Simulating the Real World in Virtual Worlds

This post was written by a student in the Stanford’s Winter 2011 Networked Rhetoric class; it was designed to focus in on a particular source or research experience related to his project on social media and digital culture .  See a more detailed overview of this assignment.

My research this quarter focuses on studying our world through virtual worlds.  Virtual worlds, including Second Life and games like World of Warcraft, contain millions of players who are constantly interacting with each other, whether it be in peace, like trade, or in war.  These games have grow to become their own societies, with their own codes of conduct and social norms.  Many of these worlds also develop their own economies.  With the large player base and the ability to manipulate any variable within the worlds, virtual worlds offer researchers a perfect test tube for studies and data collection.

The source I want to specifically focus on in this blog post is an article written for The Lancet, a prestige medical journal.  The article aims to explain and analyze the incident in the game World of Warcraft known as the Corrupted Blood plague.  It is written by Nina Fefferman, an epidemiologist who has taken a special interest in how virtual worlds can simulate real world events.

The Corrupted Blood plague was an incident in World of Warcraft in which an infectious disease, that was intended by developers to be contained to a very small area of the game, was brought by devious players to the major cities.  The disease infected every player within eight yards of an infected host and constantly harmed the infected and lead to the deaths of thousands of players online.

The article is incredibly useful for my paper because it gives me a very in-depth analysis of a perfect concrete example for my project.  It gives a great background, allowing me to effectively explain the situation.  The article also expands onto how this one event really should open the door for researchers to began using these virtual worlds as places they can study human behavior.

I believe this article gives me a great example about what is important to highlight about the Corrupted Blood incident.  It also builds ethos as it shows my topic is being brought into mainstream view among people as esteemed as medical experts.  This article will be one of the core sources of my project that will provide a powerful foundation on which to build.

This entry was posted in CCR exchange: Stanford-Örebro, CCR exchange: Student Research, Networked Rhetoric: Section 1, Stanford Networked Rhetorics class. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Simulating the Real World in Virtual Worlds

  1. Pingback: Researching Networked Culture | The Cross-Cultural Rhetoric Blog

  2. scolvin13 says:


    I think you do a great job of introducing your general topic; you present it as interesting and intriguing. In your discussion of this particular source, however, I became a little lost. I am unsure as to how exactly the source and the Corrupted Blood incident really support your topic. There is a sense that it is relevant, but I think you could have done a more thorough job of indicating how this specifically relates to your research question.

    Good luck!

  3. Paolo Gabriel says:

    To hear that there was an article featured in a prestige medical journal on the Corrupted Blood plague is very surprising and extremely interesting. You would think that sort of thing was a conversation piece only between gamers. Maybe Fefferman is some kind of gamer too?

    I am curious to hear more about how this article is so useful for your paper. You do not really describe it here. Is there not a large field that covers virtual world interactions? Major incidents resulting from negative user interactions are just a small portion of human interaction through virtual means. But maybe this article really looks into relating the real and virtual world.

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