Blogging may be light for the next few days, and will certainly be erratic, because I'm off to New York to attend the State of Play conference. There are a bunch of interesting papers online, so it looks like it should be a good event.
I'm mildly amazed at the speed with which the academy can take a social trend and turn it into something that generates scholarship worth reading. Yes, sociologists have been writing stuff about MUDs and MOOs for years, but — to be blunt — as far as I can tell, having looked at piles of it, only a depressingly small fraction of it was neither jargon-ridden nor obvious.
Things changed when the graphics got better, and games went mass-market and commercial. For me at least, the first sign something was up was when Edward Castronova started writing economic analyses of virtual worlds. Next thing you know there's an explosion of writing about massively multi-player online role-playing games. In fact, there's a whole virtual community.
Of course, my participation in all this is something of a cheat, since I'm very much the junior author on the paper, more than half the work having been done my co-author Caroline Bradley.