The Role of Experiments in the Study of Virtual Groups

The Role of Experiments in the Study of Virtual Groups

Lisa Slattery Walker (University of North Carolina – Charlotte, USA), Anita L. Blanchard (University of North Carolina – Charlotte, USA) and Heather Burnett (Bank of America, USA)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0963-1.ch009


In this chapter, the authors discuss the use of experimental methods in the study of virtual groups. For some time, experimentalists have hoped, as noted in Bainbridge (2007), that virtual worlds would provide a locale for research. The authors discuss practical techniques for doing so, and provide a detailed example of one such experiment as a platform for discussing opportunities and potential pitfalls for conducting research on virtual work groups. For convenience, they divide the steps in creating and conducting an experiment into several stages: design of the experiment, pre-testing, and statistical power of the data it produces. Each stage in any experiment presents challenges and requires decisions on the part of the experimenters; experiments conducted with virtual groups are certainly no exception.
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Conducting Virtual Group Experiments

Design of the Experiment

Experiments, at their best, are about theory-testing and causal knowledge. A researcher designing any experiment, including those conducted in the virtual worlds, should have a prediction about the results, derived from the abstract concepts of a theory (or from several theories). These abstract concepts must be rendered concrete and observable.

Primary among the decisions a researchers must make are: what variables—independent and dependent—will we measure? What will our situation be? What are our conditions and manipulations? There can be a tendency in virtual experiments to be limited to what others have already done (i.e., what others have programmed) without relying on the theoretical constructs to tell us what the most useful questions and answers will be.

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