Brian Keegan presented on behalf of the Virtual World Observatory’s gold farming team at the 2011 AAAI International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media (ICWSM). A copy of the paper titled “Trust Amongst Rogues? A Hypergraph Approach for Comparing Clandestine Trust Networks in MMOGs” can be found here and the accompanying slides can be found here. The abstract:
Gold farming and real money trade refer to a set of illicit practices in massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) whereby players accumulate virtual resources to sell for ―real world‖ money. Prior work has examined trade relationships formed by gold farmers but not the trust relationships which exist between members of these organizations. We adopt a hypergraph approach to model the multi-modal relationships of gold farmers granting other players permission to use and modify objects they own. We argue these permissions reflect underlying trust relationships which can be analyzed using network analysis methods. We compare farmers’ trust networks to the trust networks of both unidentified farmers and typical players. Our results demonstrate that gold farmers’ networks are different from trust networks of normal players whereby farmers trust highly-central non-farmer players but not each other. These findings have implications for augmenting detection methods and re-evaluating theories of clandestine behavior.
A video of Brian Keegan’s presentation of the “Computational Social Science of Clandestine Organizations” at the Web Science 2011 conference is available online: http://videolectures.net/acmwebsci2011_keegan_intersection/
A paper authored by members of the Virtual Worlds Observatory team including Brian Keegan, Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad, Dmitri Williams, Jaideep Srivastava, and Noshir Contractor won a best paper at the 2011 ACM Web Science conference. The paper is titled “Sic Transit Gloria Mundi Virtuali? Promise and Peril at the Intersection of Computational Social Science and Online Clandestine Organizations.”
Massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) maintain archival databases of all player actions and attributes including activity by accounts engaged in illicit behavior. If individuals in online worlds operate under similar social and psychological motivations and constraints as the offline world, online behavioral data could inform theories about offline behavior. We examine high risk trading relationships in a MMOG to illuminate the structures online clandestine organizations employ to balance security with efficiency and compare this to an offline drug trafficking network. This data offers the possibility of performing social research on a scale that would be unethical or impracticable to do in the offline world.However, analyzing and generalizing from clandestine behavior in online settings raises complex epistemological and methodological questions about the validity of such mappings and what methods and metrics are appropriate in these contexts. We conclude by discussing how computational social science can be applied to online and offline criminological concerns and highlight the “dual use” implications of these technologies.