Can Social simulation in Second Life help in simulating social systems?
Social simulation is a research field that applies computational methods to study issues in the social sciences. The issues explored include problems in psychology, organisational behaviour, sociology, political science, economics, anthropology, geography, engineering, archaeology and linguistics
Second Life was created to offer individuals the virtual opportunity to be who they want to be, and to do what they can’t do in real life. Over and above the entertainment value, studies have shown that social simulation ‘games’ can influence different areas of knowledge, particularly in the educational context.
It has been proven that online games are guided by well-defined psycho-pedagogical objectives that can be used to develop a wide range of cognitive abilities, e.g. creativity and spatial vision, and may also be used to rehabilitate different cognitive capabilities of injured patients.
As with other games, Second Life enables people to build a virtual environment, create and manage "things" that can perform various activities such as, for example, work and interact with people from different cultures and also establish social and affective relationships.
The virtual environment has enabled researchers to recruit participants for various surveys. To watch them and interview them as you would in a real life scenario. Therefore making possible its use in social simulation.
We can highlight some psychosocial aspects that interaction in Second Life enables e.g., the absence of any limitation to establish relationships with avatars. The player can choose what to do with their avatar. To create emotional bonds and to experience different situations and emotional states with other players, and to judge the events according to their moral principles.
Besides entertainment, the main appeal of games like Second Life, is that it allows users to create and participate in unpublished scenarios. In this environment it’s possible for researchers to simulate a conflict scenario in which a group of players experience the need for rules, share and preserve resources for the group's survival and then evaluate the reactions of the group, before that scenario.
The fact that Second Life includes people from different parts of the world with the premise of entertainment that enables the establishment of social ties, the emotional involvement of the users, and the union of people enables the creation of strategic planning. It becomes an excellent tool that can aid in social simulation experiments.
Thus Second Life, as with other games, is guided by well-defined objectives, but which can contribute to a wide range of research applications and diagnostics.
Many studies point to the social isolation and individualism that immersion in the virtual world can cause in people, but actually experiencing situations in virtual worlds is uniting people who could not be attached otherwise, for cultural reasons, or because of distance.
Thus, computer-mediated socialization is a reality that can contribute to many studies using social simulation as a useful tool.