Qualitative research in virtual worlds: some methodological considerations

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Laura Fedeli


The international literature on three-dimensional (3D) multiuser virtual environments clearly highlights the educational potential of current systems.
A number of theoretical and applied studies underline the specific affordances of virtual worlds used as educational technologies.
This paper proposes some reflections on the methodological implications of managing qualitative research activities in the virtual world Second Life. The world was both the object of the study and the setting of the research, involving data gathering techniques such as participant observation, interviews and focus groups.
The experience is compared with three other international research studies run in different virtual worlds, showing how research run in such virtual environments can benefit from “augmented presence” in terms of enhanced power of action by both the researcher and participants.
These studies highlight methodological implications affecting the researcher’s approach, data gathering techniques, and ethical aspects related to identity and protection of privacy.

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