Low-Population Virtual Worlds

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Unpopular Culture

As my Pandaran reached level 100 in World of Warcraft, knowing that 10 million other people were playing alongside me, and something over 100 million accounts had been created over the decade lifetime of that influential game, I couldn’t help but think of how much I personally like some of the most unpopular games. If our goal is to study “popular culture,” then of course popularity matters. But there are so many other scientific, scholarly, and personal goals we might legitimately have! Experimental studies typically use small Ns of research subjects. Ethnographies of cultures often study low-population societies. How many books did Bronislaw Malinowski write about the inhabitants of the Trobriand Islands, a society that today Wikipedia tells me has only 12,000 members and must have had fewer nearly a century ago? ….[READ]

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