In the massively multi-user online role-playing games of e.g. EverQuest I & II and the World of Warcraft, millions of actors inhabit and create new places and spaces for communication and social interaction (Castranova 2001, Gee, 2003, Goffman 1974/86, Jensen 2006a, Qvortrup 2001, 2002). Some of the advanced features of these worlds enable the actors to construct and create one or more presentations and constructions of the ‘self’, and with that the social identities and roles of the game (Gee 2003, Goffman 1959, Schroeder 2002). Serving this purpose, a gallery of pre-designed classes of avatars, or characters, are part of the games, ready at hand when entering the worlds, offering the actors a ‘template’ by which to configure and shape their gallery of avatars. In order to personalize the pre-designed ‘templates’, and classes, the actors continuously have to solve a variety of individual quests as well as some such mutually organised. Only in this way, can they increase the level of experience and expertise, and thus, broaden the scope of actions of their avatars. In this paper, it is argued that the transformations from the pre-designed templates of avatars to the personalized and professional avatars held in high esteem by a group, or guild, of avatars and actors, these are activities, which may be conceived of as being complex, reflective practices. To become a skilled, professional, high-level avatar is hard work, it may take months, and only then, can the avatar perform without the many constraints of low-level avatars. How come that the actors do willingly and with enthusiasm engage in such time-consuming, demanding, difficult, sometimes boring, and very often complex, reflective practices (Dewey 1933), and learning activities, and do so in their leisure time? What makes the actors act this way? What can we learn from this? Simple questions such as these have initiated the ongoing research project on ‘Actors and avatars communicating in virtual worlds’ <!--[if !supportFootnotes]--><!--[endif]-->, which is reported in this paper. In the project, five foci are dealt with: 1) the actors’ conceptions of the virtual worlds, 2) their choices and constructions of mediating avatars, 3) the diversity of social interactions, 4) the constructions of self experienced and expressed while reflecting on action and communication, and 5) the interplay between the virtual worlds and the actors’ life worlds (Jensen, 2006b). The findings presented will refer to the five foci mentioned. ‘Following the actors’, and their avatars, while they enter, move around, and leave their worlds that is the methodological approach of this research, which is inspired by the sense-making methodology and theory Dervin 2003), video-ethnography and visual anthropology (Banks 2001, Pink 2001), and it also draws on actor-network theory (Latour 2005). Finally, with reference to the empirical findings presented, the paper suggests a reflective designing strategy for organizational and educative learning environments (see figure 1). A strategy promising for subject areas such as e.g. group formation processes, management and teamwork.
Cal07 Development, Disruption and Debate: D3, 2007
Main Research Area:
CAL '07 Development, Disruption and Debate: D<sup>3</sup>., 2007