The WoW Learning project will have several phases and use mixed research and data collection methods. I’m gathering demographic data about World of Warcraft avatars as well as about their human operators. I’m posing subjective questions via surveys, like “Why do you play World of Warcraft”, to examine people’s motivations and goals. I’m also going to be engaging in a substantial amount of ethnographic research, which has me observing and participating in activities with my own character—activities not too dissimilar to what I have been doing for the last five years in the game—but recording observations and conversations as things occur. As a result, some people will be interviewed in-game; others may be asked for interviews via voice chat systems. Finally, I expect to be looking at communication that occurs on forums.
As with all university-level research involving the participation of people, the WoW Learning project needed to secure approval from the relevant ethics committee in Informatics at the University of Sussex. In the interests of transparency and full disclosure, I’ve attached a copy of the approval to this posting, which you can download yourself.
The submitted proposal also had a project information sheet and an online survey consent form. I have not included those here.
If you have any comments or suggestions for improving the transparency or quality of interactions, I’d love to hear them. Virtual worlds ethnographic research and online data collection via forums is a relatively new area and the issue of what constitutes “informed consent” is still evolving. I’d also love to know if you found this a useful resource document for you own work.
- WoW: Learning Ethics Approval (PDF – 312 kB)