Virtual Worlds: Petri Dishes, Rat Mazes, and Supercolliders

Games and Culture 4(4) 396-407, 2009

Posted: 14 Nov 2017

See all articles by Edward Castronova

Edward Castronova

Indiana University

Matthew Falk

Indiana University Bloomington - Department of Telecommunications

Date Written: 2009

Abstract

This article argues for using virtual worlds as experimental environments for social science questions at the macro level. The authors can foresee two major objections to this approach and will address them as to show why they do not prove to be significant. The first being that virtual worlds are not like the real world; therefore, one cannot generalize from events within them. The second of these foreseeable objections states that human society is too complex to be controlled in the way that controlled experimentation requires. Humans discover things by building environments suited for exploring the questions the authors have. A rat maze is a very abstract environment, yet it is useful for exploring very general questions of mammalian cognition. The authors conclude that virtual worlds are no less valuable, on net, than other established experimental tools. The next stage in toolmaking, after Petri dishes, rat mazes, and supercolliders, should be virtual worlds.

Keywords: Virtual Worlds, Experimental Methods, Experiments

Suggested Citation

Castronova, Edward and Falk, Matthew, Virtual Worlds: Petri Dishes, Rat Mazes, and Supercolliders (2009). Games and Culture 4(4) 396-407, 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3068280

Edward Castronova (Contact Author)

Indiana University ( email )

107 S Indiana Ave
100 South Woodlawn
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

Matthew Falk

Indiana University Bloomington - Department of Telecommunications ( email )

1229 East 7th Street
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

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