Would Kitty Genovese have been murdered in Second Life? Researching the "bystander effect" using online technologies
King, Tanya J., Warren, Ian and Palmer, Darren 2008, Would Kitty Genovese have been murdered in Second Life? Researching the "bystander effect" using online technologies, in TASA 2008 : Re-imagining sociology : the annual conference of The Australian Sociological Association, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Vic., pp. 1-23.
The increasing use of online technologies, including ‘virtual worlds’ such as Second Life, provides sociology with a transformed context within which to ply creative research approaches to ongoing social issues, such as the ‘bystander effect’. While the ‘bystander effect’ was coined following a real-life incident, the concept has been researched primarily through laboratory-based experiments. The relationship between ‘virtual’ and ‘real’ world environments and human behaviours are, however, unclear and warrant careful attention and research.
In this paper we outline existing literature on the applicability of computer-simulated activity to real world contexts. We consider the potential of Second Life as a research environment in which ‘virtual’ and ‘real’ human responses are potentially more blurred than in real-life or a laboratory setting. We describe preliminary research in which unsolicited Second Life participants faced a situation in which they could have intervened. Our findings suggest the existence of a common perception that formal regulators were close at hand, and that this contributed to the hesitation of some people to personally intervene in the fraught situation. In addition to providing another angle on the ‘bystander effect’, this research contributes to our understanding of how new technologies might enable us to conduct social research in creative ways.
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