Monday, February 28, 2011

Second Life: Conclusions to the study

Now as my thesis draws to a close I wanted to post some important conclusions to the thesis. This is partially because in academic life our ideas are likely to be snapped up by others and are at risk of losing their origins. So here they are:

· Idealized concepts of ‘community’ and the ‘virtual’ construct an idea of interaction that does not fully accommodate the reality of order in that setting. This opens up a point of departure where interaction can be studied as a unique order that is not governed by virtual rules.

· The difference between rules and order is one that takes into account the strong and weak classifications systems of social life (Bernstein 1996). In making this distinction, the study poses a method that separates ‘following rules’ of online settings from more pragmatic forms of interaction which are found to be common sense. This is an important point that shows rules do not determine ‘how’ or ‘what’ something is used for; rather, it illustrates a case for pointing out participants’ roles in making things real through systems of interaction, in spite of their presence in a digital form.

· Following from the previous point, membership roles in Second Life illustrated complexities about performing ‘real’ systems in digital settings. The ways in which the social space was organized to accommodate fluid and logical interaction was constructed differently. In this regard, participants had to work at overcoming aspects of the technology that impeded interaction systems. To maintain logic in conversations, participants needed to metaphorically build boundaries around conversations in public space (see Goffman’s party wall in Chapter Five). These boundaries were implicitly built into conversation to demonstrate to others the public or private nature of any given interaction. This performance was important as it showed how participants were active in the maintenance of logic; this also implied their knowledge of the interaction system at hand.

·Lastly, despite an implied knowledge of the interaction order, the constancy of such systems seems to vary in degrees over time. This was demonstrated by the indexicality involved in conversations that involved implied meanings. Such meanings are carried between participants as knowledge of the social environment. This problem made it difficult for membership of Second Life to be periodic, and required a commitment to regularity. The use of indexicality ensured participants held implied knowledge about each other that could be used in future interactions. Periodic investment into Second Life jeopardizes this knowledge as it limits the potential for building knowledge from previous interaction between participants. For this reason, it is in their best interest for a participant to maintain a regular level of involvement in Second Life that includes social and interactional contact with others.