Understanding Virtualization Challenges: Identities of "Virtual Worlds" Makers
General Sociology Department Higher School of Economics Moscow, Russian Federation
Virtuality is a space where real objects are replaced by simulations. Researchers of virtualization see surrounding world as set of the "layers" forming difficult multidimensional space. Logic of virtuality penetrates into traditional institutes of society such as economics, politics or family and changes them dramatically.
The main task of our research is to extend our scientific knowledge concerning virtualization of society. There are several questions to answer. Who creates virtuality? What is the world-view of these people? What are their most important distinguishing features? To answer these questions we started the study of intellectual professional groups which are directly connected to virtuality making.
Intellectuals become founders and "ideologists" of the virtual worlds, special zones of symbolic and value concentration in virtuality. These parallel virtual worlds are appearing in every subsystem of society. We may say after Walter Benjamin that the reality entered into a new era of technological reproduction.
In 2006-2007 we conducted a retrospective study of virtual worlds makers in Russian Soviet and Post-Soviet mass-media. We were using two arrays of published images as basis for sociological visual analysis. The results of this study were presented at the 8th ESA Conference.
At the second investigation phase, which is under way in 2008-2009, visual aspects give way to verbal, text aspects. Focused interviews become the main research method. We analyze intellectual professional groups connected with virtual worlds developing, journalists, PR-advisers, actors, etc. This makes it possible to take a look at societal transformation through the eyes of people, who make this transformation.
The latest results reveal important shifts in self-consciousness and day-to-day practices of virtuality creators and consumers. In the current paper we concentrate on several focal points, exposing the most important changes. These changes are in time and space perception, in extended role of a game (as social communication and profession), in attitude towards simulation and simulacra.