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Nick Yee, PhD: Data Collection in Virtual Worlds: Methods, Findings, and Lessons Learned


Virtual worlds offer a new research platform where behaviors and social interactions can be tracked precisely and automatically over time. Over the past few years, Dr. Yee has been involved in multiple research projects at Stanford and PARC that have used automated data collection tools in virtual worlds to examine a variety of social science questions. For example, his group has looked at what metrics best predict group survival in the online game World of Warcraft and how personality is expressed in social worlds like Second Life. In this talk, Dr. Yee walks through these research projects with an emphasis on unexpected challenges and lessons learned.

These observations will touch on issues, such as IRB challenges in virtual worlds, participant recruitment, processing large data sets, making social science sense out of hundreds of raw variables, and some problems with using traditional psychological statistics on these datasets.


Nick Yee is a research scientist at the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). He received his Ph.D. in Communication from Stanford University.

His research interests are in the psychology of self-representation and social interaction in virtual worlds. He has employed a variety of different methods over the past decade to study virtual worlds, including web-based surveys of over 50,000 online gamers, social psychology experiments in immersive virtual environments, and analysis of large-scale logged data from virtual worlds. At PARC, he is currently managing a multi-year project examining the connections between virtual behaviors and the real-world characteristics of users.