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Systems Seminar - CSE

Massively Multiplayer Online Games and Virtual Worlds as Macroscopes of Human Behavior

Jaideep SrivastavaProfessorUniversity of Minnesota
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Observation and analysis of a phenomenon at unprecedented levels of
granularity not only furthers our understanding of it, but also
transforms the way it is studied. For instance, invention of
gene-sequencing and computational analysis transformed the life
sciences, creating fields of inquiry such as genomics, proteomics,
etc.; and the Hubble space telescope has furthered the ability of
humanity to look much farther beyond what we could otherwise.

With the mass adoption of the Internet in our daily lives, and the
ability to capture high resolution data on its use, we are at the
threshold of a fundamental shift not only in our understanding of the
social and behavioral sciences, but also the ways in which we study
them. Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs) and Virtual Worlds
(VWs) have become increasingly popular and have communities comprising
tens of millions. They serve as unprecedented tools to theorize and
empirically model the social and behavioral dynamics of individuals,
groups, and networks within large communities. This talk introduces
the Virtual World Exploratorium, a multi-institutional,
multi-disciplinary project which uses data from commercial MMOGs and
VWs to study many fields of social science, including sociology,
social psychology, organization theory, group dynamics,
macro-economics, etc. We will summarize finding from many of these
disciplines.

Given the amount of data being generated (e.g. all of Zynga's games on
Facebook generate around 3 terabytes of data a day), there are
exciting new challenges for the computer science community, especially
in the areas of data management, data mining, and algorithms. We also
present some findings in these areas.

This research is financially supported by the NSF, the Army Research
Institute, the IARPA, and by the ARL through a Network Science CTA
award. Sony Online Entertainment has provided the dataset for this
research.

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