Brian Keegan presented Virtual World Observatory research at the ACM Web Science and AAAI International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media (ICWSM) this summer. Video lectures of these presentations and the slide decks are now available:
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.
June 3rd, Dr. Yun Huang presented the paper “Distance Matters: Exploring Proximity and Homophily in a Virtual World” co-authored with Cuihua Shen and Noshir Contractor in the First International Conference of Theory and Applications of Social Networks at Austin, Texas. This study analyzes the impacts of distance, time zones, players’ gender, age, and game age on relation building in virtual worlds. The results show that spatial proximity, temporal proximity, and homophily in age and game age have strong impacts on players’ behavior in creating online relations in EverQuest II.
Recent research by SONIC undergraduate Nick Merrill and graduate student Brooke Foucault demonstrates that social status within a Second Life group is positively correlated with the donation of in-game resources to one’s group. In Second Life, in-game resources can be traded for real-world money, so this finding indicates that an avatar’s social standing among virtual friends may be strong enough to spur sacrifices in the player’s real-life bank account. Overall, this research shows that traditional models of social giving and altruism may hold in a virtual-world context.
The paper will be presented at the NCA Conference in November.
Make sure to pick up the Spring issue of the ACM XRDS magazine featuring an article “What can gold farmers teach us about criminal networks?” written by members of the VWO team!