Nicola Jones writes to alert us to a study showing that avatars need their personal space. Avatars in the virtual reality of Second Life act like real people in this way: boy avatars stand further apart than female ones, and characters tend to avert their gaze from each others' eyes when standing close together. This result holds whether the avatar is being played by a man or a woman. From the article: "The authors say this means that these online gaming environments are a goldmine of social data as well as a potential experimental research platform." Obviously not all behaviours translate from the real world to the virtual one, notes UIUC computer game researcher Dmitri Williams: "There is no research on what translates and what doesn't.... People's willingness to take risks in online worlds is radically different. Death is not permanent online."
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