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I'm all for little do-it-yourself surveys and have created some myself - http://botgirl.blogspot.com/2008/05/you-can-help-investigate-human-and.html - but it would be really interesting to see the results of professional studies on this topic with both rigorous protocols and a valid sample size. I wonder about things like: - Is the stereotypical avatar form you mention really widespread, or just among particular Second Life subcultures. - Is there a relationship between participation (or non-participation) in romantic or sexual relationships in SL and body shape and gender choice. - It would be really cool to have metric differences (shape slider numbers) for things like height, breast size, muscle percentage, etc. for avatars in different communities. Anyway, keep up the sensationalizing, thought-provoking work! I like it.
It seems to me that outside of a small (very vocal and prolific) group of true-believers, most software users could care less about whether code is proprietary or open source. What matters is how well a given application provides features, usability, reliability and cost of ownership in relation to its competitors. After a couple of decades, open source has neither brought Microsoft and Apple to their knees nor killed Capitalism. Hopefully we can get past these questions and focus on more important matters like how well virtual world clients support boob physics.
Interesting topic! I have a few random thoughts... Why the hell humans do just about anything is usually a mix of biological, psychological and sociological factors. I'm a bit skeptical that social pressure is the main cause of virtual consumerism or that consumerism is the most significant symptom of social pressure in virtual worlds. I agree that it's likely that some people in virtual worlds make purchases as a result of pressure caused by by social norms (pull), but you could just as easily spin the same data as people choosing to make purchases from a desire to be part of a group (push.) In the first example the group is generating some coercive force that compels hapless members to spend their $Lindens. In the second, people have a desire to feel part of a group which they consciously choose to fulfill through the purchase of items that outwardly signify their association. On the question of consumerism as self-expression... It seems to me that some consumerism is driven by people's desire to reflect their inner self image through external signs that include purchased goods. But it's hard to deny that people also shop for other reasons including the desire to conform to social norms (whether or not they reflect one's self-image). So I guess what I'm saying is that taking any particular factor as THE MAIN CAUSE is good for stimulating discussion, but probably not a reflection of the varied complexity behind the relationship between consumerism and social groups.