This paper presents the author's entry into a virtual world, Second Life, to conduct a case study on 'presence in virtual worlds'. The object of study is not the IT platform that might provide opportunities for presence, nor the human actors that might experience presence, but what happens when they come together to create an event of presence. The paper relates how this object of study is approached, and produced, through a series of methods. Methods such as participant observation, interviews, reading of blogs and web texts are understood as mediations. The paper traces how these mediations create specific visibilities, gather appearances together and how they may lead to interest, surprise and new insights into virtual worlds as an emergent, distributed phenomenon. In conclusion, the paper proposes a set of analytical strategies that may improve our understanding of how virtual worlds and their related characteristics continually emerge through a range of differing sites, practices and concerns.
Selected Papers of Internet Research, 2011, p. 1-21