Article: Bleumers, L. et al. (2010) How to Approach a Many Splendored Thing

Journal of Virtual World Research - Volume 3, Nr 1Title: How to Approach a Many Splendored Thing: Proxy Technology Assessment as a methodological praxis to study virtual experience
Author: Lizzy Bleumers, Kris Naessens & An Jacobs
Year: 2010
Additional: Journal of Virtual Worlds Research 3 (1)
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This article introduces Proxy Technology Assessment (PTA) as a methodological
approach that can widen the scope of virtual worlds and games’ research. Studies of how
people experience virtual worlds and games often focus on individual in-world or ingame
experiences. However, people do not perceive these worlds and games in isolation.
They are embedded within a social context that has strongly intertwined online and
offline components. Studying virtual experiences while accounting for these
interconnections calls for new methodological approaches. PTA answers this call.
Combining several methods, PTA can be used to investigate how new technology may
impact and settle within people’s everyday life (Pierson et al., 2006). It involves
introducing related devices or applications, available today, to users in their natural
setting and studying the context-embedded practices they alter or evoke. This allows
researchers to detect social and functional requirements to improve the design of new
technologies. These requirements, like the practices under investigation, do not stop at
the outlines of a magic circle (cf. Huizinga, 1955).We will start this article by
contextualizing and defining PTA. Next, we will describe the practical implementation of
PTA. Each step of the procedure will be illustrated with examples and supplemented with
lessons learned from two interdisciplinary scientific projects, Hi-Masquerade and
Teleon, concerned with how people perceive and use virtual worlds and games

Introducing Proxy Technology Assessment
How to Conduct Proxy Technology Assessment
Selecting Suitable Proxy Technologies
Selecting, Recruiting and Profiling Participants
Mapping Users’ Setting
Distribution of Proxy Technology
Studying Proxy Technology Use
During Proxy Technology Period: Monitoring Use
After the Proxy Technology Period: Eliciting Reflection
Complementary Methods
Analyzing Data and Reporting Results

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