I’ve been pondering how to make research more transparent for a few years now, and I have to say that ever since Vaneeesa put out the idea of using a blog for data collection, I haven’t stopped thinking about it. I’m just not sure how the big bad IRB will see it. After all, they barely knew what SL was when I started my research and in my opinion, I was approved by the skin of teeth (my chair did insist that since I was interviewing avatars, and not humans, I did not require IRB approval, but that’s another story entirely). Basically, before pestering the university IRB with my hippie ideas, I want to hear your thoughts.

From the start, I have been adamant that I DO NOT want this research to be top-down. In other words, I do not believe that the researcher should be locked in his/her study writing about the “outside” world when he/she has zero knowledge of what is going on out there and participants have no idea what is going on in there. While research and crowdsourcing remain antonyms, I know that research could benefit from the latter. Transparency has been advocated for in most qualitative studies, but advocating for transparency is often worlds apart from practicing it. In fact, what is transparency in research, and how can in it be viably achieved to the benefits of participants?

So far, I have only done in-depth one-on-one interviews in SL (about 5). While I have obtained pretty good data so far, the process is a little superficial not to mention artificial) to me – on a day-to-day basis I do not communicate with people in SL in interview mode and the data reflects that. In a comment she made last week, Vaneeesa hinted that I could perhaps post interview transcripts on the blog for all to see. My first question is – if I were to do that (and of course obtain IRB approval prior to doing so), how would you react? Would you agree to have your responses out in public (keep in mind that I am NOT asking you anything personal and if you ever do not want a responses posted, I would delete it). Would you like seeing the responses of your peer?

From my perspective, if I were a participant, I would, in fact, like to see how others experience art in SL. With that said, would you prefer “informal” group discussions either in SL or on a blog to one-on-one interviews where you would only be interacting with me? What I do like about the idea of using the blog for data collection is that it would afford the ability to reflect on our experiences and construct responses on our own terms and time. What do you all think?

I know that many studies on SL have already been done, and I am not claiming (far from it) to be aware of them all or their data collection methods. If you know of, have participated, or conducted any research in SL that you think could be of interest, PLEASE let me know. You can email me anytime at




Author: Kathleen Cool
I am a graduate student studying how people experience informal education, particularly art, in virtual worlds such as Second Life. My background is in both Art History and Computer Science. Please feel free to email me or IM me in SL (Kathleen Koolhoven) if you have any questions regarding my current research or want to participate in my study.

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