Authors: Predrag Tasevski, Marco Gavazzi and Lasse Hyyrynen

Introduction

Any computer user who is engaged in a virtual world has a virtual life. Virtual life is a catchall term used to describe the involvement and presence of an individual in any chosen virtual world or simulated digital environment. Virtual world is a genre of online community that often takes the form of a computer-based simulated environment, through which users can interact with one another and use and create objects. And virtual community is a social network of individuals who interact through specific media, potentially crossing geographical and political boundaries in order to pursue mutual interests or goals. Therefore, we have choose this problem as an issue of the general drastically grow of the population of having access to the computers and Internet.

There are many online service available to demonstrate an virtual life environment for different purpose, for example: http://secondlife.com/, http://ict-virtuallife.eu/, etc. Nowadays the scholars and researchers are organizing workshops and developing projects, to understand the meaning of second life and to perceive the meaning of virtual life in different aggregate of surroundings.

The interesting topics about the second life – virtual life are that it can be focus in many different aspects, example: virtual distance education, on users – questionnaire on user needs, it can be compression of virtual life with an second life, online shopping, medical purpose, social networking, cross cultural study, modern world with GPS cell phones, etc.

According to the literature, people tend to construct their virtual identity in a different way from the real one. Therefore, it is extremely important to study both the aspects of the everyday life and the presentation of the virtual self (Nagy, Péter, 2010).

In summary, we are going to give an expectations and the comparison in past few years and nowadays, what have change, what is expecting in the future, etc. In addition we are devoting and explaining what are the best methods in our opinion to be done to study the problem in a deep allegory. But on the other hand we are openhanded in impression what kind of problems could rise do to analyze this problem in the field of Internet psychology.

Expectations

First of all, a general increase of people using the Internet (maybe not so strong as some years ago but still really dynamic), and a decreasing of the average age of the users (Internet is really used among very young people, thanks to all the social network really in fashion at the present time).

There are other data that we expect from our research project, especially about the using of the Internet divided in the continents.

Of course in Asia there are more users than in any other place, but we have to consider that this one is the most populated continent between all the others…

We can in this way expect the statistics of the world Internet penetration rate:

Reading these two graphics we can compare the quantity of people using the Internet in general and the penetration grade of the Internet in the last years, according to different continents.

So we can verify that even in continents with very few users of the Net there has been a very strong increase of the users in the last period (Oceania is the last continent about numbers of users of the Internet with around 21 millions, but with a penetration rate of about 61% in last years, the second one between all the other continents).

In Europe this phenomenon of the spreading of the usage of the Internet is really strong, as we can see for other data (really superior than in the rest of the world). A last statistic that we expect from our research, this time about the usage of Internet by young people: the case is only local (United States) but it’s significant of the increasing of the usage of Internet in last years. About 80% of children between the ages of 0 and 5 who use the Internet in the United States do so on at least a weekly basis. The report, which was assembled using data from seven recent studies, indicates that young children are increasingly consuming all types of digital media, in many cases consuming more than one type at once.

A 2010 Nielsen study suggests that 36% of children between the ages of 2 and 11 uses the computer system and the Internet massively. Altogether, children between the ages of 8 and 10 spend about 5.5 hours each day using computers.

Methods

First we will start with the method of analyzing influences between virtual and real life and afterwords analyzing the influences between virtual life can be done in a very wide variety of ways.

Questionnaires can be used to analyze users own believes on the influences. For example a questionnaire can be used to study how the user thinks his Internet activity has affected his social behavior in the real world. Questionnaires can be conducted via social networks or separate Internet applications, which make them an easy way to gather information.

In the modern world with GPS cell phones, the analysis can also be made objectively with brute data analysis. People could be studied by gathering information from their social network pages and by using some GPS tracking software on their mobile phones. This way we can gather both the amount of time used in social networks and the amount of time spend in the real world. If the GPS tracking can be done in a large enough scale we can also see how many people a person meets during a certain time period.

Third kind of a study could be a cross cultural study, where behaviors between different cultures are compared to see how virtual life changes the behavior. This doesn’t only mean spatial comparison, but also the temporal comparison of Estonian culture in the year 1950 compared to 2010. This of course means that we must have a good knowledge of the cultures before we make decisions on which changes are due to the second life.

The cultural study would be good to conduct on a culture, where the Internet will be introduced in the following years. This way we can see the changes in 10 years.

Problems that could occur

There are obviously many problems that must be well thought before continuing with the study. In the questionnaire choosing the group, questions and the way to analyze the results will have a fairly big impact on the conclusions. Because the group is huge and diverge (all the Internet users in the world), it will be quite hard to predict anything.

Problems with following people objectively is of course quite illegal in almost all of the modern countries with Internet. This will effect the group that can be followed, since we only get people who wants to be followed. Because we only get a special subset of people to study, we only can guarantee that the results we get applies to the people who likes to be studied.

Cross-cultural studies are hard to compare, since there is quite a huge number of variables that effect in human behavior, and it is usually close to impossible to determine accurately which behavioral differences would be due to virtual life.

Conclusion

The aim of our research project is mainly to try to reconsider a topic that can seem really banal (second life? every research about the Internet starts from second life!), but that we consider to be of ground importance. It’s really important to keep monitored every short period of time these data; that’s the only way to have a clear vision of the topic to start further and more specific researches.

Consequently, from all the above we can make a conclusion that it is possible to have done this research through many methods and still there are going it be rise many problems. The problems can be mainly in cross-culture, and the social differences between one group and the other.

Reference

Nagy, Péter (2010). Second Life, Second Choice? The effects of virtual identity on consumer behavior. Retrieved from A conceptual framework, Symposium for Young Researchers, Budapest, Hungari: http://kgk.uni-obuda.hu/fikusz

Internet world stats – usage and population statistics (2011): http://www.internetworldstats.com/