Category Archives: Virtual Worlds

Netnography: Doing Ethnographic Research Online-Info, Free Book Chapters, and More

Netnography: Doing Ethnographic Research OnlineHey everyone. The long-awaited (for me at least) Netnography book is actually, really, being printed by Sage this week, in New Delhi, I think. The presses are rolling, the drums of ink are being loaded, the dead trees are being slapped to produce pages, and out will emerge…the book. The first book, ever, in the history of the world, on netnography. Yeah. I’m kind of excited-can you tell?

Although the book has been available for pre-order from Amazon for a while now (Netnography: Doing Ethnographic Research Online), this week, Sage put up the information about the book, and some nice bonus materials.

Here is the link to that page, but read on, cuz I’ve got a pretty nice surprise for you at the end of this post.

Here comes the official “blurb” of the book which I wrote, along with some of my own commentary and filling-in-the-blanks kinda stuff (you already know that I like to do that on this blog, don’t you?).

So I start the thing with the cheap persuasion trick of telling people just how darn important this phenomenon of online communities really is (like, is there anyone out there who still thinks the Internet is “just a fad”? believe me, I heard this much more than you might think when I started out).

“With as many as 1 billion people now using online communities such as newsgroups [that’s where it all began], blogs [remember when they were the latest thing?], forums [what’s the difference between a forum and a newsgroup? don’t know? Buy the Book!], social networking sites[i.e., Facebook and Orkut and a few others, since MySpace appears to be on life support], podcasting, videocasting [YouTubing], photosharing communities [we can’t forget Flickr], and virtual worlds [is Second Life making a comeback? and, hey, are all these parenthetical comments starting to drive you crazy yet?], the internet is now an important site for research.”

Yes, that’s the big idea. If the Internet is changing our life, then being able to use new tools to study that change is going to be very important to research and researchers. Not just marketer researchers or consumer researchers. ALL social science researchers who treat topics that are affected by these technologies.

”This exciting [at least, exciting for me] new text is the first to explore the discipline of ‘Netnography’ – the conduct of ethnography over the internet [now how’s that for a concise definition]- a method specifically designed to study cultures and communities online. For the first time [you read it here first folk, for the very first time], full procedural guidelines for the accurate and ethical conduct of ethnographic research online are set out, with detailed, step-by-step guidance to thoroughly introduce, explain, and illustrate the method to students and researchers [and, no, I didn’t think of titleing it “Netnography for Dummies”, but I did try to keep it straightforward, easy to follow, and simple, for the most part].

The author [that’s me!] also surveys the latest research on online cultures and communities [think of that as bonus material, and you can have it for free…see below], focusing on the methods used to study them, with examples focusing on the new elements and contingencies of the blogosphere (blogging), microblogging [Tweet, Tweet], videocasting, podcasting, social networking sites [there’s that Facebook stuff again], virtual worlds, and more. [So a key differentiator for this book is that it is totally up to date with all the changes on the Internet. In the past, netnography told a lot about how to do research on newsgroups, but it wasn’t very explicit about how to use it to research Facebook, Second Life, YouTube, and so on. Although I could write a book about each of those topics, this version at least mentions and includes netnography that uses all the latest tools and social media techniques that people are using to connect. It’s current. At least, for the next ten minutes it is ;-) ]

This book will be essential reading [that’s what I’m hoping, anyways] for researchers [scholars, market researchers, even bloggers who love to do research] and students in social sciences such as anthropology, sociology, marketing and consumer research [well, in my classes, for sure], organization and management studies, and cultural and media studies.”

So, that’s the blurb, with my blah-blah inserted into the blurb so that it’s now a blah-blah blurb. Try saying that ten times fast with your mouth full of crackers.

Okay, if you’ve made it this far, you deserve a reward and here it is.

Sage is also giving away the first two chapters of the book, to try and whet your appetite for more. The first chapter is a good solid introduction to the topic that answers some basic questions about what netnography is and why we need it. It defines some key but sticky terms like online community and cyberculture. It also tells you, in summary fashion, what is in the rest of the book so that you can get an idea about how the book is put together.

If you want Chapter 1 all to yourself, you can download a pdf of it by just clicking here.

But, wait, there’s more.

In their generosity (and, perhaps, their estimation of its worth), Sage has decided to share not just the blurb, not just the book title, not just Chapter One, oh no, but also Chapter Two with all of you.

And Chapter Two is really something. Chapter Two has a lot of good, useful stuff about theories that talk about Online Communities and Cultures. Oh, Chapter Two took me a lot of time. I worked, I sweated. People, I slaved over Chapter Two. I cannot believe that they are giving it away (have I been studying Stephen Brown’s rhetorical style a little bit too closely, do you think?). Chapter Two overviews many existing theories that help us to understand what is happening with online cultures and communities. It gives facts, figures, statistics, and it has a wealth of definition and theory. Giving it away? With all due respect to Chris Anderson, that’s an outrage. Chapter Two will boost your knowledge of this important, growing area. It will allow you to beat out your friends and colleagues in social media knowledge. It will give you not only classic theories but totally new and updated theories.

Yes, you read that right. Do you remember the old tourist, mingler, devotee insider classic of Kozinets (1999)? You must remember it? No? You don’t? Well, it’s pretty well known, sort of. Well, that theory is completely, totally updated. Revamped. Overhauled. Freshened. Brightened. Some of the terms (I won’t tell you which one—tourist—oops) are completely terminated. Executed without mercy. And there are new terms, new moving parts, innovative and world-broadening extensions to the theory that are included. And new theories on top of that. Exciting, thrilling new theories, yes indeed.

And they’re all yours, right now, absolutely free.

Can you imagine that?

All you need to do ladies and gentlemen is to click on this link right here and the gem that is Chapter Two will be yours to read, to enjoy, to cherish, and of course to CITE LIKE CRAZY in your own research forever.

And now, the Grand Finale. The moment you’ve been waiting for.

Can you believe there is anything else? No? You can’t? You must have a serious trust problem, then.

Because there is.

I just got the email today from Harriet Baulcombe at Sage. And I’ll paraphrase here what she just wrote to me (when you read this, please try to read it in an upper crust British accent, as that’s how I always read my letters from Sage, as they all come from London):

“I am writing to let you know about a new type of promotion that we will be running for your book in January. In the last couple of months we have incorporated Google books into our website, so from just before publication onwards, visitors to the site have the option to search inside the book in addition to downloading a pdf of a selected sample chapter. You can already see an example on our website. Usually, we restrict the view of the book in Google books so that visitors to the site (or to the Google books site) can view no more than 20% of the book. However, what we are planning for your book, for January only, is to make 100% of the book free to view via Google books. As soon as the book is released, at the end of January, we will switch the restriction back on.”

Yes, you read that right, it sounds like they are planning on GIVING AWAY MY BOOK FOR FREE. That’s a pretty big promotion, and a pretty big leap for an established book publisher to make.

Yep, lucky, lucky you.

You will get a chance to read Netnography: The Book online before it is released. Probably about the 7th of January (I’ll let you know—but of course, you knew that already). On Google Books. What could be cooler (uh, probably a lot of things…)?

The book is due to be released at the end of January, and at the point, the free Google Books access to the book will end. Oh, sad, sad day.

But by then, you will be hopelessly addicted to it. Wildly dependent on it. You simply won’t be able to live without it. Right? (Why not order your copy of Netnography: Doing Ethnographic Research Online now, in advance, so you won’t have to bear the agonizing line up, all dejected and withdrawal-shaken, putting yourself through that Harry Potter-like queue on that January release date?). Blog this, Facebook and Tweet it. Tell the world, people, tell the world!

Okay, enough incredible news. You’ve got two book chapters to read. Get busy.

Resources for Netnographers: A Book Section, and a Wiki (I Need Your Help)

Hello, Everyone. I know it’s a little late, but I still want to wish each one of you a very happy, healthy, and prosperous 2009. Let’s hope together that this is a good year for all of us.

I’m back, after a long, busy absence. As I wrote about in a former entry, I agreed to write a book about the netnographic approach for Sage’s Research Methods series. The book is well in progress now, but, man, is writing a book ever a lot of work. I feel like I’m writing the equivalent of an article a day.

Okay. Enough wingeing (that’s Aussie for complaining….).

It’s also awesome fun, though. I really like the idea of writing and knowing that my words are going to survive the review process and emerge intact at the other end. We’ll see. I guess that’s why I enjoy keeping this blog so much. It’s guaranteed.

I recently wrote a section about connecting with others who are doing netnographic or online ethnographic work. I thought it would be entirely appropriate to share a little bit of that section with my blog readers, and to ask for your input. I’m also hoping we can get together a mailing list of scholars and research work in this area soon. So we can all “Click Together,” you know?

What I’ve managed to collect so far is: (1) a list of different communities of scholars interested in substantial issues surrounding online communities and cultures, (2) a list of different journals that publish this sort of work, and (3) a list of academic centers where this sort of work is undertaken.

I’m sure I missed a lot of different collections of scholars (including the recent Netnography groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, which are going strong thanks to Pablo–and maybe will form the basis of that global netnographer mailing list I’ve been hoping to start). And also journals, and academic thought centers. Some of these links may even be dead already, or organizations disbanded. I’ve been so buried in my writing I haven’t had a chance to check them all out yet.

I’d love for this list to be more comprehensive and up-to-date. I would greatly, greatly appreciate your feedback and
additions. I’m interested in global communities, centers, and journals
, so this list is useful to people from all around the world. Think of this as the “wiki” section of the book, where your contributions will help everyone in the netnography and online community research community.

I’ll check out every suggestion and, hopefully, together we can make this an even more comprehensive and useful list.

If I get some suggestions and can make this more complete, I’ll republish the list on the blog so we can more widely distribute it.

Here is the section I have been working on:

“Remember that the future value of your new netnographically-derived idea or theory will lie in how broadly and deeply others are able to deploy it in their own thinking and writing. By connecting your work with a larger frame of reference of scholarly —and even not-so-scholarly — thought, you will not only be building bridges with other related literature in this area, you will also be increasing the chances that your research will impact the way that other thinkers understand the world.

In order to evaluate and extend your theoretical reach, scholars of online cultures and communities will find it very useful to consult past works in related areas and to network with scholars working in these areas. As noted by Silver (2006, p. 2; whose work enormously informed this listing to this point), scholars of online communities and cultures or “Internet studies” now have the benefit of drawing upon “a community of scholars; conferences and symposia; journals, journal articles, anthologies, monographs, and textbooks; university courses, common curriculum, and majors; theses and dissertations; theories and methodologies; and academic centers.”

DIFFERENT COMMUNITIES OF SCHOLARS INTERESTED IN THE SOCIAL POLITICAL AND
CULTURAL ELEMENTS OF THE INTERNET, NEW MEDIA, AND GAME STUDIES

JOURNALS DIRECTLY RELEVANT TO SUBSTANTIATIVE AND METHODOLOGICAL ISSUES
PERTAINING TO THE INTERNET, INCLUDING ONLINE CULTURES AND COMMUNITIES


ACADEMIC CENTERS FOR CYBERCULTURE STUDIES
(I will fill in the missing URLs a
little later)

EUROPE

* International Center for New Media (Austria; http://
* Center for Computer Games Research (Denmark; http://
* Oxford Internet Institute (Great Britain; http://
* Institute of Network Cultures (Netherlands; http://
* GOvCOM.ORG (Netherlands; http://

ASIA & OCEANIA

* fibreculture (Australia; http://
* Singapore Internet Research Center (http://

USA

* Berglund Center for Internet Studies (Pacific University, USA;
* Center for Digital Discourse and Culture (Virginia Tech; http://
* Center for Women and Information Technology (University of Maryland, Baltimore
County, USA; http://
* Internet Studies Center (University of Minnesota, USA; http://
* Institute for New Media Studies (http://
* Resource Center for Cyberculture Studies (University of Washington, USA;
http://

Thanks in advance for any assistance you can offer with this! And thanks also for sticking around through those long gaps. The Brandthroposophy blog is getting more hits than ever before. I’m amazed and humbled by the response of readers like you.

How and Why Online Consumers Get Creative, and Why It Matters: A New Article With a Set of Frameworks

C3PONo, this is definitely not Andrea Hemetsberger pictured here. In my last blog posting, I wrote about Andrea Hemetsberger and the rest of the faculty at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. Andrea and I have been talking about our research interests for at least 5 years, planning various projects that are now beginning to come to fruition.

“But what does this have to do with everyone’s favorite golden gleaming android and authority on human-cyborg relations,” you may ask, fanboys and fangirls? You’re going to have to read on….

Last year at the European Association for Consumer Research meeting in Milan, Italy, Andrea and I presented a paper we were working on that offered a typology of the way online consumers create in communities. We were working at that time with a number of different ideas, but were trying to organize some of the key terms and research findings in the area of open source and creative consumer online communities, such as those I’ve studied in the areas of fandom and entertainment, food, and automotive products. We ended up with a presentation based around a 2 X 2 matrix that captured some of the key elements of creative online communities.

We’re seriously lacking in terminology for this new and growing field. There are too many words in some of these terms. So at least for today I’m calling them…..C3PO: Creative Consumer Communities (3 C-words) Producing Online.

After we had presented, we began talking with Hope Schau of the University of Arizona. Hope has been working in areas of online consumption and online creativity for all her career. She had lots of great insight and examples to contribute.

My Schulich colleague Detlev Zwick was co-editing a special issue of the Journal of Macromarketing about ICT: Information and Communication Technologies. He and his co-editor Nik Dholakia invited us to contribute something and we thought immediately of building the C3PO typology. And then we thought about collaborating with Hope and building an article out of it.

As the paper moved through the revision process, it gained a lot from the contact with the Journal of Macromarketing. The journal, if you aren’t familiar with it, says that it “examines important social issues, how they are affected by marketing, and how society influences the conduct of marketing. The journal typically concentrates on these topics:

  • How markets and marketing systems operate
  • Classical and nontraditional examinations of the role of marketing in socio-economic development
  • The origins, growth, and development of marketing history as an activity and marketing thought
  • The marketing of products, services, or programs to enhance the quality of life for consumers, households, communities, countries, and regions
  • Explanatory theory, empirical studies, or methodological treatment of tests for topics of greatest interest to macromarketing scholars, including competition and markets, history, globalization, the environment, socio-economic development, ethics and distributive justice, and quality of life.”

This orientation is quite unique, and it means that the journal published papers that broaden market out to its social implications-offering an interesting sociological and macroeconomic spin on marketing topics.

The article we wrote, and just published in the December 2008 issue offers up a way to understand how online technologies help to spur different types of online community innovation (and yes, I’ll say it again, just for the fun of it, C3PO).

Here is an extended abstract for the article.

If you look at past theories of consumer innovation and creativity, you will find that they have been devised for an age before the emergence of the profound collaborative possibilities of ICT. With the diffusion of networking technologies into consumers’ lives, collective innovation is taking on new forms that are transforming the nature of consumption and work and, with it, society and marketing.

In this article, Andrea, Hope and I theorize, examine, dimensionalize and organize these forms and processes of online collective consumer innovation. We look at Manuel Castells’ ideas and theories of informationalism, and extend them. Then, we follow this macro-social paradigm shift into grassroots regions that have irrevocable impacts on businesses and society.

A central proposal in the paper is that, in this early and initial phase of our understanding of this phenomenon, business and society need categories and procedures to guide their interactions with this powerful and growing phenomenon. That’s how theoretical understanding will move forward.

To serve these needs, we build on past literature and terminology, and also broaden and open up some definitions of our own. We classify and describe four types of online creative Crowds, Hives, Mobs and Swarmsconsumer communities-Crowds, Hives, Mobs, and Swarms.

  • Crowds are large, organized groups who gather or are gathered together specifically to plan, manage, and/or complete particular tractable and well defined projects, such as those who will gather to compete for a million dollars in this year’s Crash the Superbowl ad content, or to get paid more than professional designers to create T-shirts for Threadless
  • Hives are online communities whose members contribute a relatively greater amount to the community, but who also produce innovations specifically to respond to particular challenges or to meet particular project goals such as those at Niketalk or casemodder.de
  • Mobs are communities based around the contributions of specialists who speak to a relatively homogenous affinity or interest groups, and whose contributions are oriented to a communo-ludic spirit of communal play and lifestyle exchange. An example would be the individuals who create, contribute to, and maintain alt.coffee, or the Huffington Post, or the Slave to Target blog
  • Swarms are the often large and multitudinous communities that produce individually small individual contributions that occur as a part of more natural or free-flowing cultural or communal practices, such as the typical Web 2.0 communities working to benefit Amazon, Flickr, Wikipedia or Netflix

Our conclusion is that there are a variety of In the age of online communities, collective innovation is produced both as an aggregated byproduct of everyday information consumption and as a result of the efforts of talented and motivated group of innovative etribes. Marketers and social pundits need to make distinctions, stratetize, plan and draw conclusions accordingly.

The full article is available free to my blog readers using this link to the “Wisdom of Consumer Crowds: A Journal of Macromarketing Article.”

Sage Seals the Deal!

 

The ink is, literally, just drying on the contract.

A little while ago, a senior editor at Sage publications, approached me about writing a Sage Research Methods book specifically devoted to netnography, the conduct of online anthropology. I thought it was a great idea, and enthusiastically began developing the outline for the book. That outline proposal went through a quick and careful review at Sage, resulting in some useful comments and suggestions. I incorporated them into a revised plan, and now we’ve got a signed deal.

I’m delighted to be working on this book for the esteemed Sage Research Methods series.

Here is a little overview of the book, and I’m sure I’ll be providing more information about it as I write it and we get closer to publication.

“Netnography: Researching Cultures and Communities Online” is going to be a methodological primer on a (relatively) new (yet established!) research technique: “netnography.” Netnography is a qualitative, interpretive, contextual research methodology that adapts the traditional, in-person ethnographic research techniques of anthropology to the study of the online cultures and communities formed through computer-mediated communications (“CMC”).

The Sage Research Methods book will thoroughly introduce, explain, and illustrate the method of netnography to interested scholars and other researchers. The book is needed because there are currently no other books that fill this void. With a history stretching back over twelve years in consumer and marketing research, netnography has been widely accepted by these constituents in this field of research. Netnography therefore differs from past qualitative Internet research techniques in that it offers, under the rubric of a single term, a rigorous set of guidelines for the conduct of online ethnographic research.

The overarching justification for the book is that netnography is an important and distinct technique and compares favorably with other research methods. The distinctive feature of netnography is that it combines the contextual strengths of ethnography with the reach and accessibility of Internet-based research techniques.

The technique has been well received within the fields of marketing and consumer research, and has begun to spread to other fields with recent publications in sociology, game studies, travel, cultural studies journals. The intention of this book is to broaden the reach of this methodology, offering and explaining it to scholars across a range of academic disciplines, as well as to continue to systematize and develop the approach.

The book will achieve its objective of introducing, explaining, and illustrating the method of netnography by offering a structure that initially overviews the history and explains the importance of online culture and community. The next parts of the book present and summarize various approaches to performing research online, and introduce and detail the method of netnography. Netnographic procedures are illustrated with a range of examples from published and ongoing research across a variety of fields, and in a variety of international contexts. The book will be written for a global audience of interested students, scholars, and researchers from any social scientific field that might include qualitative data analysis in its research.

The book concludes with a discussion of the ways netnography has already been adapted and altered, a presentation of the multifarious ways that the online space of culture and community is currently changing, and a discussion about how the method can be further adapted by individual researchers and teams to realize its full potential in this rapidly changing research environment.

In summary, this book will introduce the method of netnography, explain it and illustrate it. In so doing, it will also help to provide an organizing frame around the conduct of online research attuned to its cultural qualities. The book will provide guidelines for a rigorous application of Internet research methodology for social scientists across many disciplines, including sociology, anthropology, cultural studies, business and marketing.

The book is scheduled for release in late 2009.

The ACP Virtual Worlds Conference in Philly

Well that’s enough book promotions and griping about bad service for a while. I promise. I want to get back to the focal concern of this blog, and that’s exploring the interface between business and academic research as it pertains to online communities, technology, and entertainment,

I’m in Boston today at a retreat for the Convergence Culture Consortium’s partners at MIT. Writing this from my hotel in Cambridge. We’re going to have a very full agenda that combines academics with businesspeople, and these events are always very stimulating and thought provoking. I’ll post an update for you after it’s done and fill you in.

But first I wanted to provide a little update on a wonderful conference I attended lat week on May 1-2 in Philadelphia. It was the 27th Annual Advertising and Consumer Psychology conference on the topic of “Virtual Social Identity and Consumer Behavior.” The conference got a lot of interest and, again, was one of those boundary-spanning events that drew both academics and working practitioners.

Jeremy Bailenson, the director of the Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford talked about how applications of psychology work out in the virtual world of avatars. His work does a lot of testing of different social psych theories of attraction and repulsion. So, for example, tall avatars are liked better and are more popular than short avatars. Better looking avatars also have an easier time. And, using software, if you get an avatar to mimic your own gestures, or to facially resemble you (with a sort of morph), you will like and trust that avatar more. That was pretty cool stuff.

Lyle Wetsch from St John’s Memorial University presented some very promising and intriguing research he’s doing with students on the socialization in Second Life—they are keeping logs of their own socialization experiences as they move into the culture of Second Life. Alison Bryant from Nickelodeon and MTV, and Anna Akerman from Adelphi, presented fascinating work on the match between kids and particular virtual worlds, and how this linked to their stage of cognitive and social development. I’m over-simplifying, but it was sort of like kids begin with Webkinz tamagotchi-like play world, then they move up to Habbo Hotel, then they get into some of the TV properties like Virtual Hills, and then they graduate into places like Second Life and World of Warcraft. A life cycle of virtual world migration.

Rockstar Georgetown marketing professor Gary Bamossy gave a wonderful presentation on the sacred and profane aspects of online game playing in China, based on his research with Jeff Wang and Xin Zhao. And I thought Bill Minnis, from the company & Billion People, gave a really interesting talk about the problems with online retailing and where it would need to go in order to become as popular and as acceptable as physical retailing. He also compared Second Life programming with cave art and Harry Potter—wondering if the “next Harry Potter” would be a virtual world or a game. This comparison of world creation to art creation is very appealing to me, and I think that conceptualizing these sorts of creations as forms of art could be enlightening to our conceptions.

Newcomer Leila El Kamel from the Universite Laval gave a very scholarly and thorough linkage of Metaverses as Consumer Experiences that drew on a lot of interesting and relevant postmodern theory and philosophy. In such new places, we almost need to draw on elements form science fiction (this was a continual theme) and postmodern theory (Leila was one of the only ones to really push this important point).

Lauren, me, and Ereni

I also like newcomers Lauren Labrecque and Ereni Markos presentation on consumption, marketing, and flow in Second Life. Their research explored the implications of marke4ting and brands in Second Life with a number of interesting observations. I also liked that they got theatrical, dressing up in wigs and gloves so that they physically embodied an “avatar-like” presence during their presentation. And, of course, I also loved that they quoted this blog during their presentation. How cool is that? Readers, you are not alone. In fact, this blog is getting some impressive readership now, well over a thousand unique visitors a day, and rising.

Seeing Lauren and Ereni walk in with their wig and costume on while I was presenting (with my co-author Richard Kedzior) was a Burning Man moment for me. It made me remember just how Burning Man Second Life sometimes feels. This Frontier sense and Wild West mentality with different rules, different social structure, a love of technology and technological possibility, a loose feeling of social chaos, of possibility, of anything can happen. Except that I think Second Life’s lack of rules and greater freedom actually makes it a less interesting place than Burning Man. Burning Man has new rules, participative rules, collective identity rules, rules that build community, while Second Life more anarchist approach actually ends up with a more barren, individualistic, predatory feel. Or maybe that’s just because Second Life has become overly commercialized, while Burning Man has kept the black hounds of business at bay….

The best part of the conference was the conversations. One lively discussion was about the future of Virtual Worlds and who to understand them. I made the point that we really don’t have an adequate overview of the different kinds of virtual world marketing elements that are out there yet, and a link to how that relates to our business models. Are they games that are pay-for-play or subscription? Are they advertising, which supports content development? Are they like e-commerce, stores where we buy something online and which replace brick and mortar? Are they add-on services, providing things like customer service or access to a community? Are they themselves a different kind of service, separate from a game, offering some new element to our product? We just don’t know.

There was also a nice set of volleys about whether there is anything really new here at all. Professor Bamossy made some very good points that there wasn’t anything all that theoretically interesting being show here. People were just showing that theories that apply in one domain (like tall people are more successful and more well-liked) also apply in the virtual world domain of perception. Okay, that begs the crucial question: so what? Richard and I had tried to argue that there were key elements of virtual world experience that were actually quite unique. I’ll share those with you another time. But Gary was pretty adamant that we didn’t need new theories to explain how people behaved, even under those new circumstances or contexts, and that the old ones seemed more than capable of doing the job. Goffman explained how people presented themselves in avatars pretty well. Piaget explained the way kids moved through stages. Freud explained why there was so darn much sexual activity in Second Life. This didn’t seem like it was really “new” at all. It’s a very interesting and important point, and certainly in a half-hour of discussion we only got to dig underneath the surface level just a bit. But that’s what these conferences are great for.

On the plane ride home, I began to sketch out a way to understand and focus our attention on virtual worlds, to organize what is still, in a lot of ways, the Wild Untamed West for Consumption and Marketing Theory and for Business Practice.

So thanks to Natalie Wood and Mike Solomon of Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia for co-chairing and organizing such a stimulating and exciting conference. I think the ripples from this conference will continue to spread and build into many worthwhile contributions to our growing knowledge of this fascinating development of virtual world.