Summary of discussion 7.2.2008 ‘Researching Second Life’ seminar, London Knowledge Lab
Participants listed above
Summary based on Martin’s notes

Defining Second Life
Topic: How should Second Life be defined? What are the disciplinary, conceptual and methodological ramifications of this definition?
As a tool/stage/toolset
Related to but different from games, which has ramifications for policy (see PC and CG’s position statement)
Dominance of cognition
Different theoretical frameworks construct 2L differently (and the tensions this creates)
A tool, a text or a site of embodiment?
Controlling (experimenting with) identity
Internet, moos, muve…
As researchers from different disciplines we’re each pointing a ‘narrow torch’ on something that can be defined in different ways
Not just the Linden Lab environment but the user-created tools (‘meta-tools’)
Economic or political expression, ownership (comparisons with Facebook)
Regulatory framework
Maybe it looks like a social network, but it is actually not (instead, it has social channels)

Defining Learning
Topic: How do we know learning when we see it? Does learning only count when we can measure it? Is there life beyond ‘assessment-based’ models of learning?

Defining learning
– Formative feedback
– Assessment
– Jonassen’s web of constructivism
– Smooth curricula and disregarded knowledge (see M.S-B’s position statement at the blog)
– Special considerations with minors
– More formal than games
– Situated learning, constructivism & social negotiation of meaning, belonging & identity
– Mix of fantasy & reality
We might all agree that it is a given that learning is taking place, but we also might need to have a way to argue this across interest groups/policy makers, etc.
Holism (learning as an affective, social, cognitive, abstract, concrete, etc.)
Tacit, etc – and the problems that this might raise in terms of assessment or claiming credit
Specialist languages (as per Gee) and role (educational drama and role play)
Learning happens here, but so what? It’s more important to ask what can be done with it and what it means (the question of transference).
It might be easier to demonstrate learning happens with a few concrete examples
There’s a lot of social learning, etc, but there are questions about whether these things change what happens in other settings (situative)
Interest in the boundaries and transitions, but missing a set of tools that enable you to spot new things
Reflection as an important mechanism here?
Failure valued as development
What specific things are you learning?

Literature reviewing
Topic: Is the attention directed at Second Life resulting in the emergence of a compelling body of research? What previous research/fields do researchers ignore at their peril?

Dangers of talking past each other
Diversity of positions vs. coherence
Reinventing the wheel
Does it matter?
Learning by design; Computer Supported Collaborative Work; organisational theory (from Business)
Is this similar to the problem that led to the emergence of Game Studies?
Is it all just tools for particular jobs? (if it’s all bounded, why is this a problem?)
Relationship across related disciplinary ‘zones’ (e.g. art & design, architecture, engineering…
The “glass bead game”
A provocative immaturity, but with times walls and boundaries will emerge
Something will emerge, but it might be rubbish
Danger of terms and concepts being appropriated across fields and disciplines without appreciation of their meaning / baggage / discipline / etc
Declaring a term as a neologism when its actually been around for a decade.
Is there a need for a central location or focus where this stuff can start to be drawn together?
Balancing the breadth of claims (this world, all immersive virtual worlds?) with the risk of fragmentation / loss of coherence (is Second Life “special”?)
What are the research questions that happen to invoke Second Life? (Should we abandon looking at the categories and look instead at problems?)
This isn’t necessarily a continuum – sometimes it’s time to split
If we acknowledge such continuums, what, – if anything – could we say to policy makers or educationalists or…? Continuum at what level (genre, structure, methodology)?
Is there or will there be a SL ‘canon’ – is there one in game studies? (votes 1 yes, 2 no)

Research ethics or ‘ethics’ ethics?
Topic: Ethics in relation to privacy, teaching, research practice and priorities, documentation, observation, methodology, culture, policy – and Second Life

Risk aversion can arise because people don’t understand what people are proposing to do (and some people don’t care and consider it trivial so aren’t willing to spend time on this)
No-one says we shouldn’t do ethical research, but it’s a case of who gets to make certain things conventional (cultural constructions of ethics)
What’s the relationship between things generated for teaching and things that get turned into data?
Are there differences between real life data and data collected from Second Life?
Even if this process is hard or unreasonable, at least it might make you think about things more
How should we distinguish between private and public virtual spaces?
When we become aware of issues, does it become our duty to make this a wider issue (e.g. raise it with others)?
To make sense of the issues there is a need to distinguish between legal ethics (what institutions focus on), moral ethics (our integrity) and what we can get away with (!!).
McFarlane’s ‘being a virtuous researcher’
Motivations and vested interests (from who funded the research through to personal reputations)
Cultural specificity v universality
Privacy (expectations of)
End user licences, derivative works, service agreements – what’s prohibited? (e.g. Linden Labs used to demand that you get written permission from them to do research)
Is there a need for the development of basic etiquette guides for people preparing to teach (and research?) in Second Life – some are already online, but they are not specific to our needs.
The recent JISC project will generate user guides.
Is there a need to disaggregate into (say) intellectual property, morality, etc.
Negotiating ownership (of places, buildings, or images)
Seeking consent is not the same as assuming subjects are hostile to research.
Lots of people are happy to contribute to research (as interviewees etc.)
Ethics in relation to agency – the subject-as-participant (various methodological precedents for this).
Internet research guidelines (Bruckman, Ess and the AOIR) as a resource/relevance to SL