Academic Second Life Studies

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This article is obsolete, but kept as a historical record. Do not rely on this information in any way. However, it may be used in the future, so please do not delete or modify.

Journals and Study lists

Journal of Virtual World Research

This is a peer-reviewed online Journal for research on virtual worlds, launched in July 2008.

Research Papers about Virtual Worlds on SocialNets

This page aggregates research on social networks and has many papers on Second Life.

Index to other research sites, many of which focus on Second Life and virtual worlds VW Theory/Research

Studies on Presence and Engagement

Digital media allows us to make both dramatic and subtle changes to our selfrepresentations with an ease not available elsewhere. These changes can greatly affect how we interact with others in virtual environments. In addition to gaining social advantages, our avatars (digital representations of ourselves) can also change how we behave. This occurs via conforming to expected behaviors of the avatar - a process referred to as the Proteus Effect. This disseration discussions 4 pilot studies to elucidate the Proteus effect, then two research projects to understand the mechanisms causing the Proteus effect.

In an observational study of Second Life, a virtual community, we collected data from avatars in order to explore whether social norms of gender, interpersonal distance (IPD), and eye gaze transfer into virtual environments even though the modality of movement is entirely different (i.e., via keyboard and mouse as opposed to eyes and legs). Our results showed that established findings of IPD and eye gaze transfer into virtual environments: 1) Malemale dyads have larger IPDs than female-female dyads, 2) male-male dyads maintain less eye contact than female-female dyads, and 3) decreases in IPD are compensated with gaze avoidance as predicted by the Equilibrium Theory (Argyle, 1988).

Use of Second Life in Border Guard training resulted in 28% higher score in interview skills test compared to existing testing.

This slide presentation looks at engagement in distance education and the unique capabilities of Second Life to provide self-disclosure and bonding; shared, enjoyable experiences; shared public spaces; and mutual respect for differences to create a sense of community that enhances engagement.

Research on engagement in accounting classes led to support for two of their 4 hypotheses about use of Second Life to increase engagement and partial support for 2 additional hypotheses.

Other Studies


  • Adoption of the Immersive Internet for work is still in the “seedling” stage. We expect adoption will progress rapidly toward mainstream during the next five years because:
  • A slow economy and the green movement are influencing business decisions
  • Early case studies demonstrate return on investment
  • We live in a video game culture
  • Large business technology vendors are jumping into the fray
  • Hardware, software, and networking technology have advanced rapidly
  • Social networking is a way of life, allowing advocates and implementers to find each other

This is a for-fee document (US$279). Michelin Group's enterprise architecture group has begun training IT application delivery professionals (e.g., developers, architects, and infrastructure, security, and integration professionals) on complex concepts using the Second Life virtual world. Trainees participate in both traditional presentation-style learning and interactive hands-on exercises. While it's still early, so far all signs point to success. Early participants in the program have shown that it doesn't take long to learn to use the environment, visualizing complex concepts makes them easier to understand, and the immersive experience helps increase their engagement in the learning process.

The Internet and new social-networking technologies are allowing companies and their customers to interact with unprecedented levels of richness. Some leading organizations are using this opportunity to draw customers into the heart of the product-development process. The report focuses on the potential of co-creation to engage virtual world residents with brands. Free but requires registration.

This report (downloadable from their webpage) releases findings that compare player engagement in some of Second Life's most successful user-generated areas compared with some of the more ambitious corporate-sponsored efforts in Second Life. In making these comparisons, particular attention was paid to:

  • Production Quality
  • Publicity and Advertising
  • Social Infrastructure
  • Role of Commerce
  • Population Density

From this analysis, we learned that the top corporate builds are as good as or better than user-created builds in some areas, while lagging behind in other areas. Based on our findings, we offer five insights for the design of future branding and marketing-oriented builds in virtual worlds, such as Second Life. Download the full report, free of charge, to learn more:

This is a masters thesis done during an internship at LogicaCMG in the Netherlands. The focus of this thesis is based on the connection of technology characteristics of virtual worlds and the task characteristics of employees working in an IT services organization. This twofold approach is derived from the central premise of media richness theory: a certain task must fit with a certain technology in order to be effective. This study takes a qualitative research approach, containing two case studies: Second Life as a prominent virtual world technology and LogicaCMG as a typical organization that is required to deal with the identified organizational developments. The Second Life case study was firstly conducted to identify the characteristics of this particular technology. Then, the LogicaCMG user interviews were conducted to identify task characteristics of a group of particular knowledge workers, using the identified categories of the first case study in order to enable and assure that the context of both case studies lie within the same scope of research. After these case studies, a task-technology comparison of the various characteristics took place.

A look at corporate use of Virtual Worlds. This article aims to present playfulness as a distinct quality of virtual worlds, with a culture that is open and collaborative, creative and role-playing, ‘light’ and ‘joyful’. Using the case of Second Life, we explore the multiple difficulties faced by companies when they enter virtual worlds. The causes are linked to the significant differences in business culture and emerging digital cultures. We use the framework of ‘digital neuroses’ to both understand the difficulties and to propose possible coping strategies for businesses in order to discover the full potential of these emerging cultures. We argue that companies can truly benefit from virtual environments if they are open to their cultural codes, eager to understand the behavior of their inhabitants, and are willing to modify their own activities accordingly.

This survey of about 600 Second Life users in the spring of 2007 looks at demographics of Second Life users, usage of Second Life, investment and return from Second Life, attitudes and use of Gambling in Second Life, engagement (behaviors) associated with Second Life, and perception of SL. Several of the questions ask about the impact of Second Life on real-life behaviors. The results are summarized in the Full Paper. James Au's summaryReuters summary

An Explorative Study about Second Life

Our report assesses the user acceptance of Virtual Worlds, specifically Second Life. By means of a survey with almost 250 respondents this report provides first empirical results of the user acceptance of Second Life. The data has been gathered during spring 2007. Our results show that 90% of respondents have less than a year experience, 70% access Second Life from home and 54% with a desktop. There are 67% of respondents who are not afraid of giving personal information. Almost 60% are very likely to buy virtual goods from Second Life, and 42% are willing to use their credit card to purchase on Second Life. About 70% perceive Second Life improves collaboration and communication, and more than 60% perceive that it improves cooperation between people. 56% of respondents perceive Second life as easy to use. Finally, our results indicate that people are using Second Life not to change their identity, but rather to explore and visit new places and meet people.

This study basically says that avatars display the same interpersonal distance characteristics as real people, and similar eye contact. It implies that people treat their avatars as an extension of themselves, not as a puppet or external object.

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