, Volume 56, Issue 5-6, pp 575-593

Mixed methods for mixed reality: understanding users’ avatar activities in virtual worlds

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This paper examines the use of mixed methods for analyzing users’ avatar-related activities in a virtual world. Server logs recorded keystroke-level activity for 595 participants over a six-month period in Whyville.net, an informal science website. Participants also completed surveys and participated in interviews regarding their experiences. Additionally, the study included online ethnographic observations of Whyville and offline observations of a subset of 88 users in classroom and after-school settings during their participation. A mixed-methods analysis identified a major user emphasis on avatar appearance and customization that was invariant across user typologies. Implications for the use of mixed methods in online environments are discussed with regard to three challenges resolved during the study: (1) appropriate reduction of the vast quantity of data, (2) integrated analysis of online and offline events, and (3) interactions between qualitative and quantitative data.