The full dissertation is at: https://skydrive.live.com/?cid=4fd14084f91887b4
My research into the types of social learning associated with virtual worlds is inspired by my interest in the nature of learning, my experiences as a gamer, and the research and opinions of a great number of scholars, including John Seely Brown, Etienne Wenger, Jean Lave, Henry Jenkins, T.L. Taylor, James Paul Gee, Constance Steinkuehler, Kurt Squire and countless others.
I am specifically interested in the phenomenon of self-motivated social learning in virtual worlds: how players self-organise and self-empower to achieve mastery of a game or virtual space.
This interest covers various aspects of participation, community, learning and self-organisation:
The project takes a blended qualitative and quantitative approach to exploring these questions.
Ethnographic research has long been concerned with the issue of context when making sense of cultures. It is never enough to record a cultural event without understanding and disseminating the context in which that event takes place. As such, I have designed my research to take both a macro and micro approach to my subject. The first phase of the project is concerned with understanding the greater context in which virtual worlds are inhabited and enjoyed by players. This phase of the project involves exploration of a number of virtual worlds and several months exploring net cafes and interviewing players and developers in ten countries from Australasia to Europe. The point of this phase is to better guide my research design and give me a greater holistic understanding of the area, including a cross-cultural perspective on the phenomenon.
The second phase of the project has been running in parallel, and is comprised of my ethnographic work in two related MMOGs, City of Heroes (since May 2004) and its sequel City of Villains (since September 2005). This work involves participant observation via a number of characters on various servers, interviews with players, developers and publishers, as well as the collection and analysis of player diaries, fan site entries, forum posts and log files, among other artifacts.
This phase also included a significant survey of City of Heroes/City of Villains players, resulting in a previously untapped sample of almost 10,000 players world-wide.