A special issue of International Journal of Web Based Communities
The aim of this special issue is to collect and to share studies related to the ways in which community can be fostered and sustained in virtual worlds for a variety of purposes.
The use of three-dimensional immersive virtual worlds is gaining popularity in education, gaming, the military and industry. According to Gartner Research, by 2010, 80% of Internet users will have a virtual persona, and 80% of Fortune 500 companies will have a presence in a virtual world. Although still emerging as a whole, some virtual worlds have developed into viable online communities already. For example, Second Life is a fantasy-oriented virtual world with an active membership of more than 12 million users. Cyworld, a Korean web-based virtual world, counts 90% of South Koreans under-30 – and 25% of the total population – among its users. Membership in worlds such as Club Penguin and Webkinz – designed to connect children and adolescents – is growing, as well.
Virtual worlds combine aspects of gaming, social networking, role-play, and simulations. They are viewed by many as a natural extension of 2-D social networking sites -- particularly for a generation of "digital natives" accustomed to using social and immersive technologies to form and to join online communities for both work and recreation. These environments offer significant advantages over more traditional web-based environments, particularly in the areas of communication and collaboration. Virtual worlds enable a sense of presence and co-presence, fostering the creation of communities for learning, work and play in ways previously unavailable. Still, there is much to be learned about how to design, to develop, and to use virtual worlds effectively to cultivate communities and meaningful interactions within them.
Guiding questions for this special issue will include, but are not limited to:
- What types of communities can be expected and/or developed using virtual worlds?
- How are virtual worlds uniquely suited to the creation of communities?
- What strategies are most effective in creating community in virtual worlds?
- How are presence and co-presence manifest in unique ways in virtual worlds?
- What is the impact of presence and co-presence in the creation of purposeful communities?
- How can virtual worlds best be designed as both formal and informal spaces for learning, socializing, communicating, or other intentional or serendipitous purposes?
- What kinds of tools and capabilities must be imbedded in virtual, immersive worlds to promote the creation of different types of communities (i.e. task-oriented, socially-oriented)?
- What research questions are most important as virtual worlds continue to evolve for specific purposes?
Deadline for abstract submission: 1 October, 2008
Deadline for paper submission: 1 December, 2008
Notification to authors: 19 January, 2009