As the virtual world landscape matures, industry and academic researchers are developing systematic methods of measuring user behaviors and understanding resident attitudes. This panel explores the value of quantitative and qualitative approaches to such investigations.This is a chance to discuss the role of the media in shaping public opinion about virtual worlds and their inhabitants, as well as the expectations of new residents. There is also a lot to say about quantitative research and data relating to virtual worlds and behaviors in virtual worlds. These are topics which I have discussed several times in the past year on this blog and elsewhere.
The rest of the program looks interesting, too -- the list of panelists and speakers includes a few people from the Chinese gaming industry, which has grown very rapidly in the past five years. I've heard that there will be a screening of a documentary about Chinese "Gold Farming" at the conference.
As part of my preparations for the conference, I've been reading up on the state of gaming and virtual worlds in China. There's been lots of news about the incredible popularity of World of Warcraft in China, and the virtual demonstration that I remarked upon last year, but there are some new products that are worth mentioning, too, most notably the emerging VW platform, HiPiHi.
Unfortunately, I haven't been able to try out the beta version of HiPiHi -- like many software products designed for the Chinese market, it's PC only, and my Mac is too old to effectively use Boot Camp or Parallels.
Over the next few weeks I'll try to log some of the reading and other information that I am gathering as the conference approaches. The event takes place August 19-22, so I am going to combine it with a family trip to Taiwan, which will also give me a chance to do a little pre-conference research about the Taiwanese gaming scene. This is not a work-supported trip, but I was able to secure a small travel grant through my Harvard association, and the other out-of-pocket expenses are worth it -- this is an exciting field, and the conference seems like a fascinating opportunity.