A connective ethnography of peer knowledge sharing and diffusion in a tween virtual world



Prior studies have shown how knowledge diffusion occurs in classrooms and structured small groups around assigned tasks yet have not begun to account for widespread knowledge sharing in more native, unstructured group settings found in online games and virtual worlds. In this paper, we describe and analyze how an insider gaming practice spread across a group of tween players ages 9–12 years in an after-school gaming club that simultaneously participated in a virtual world called Whyville.net. In order to understand how this practice proliferated, we followed the club members as they interacted with each other and members of the virtual world at large. Employing connective ethnography to trace the movements in learning and teaching this practice, we coordinated data records from videos, tracking data, field notes, and interviews. We found that club members took advantage of the different spaces, people, and times available to them across Whyville, the club, and even home and classroom spaces. By using an insider gaming practice, namely teleporting, rather than the more traditional individual person as our analytical lens, we were able to examine knowledge sharing and diffusion across the gaming spaces, including events in local small groups as well as encounters in the virtual world. In the discussion, we address methodological issues and design implications of our findings.


Virtual worlds Knowledge sharing Knowledge diffusion Connective ethnography Peer pedagogy 



The writing of this paper was supported by a grant of the National Science Foundation (NSF-0411814) to the second author. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of NSF or the University of California. We wish to thank Linda Kao for documenting club activities in field notes and Tina Tom for help logging the video data. Many thanks also to Melissa Cook, Maria Quintero, Michael Giang, David Feldon, and the LTRG research group at UCLA for comments on earlier drafts of this paper.


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Copyright information

© International Society of the Learning Sciences, Inc.; Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Graduate School of EducationUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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