Producing knowledge in collaborative research about virtual worlds: discursive constructions of Second Life

Louise Jane Phillips


The topic of the paper is the production of knowledge about the virtual world, Second Life, in a collaborative research project in Denmark on sense-making processes and social and cultural innovation in virtual worlds. The paper applies a discourse analytical approach (based on Fairclough’s critical discourse analysis) in order to analyse how participants in the research project co-produce knowledge about Second Life by drawing on different discourses, that each represent particular ways of talking about, and thus giving meaning to, objects and subjects. Three main questions are addressed. In the construction of Second Life as an object of discourse, what meanings are ascribed to Second Life? How are researchers and users constructed as discursive subjects? And how does the discursive construction of “Second Life” and of users and researchers delimit the production of knowledge about virtual worlds in the collaborative research project? The paper argues for the importance of highlighting the implications of the delimitations identified for how virtual worlds are understood and studied. And, on the basis of the post-foundational epistemological position that all knowledge is context-dependent, it stresses the value of casting a reflexive eye on how “Second Life” is constructed as a research object and field of social practice through collaborative research practices.


collaborative research; discourse analysis; discourses; discursive construction of virtual worlds; knowledge construction; reflexive analysis of research process; Second Life; virtual worlds.

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