Learning and Research in Virtual Worlds

Learning and Research in Virtual Worlds

Learning and Research in Virtual Worlds

Learning and Research in Virtual Worlds


Virtual worlds are places where humans interact, and as such they can be environments for research and learning. However, they are complex and mutable in ways that more controlled and traditional environments are not. Although computer-mediated, virtual worlds are multifaceted social systems like the offline world, and choosing to study virtual world phenomena demands as much consideration for the participants, the environment and the researcher as offline.

By exploring virtual worlds as places of research and learning, the international practitioners in this book demonstrate the power of these worlds to replicate and extend our arenas of research and learning. They focus on process and outcomes and consider questions that arise from engaging in teaching and research in these spaces, including new approaches to research ethics, internationalization, localization, and collaboration in virtual worlds.

This book was originally published as a special issue of Learning, Media & Technology.


Jeremy Hunsinger and Aleks Krotoski

The development process behind this book began as a special issue for the journal Learning, Media, & Technology half a decade ago. Aleks Krotoski and Jeremy Hunsinger were both PhD students at the time, in two different countries, both using Linden Labs’ Second Life as a field of study. However, the pair quickly realised that they approached it in very different ways and with very different objectives: Aleks was tracking the flows of social influence through its online friendship networks, while Jeremy was investigating the politics of knowledge of the internet. Despite the differences in their lines of enquiry, through occasional encounters in person and online, they discovered several unanticipated crossovers between their work that stretched beyond the environment in which they set their academic activity. They realised that this digital community – and similar others – offered different things to different scholars, but there were commonalities they observed across both the learning and research fields that would be useful for people also exploring these spaces for fieldwork. Combining their common interests, they decided to bring together the growing body of practitioners who were flocking to this and other online environments in virtual and meatspace forums.

To explore the possibilities devised by this contemporary research community, Jeremy and Aleks created the Learning and Research in Second Life workshop series, supported by Linden Lab and held at Internet Research 8.0: Let’s Play in Vancouver, Canada. John Lester, the Linden Lab Education liaison known within Second Life as Pathfinder Linden, supported the workshop in person by giving the keynote for the workshops. the series continues today, adapting to new technological functionalities and interests built upon the current literature, and Jeremy and Aleks have been honoured to offer the organisation responsibilities to the next generation of scholars who bring new perspectives. They would like to thank the participants, organisers or producers who have contributed to the discourse over the years, and whose work has been published in this volume.

Virtual worlds are persistent, shared, online computer-mediated spaces where people collaborate to perform a wide variety of tasks. the environments can be 2- or 3dimensional and can adhere to a limitless number of fantasies depending on the (personal or commercial) interests of the designers. the worlds that they comprise can be . . .

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