So let’s start this academic blog thing
Hello. I’m starting the blog that should take me through the three years of my PhD in Social Psychology at the University of Surrey in Guildford, UK. I’ve already been “working” on it for six months or so, and therefore I’m hopeful that this blog will only last for another 18 months. We shall see. On the current trajectory, I think I’ll actually be doing this for the remainder of my life, but that’s another story.
In brief, I am examining the social influence processes in social networks, or, the hardware that’s ignored by social psychology and the software that’s ignored by social network analysis. In other words, social psychologists don’t think about the ties between the individuals, and social network analysts don’t think about the psychological influence processes of individuals. Some sociologists have tried, but I haven’t been able to track down any social psychologists who have. That’s where I come in.
I’ll be analysing these things using The Sims Online, a Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG) published by gargantuan games company Electronic Arts. TSO is a remarkable bit of equipment. As with other online games, emerging social systems have changed the nature of gameplay all together, effectively removing the “game” from the equation. Through time, participant action and the underlying tenets of trade, barter and asset accumulation, strange developments have occurred in this online space which make it extremely reflective of offline life. There are politics, criminals (what’s happened to The Sims Mafia page??), scandals and McDonalds hamburgers, plus the other thousands of everyday Joes and Janes who go about their daily lives doing not much but co-existing and making lives for themselves in the digital domain. The Social Life of Virtual Worlds (to be linked very soon) probably explains this better than I can in such a short space.
My reasoning for using this population is that I can measure the perceived social networks and social influence of players through traditional sociometric data collection techniques, and then I can compare them with actual interaction, gathered by the digital traces and transcripts each person leaves behind.
Over the next few years I’ll be using this blog as a receptacle of brain vom. If I find another bit of free software which lets me categorise things, I’ll probably move it there, but until then this is it. Welcome to the Social Sim. I’m happy to have you here.