Toward a Thicker Description of Virtual Worlds as Sites of Deep Play: Technological Mediation of the Expression of Intent and Interpretation of Meaning in World Of Warcraft's North American Servers




Lunsford, John P

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This thesis seeks to articulate the diverse nature of experience, expression, and interpretation found amongst participants in Virtual Worlds by exploring the impact of technology on their production. Using World of Warcraft as an example, I draw upon theories that examine the implication of incorporating technology into society and link them to other theories that explore the intersection of disparate cultural structures. By bridging these perspectives and routing them through a brief historical account of communication technologies situated as sine qua non to the evolution of games as complex sites of study, I expose technology’s influence as necessitating an expansion of the tactics of ethnographic inquiry and propose a reworking of the depth and breadth of both their exploration and analysis. Through an implementation of these new techniques, this study utilizes interviews, surveys, and participant observation to explore the potential for this approach to more thickly describe World of Warcraft and validate technology’s role in shaping/directing agency, mediating experience, and facilitating depth.



Ethnography, Virtual worlds, Mediation, Gaming