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UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication's Colloquium Series

On Thursday, October 8th, I attended the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communications (JOMC) Colloquium Series. The talk was given by Noshir Contractor from Northwestern University. The title was From Disasters to WoW: Enabling Knowledge Networks in the 21st Century. The abstract is as follows:

Recent advances in digital technologies invite consideration of organizing as a process that is accomplished by global, flexible, adaptive, and ad hoc networks that can be created, maintained, dissolved, and reconstituted with remarkable alacrity. A central challenge, spurred by these  developments, is that the nature of teams and how they are assembled has changed radically. Using examples from his research in a wide range of activities such as disaster response, Communities of Practice at Procter & Gamble, public health and massively multiplayer online games (like World of Warcraft), Contractor will present a visual-analytic framework to Discover, Diagnose, and Design our 21st century knowledge networks.

Although the talk is titled with WoW (World of Warcraft), Contractor didnt talk about WoW. He talked about his social network analysis (SNA) of EverQuest (EQ) and Hurricane Katrina. He said that people form social networks out of self-interest, for social and resource exchange, out of mutual interests and collective action, contagion (the popularity of one person makes others want to know him), balance (the desire to be friends with your friends friends), homophily, and proximity.

One interesting thing about his research in EverQuest is that Sony gave him all their data. They gave him all transactions within the game and afforded him the opportunity to interview players. He plans to conduct an SNA of WoW as well. I will be interested to see if Blizzard allows him to use their data in the same way that EQ did. My hunch is that they wont; but Im not positive.

Contractor says that in EQ men prefer to play with men and women prefer to play with men. Im betting he will find the same thing in WoW; however I can speak anecdotally that that is not always true. For instance our male main tank (the person who leads groups in dungeon exploration and dictates strategy within a dungeon) prefers to play with women. However, I have experienced a high degree of sexism in the game and there are good ole boy clubs, thus my suspicion that the EQ finding will bear out in WoW.

He also said that most people in EQ play with someone located within 50 miles from them. I would seriously doubt this will be true in WoW. To my knowledge, I currently play with no one that lives in North Carolina; and I have only played with 3 people from NC during the past three years that Ive been playing WoW (that I know about). I have played with soldiers in Iraq. I have a good friend who lives in Chile. My main cadre includes folks from Texas, Ohio, New York, Florida, Illinois, etc. I select these people to play with because (a) they are fun and have good senses of humor, (b) they are not arrogant and many people in WoW can be a bit inflated about their gaming abilities, (c) they are kind and generous-hearted, (d) they are around my age (or so they say) and exhibit the kind of maturity I look for in a gaming companion, and (e) they play their characters well.

I look forward to Contractors findings when his WoW study is complete since I have a personal interest in both WoW and social network analysis.



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