Dear Mr. Bainbridge,
After reading your article about the potential for scientific research in virtual worlds my mind was opened to this possibility for the first time. Never before have I thought about using virtual worlds to conduct research but after using Second Life for a couple of weeks now I can see that your idea is quite feasible. I even believe that using virtual worlds such as SL and World of Warcraft can make participating in research projects more attractive to possible subjects. They would be more willing to expound on certain issues because a virtual world is more anonymous if for the only reason that there is no face-to-face interaction.
I agree with your point that doing research in virtual worlds allows data to be more accurate. It’s easier to survey or study a larger number of people in a virtual world because communication with thousands of people can be instantaneous. Feedback is almost immediate and the most important part is that reaching people across many different backgrounds and physical locations is relatively easy.
The challenges you state do seem real and I agree that even though being able to reach thousands is a good thing it can also complicate methods and might cause projects to run longer since more data would have to be analyzed. It’s also interesting how you state that university researchers are not flocking to these sites initially. Like with any new technology, the prospective user always seems to be hesitant at committing to something new. And when money is on the line and time is critical, wasting any resources on learning a new procedure can be costly.
There is a great foundation, though, if what you presented and I believe that research and learning will become apart of virtual worlds just like texting has become synonymous with having a cell phone.