Convergent methodologies in cyber-psychology: A case study

Abstract

“On-line communities” (and especially MUDs—“multiuser domains”) are a popular, growing Internet phenomenon. This paper provides an overview of a project designed to provide a careful characterization of what “life” is like in LambdaMOO—a classic social MUD—for most, or at least many, members. A “convergent-methodologies” approach embracing qualitative and quantitative, subjective and objective methods was used to generate a large and rich database on this on-line community in terms of four general categories: (1) users and use, (2) sociality, (3) identity, and (4) spatiality. The evidence thus far appears to debunk some of the more provocative claims of widespread MUD addiction and rampant identity fragmentation on line. While supporting the primary importance of sociality in the MUD, the results also demonstrate the strong prevalence of personal, one-on-one social interactions over larger social gatherings. Finally, some close correspondences between patterns of spatial behavior and spatial cognition “in real life” and in LambdaMOO were found.

Contributors to this project include: Ellen Bewersdorff, Herb Colston, Becky Fuson, Josh Loftus, Scott Mainwaring, and Sean White. Special thanks go to Pavel Curtis and to the many members of Lamb-daMOO, whose generous help made this project possible.