Virtual worlds as a basis for research are relatively new. Furthermore, as they evolve, their categorization is an ongoing process. For example, Bloomfield discusses in “Virtual Worlds for Studying Real-World Business” how games like Second Life can be sources of education and research material: “Many educational and research goals would be achieved more effectively by creating bounded and unconnected worlds, and endowing participants with new actors, initial wealth levels and other attributes” (Bloomfield, 2007, p. 20). Indeed, the ease with which software can create “bounded” – non-persistent, isolated worlds for users to inhabit is staggering. So, while Second Life might represent a venue for deviant behavior or a gloomy alternative to real life, its utility is much greater.
Portwood-Stacer’s work on media refusal looks at today’s new virtual contexts in a different light. Users are literally addicted, and their figurative drug dealers are blameless: “Consumer culture and the corporations which power it are thus left unproblematized, while individual pathological behaviors are subjected to scrutiny and critique” (Portwood-Stacer, 2012, p. 1). As a result of this power imbalance, the only way for consumers to reassert themselves is to refuse media outright. While this conclusion of a need to ramp down media providers’ control over the public is valid, it also proves how important that control is in present cultural and technological contexts; moreover, it necessitates further scholarly work on the subject. This work, in turn, cannot be completed without so many of these big corporations’ products and services. Indeed, media refusal is not as simple as some may think.
Finally, Taylor explores the negotiation between virtual worlds and real worlds through a “fan faire” for MMORPG Everquest, in “Finding New Worlds”. This article illustrated one instance of a blend between virtual and and real worlds. In other words, an offline Everquest meeting retained aspects of, and references to, ideas that originate in online gameplay or communication. Implications for the future seem indeterminate: technology will only improve, making virtual contexts more and more appealing. As a result, will real-life interaction become more seamlessly connected with the virtual, or instead rot as the inferior alternative?