Being a SL explorer, I am always interested in discussions about interactions and the various sub/cultures that exist here in SL, so when I saw a notice for a salon held in Extropia Core by Sophrosyne Stenvaag, I had to attend. The speaker was Tom Buchowski (RL: Tom Boellstorff), who is a RL anthropologist at UC Irvine who did an ethnographic study on SL and as a long-time resident himself, wrote a book entitled Coming of Age in Second Life.
He found that he had to change very little about his research methods and that it has been hard to get his colleagues and others to see past what they think SL is, as well as the stereotypes of people inworld as such things as "geeks, loners or elitists." I asked him to tell us about the broader patterns that he saw and he was excited, saying the following (in brief):
1. Place: Our world is a persistent environment that goes on whether we're logged in/out and it is not bound by physical law
2. Time: "Synchronic sociality" and how despite our worldwide physical locations we have to come together at the same time. PST is the virtual worlds' GMT.
3. Embodiment: Flexibility of how we can present ourselves literally in any form and how alts challenge that by being multiple embodiments.
4. Techne: I personally found this concept the most fascinating point."Techne" is a Greek concept of "craft", as compared to "episteme", which is knowledge and science. As a RL & SL creator myself, his notion of how the virtual worlds' emphasis on "techne"/creation could become central to social relations and interactions/beliefs was really thought-provoking to me.
Please visit his site (above) for more information about his work, and if you would like more info about the salons and Extropia Core, please visit their site as well.