John Bohannon recently published an article in Science Magazine which was noted on WoW Insider. A gathering of economists, sociologists, psychologists, and computer science academics gathered in select locations around Azeroth and held a bonafide scientific conference, discussing virtual worlds and their effect on personal interaction and self identification. Conversation ranged from truth in disclosure amongst anonymous gamers to stability of personality when transfering between the real-world and character embodiment.
Having obtained my college degree in sociology, the article was riveting for me, even if it did not disclose much as to the content of the discussion. I would need to subscribe to the Science Mag to see the full transcript. The concept of gathering in Azeroth instead of at a conference center is an ingenious one, as noted by Bohannon:
...people can take part from all over the world without leaving home. It reduces the environmental footprint and—aside from the $15 monthly fee for maintaining a World of Warcraft account—it's free.He and the other organizers got around the logistical barriers of factional non-communication between Alliance and Horde, in addition to conference-goers who may not have WoW characters, by having everyone roll a Horde character and arranging escort parties to the various locales where the conference meetings were to be held. Bohannon relates a funny (yet tragic) story about one of his charges being torn asunder by hyenas in the Barrens on the way to a meeting point.
I could tell you more, but then I would just be re-hashing the article. All in all, a great read for those who have a lust for the study of social interaction.