolverhampton

Via the AoIR listserv:
There will be a free training afternoon for link
analysis software at the University of Wolverhampton.
This is aimed at early or future PhD students in the
social sciences or information science. You will learn
how to use software to collect and analyse information
about web links.

Link Analysis 1pm-5pm Thursday 15 June, 2006
This will be a demonstration and practical sessions with
the following programs
SocSciBot and SocSciBot Tools - link analysis for
collections of web sites. (
LexiURL - link analysis for individual web sites or
collections of web pages.
Google/MSN/Yahoo! automatic query submission programs -
these allow the automatic submission of thousands of

Training and software are both free but please email
m.thelwall to book a place as numbers are
limited. Include in your email the following information
(a) Name:
(b) Email:
(c) University or other organisation:
(d) PhD title (if applicable) and reason for wanting to
attend (1 sentence maximum):
(e) I give my permission for my email address to be
circulated to other attendees: Yes/No