Refraining Online Games

Synthetic Worlds as Media for Organizational Communication
  • Ulrike Schultze
  • Julie Rennecker
Part of the IFIP International Federation for Information Processing book series (IFIPAICT, volume 236)


Massively-multiplayer online games, or “synthetic worlds,” represent a rapidly-growing industry with far-reaching social, technical, and economic implications. In this position paper, we draw on literature from anthropology, sociology, and film to challenge long-standing misconceptions of “games” and “work” and of “virtuality” and “reality” as dualisms that have obscured synthetic worlds from serious consideration by IS scholars. Building on this work and recent reports of businesses, nonprofits, entrepreneurs, and educational institutions incorporating synthetic worlds into their day-to-day practices, we argue that synthetic worlds represent a legitimate arena for IS research. We begin by offering a framework for characterizing the nature and structure of the social activity occurring in the diverse array of synthetic worlds currently available. Then we illustrate our position by considering synthetic worlds from the perspective of organizational communication, a substantive area with a rich tradition in IS research. Employing a genre lens as an illustrative example, we identify phenomena and raise research questions the IS community is uniquely positioned to explore.


Virtual Reality Virtual World Organizational Communication Online Game Second Life 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. 1.
    E. Catronova, Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2005).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    J.C. Beck and M. Wade, Got Game: How the Gamer Generation is Reshaping Business Forever (Harvard Business School Press, Boston, 2004).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    A R. Galloway, Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture (University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 2006).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    S. Kline, N. Dyer-Witheford and G. De Peuter, Digital Play: The Interaction of Technology, Culture and Marketing (McGill-Queens University Press, Montreal, 2003).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    T.M. Malaby, Beyond Play: A New Approach to Games, Games and Culture, forthcoming.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    J. Juul, Half-Real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds (MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2005).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    M. Ito, in: Internet Culture, edited by D. Porter (Routledge, New York, 1997) pp. 87–109.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    A. Giddens, The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration, (Polity Press, Cambridge, UK, 1984).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    C. Pearce, Productive Play: Game Culture from the Bottom Up, Games and Culture, 1(1), 17–24(2006).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    N Yee, The Labour of Fun: How Video Games Blur the Boundaries of Work and Play, Games and Culture, 1(1), 68–71 (2006).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    T L. Taylor, in The Social Life of Avatars: Presence and Interaction in Shared Virtual Environments, edited by R. Schroeder (Springer Verlag, London, 2002), pp. 40–62.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    J. Yates and W. J. Orlikowski, Genres of Organizational Communication: A Structurational Approach to Studying Communication and Media, Academy of Management Review, 17(2), 299–326 (1992).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    J. Yates and W. Orlikowski, Genre Systems: Structuring Interaction Through Communication Norms, The Journal of Business Communications, 39(1), 13–35 (2002).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    T.L. Taylor, Play between Worlds: Exploring Online Game Culture (MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2006).Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    C. Steinkuehler, The Mangle of Play, Games and Culture 1(3), 199–213 (2006).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    R. Bartle, Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit MUDs, Journal of MUD Research, 1(1): (1996).Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    J. Stein, My So-Called Second Life, TIME Magazine, December 25, 2006–January 1, 2007, pp. 76–77.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    A. Cane, Big Players Join the New Game, Financial Times, January 04, 2007.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Economist, Living a Second Life, September 30, 2006, pp. 77–79.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    M. Banks, 2006. IBM’s’ secret Island’, New York Times, September 21, 2006.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    D. Terdiman, A Winning Business Plan for’ second Life’, CNet News, February 19, 2007: Scholar
  22. 22.
    M.M. Bakhtin, Speech Genres and other Late Essays, Translated by V. W. McGee (University of Texas Press, Austin, 1986).Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    W.J. Orlikowski and J. Yates, Genre Repertoire: The Structuring of Communicative Practices in Organizations, Administrative Science Quarterly 39, 541–574 (1994).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    S. Zuboff, In the Age of the Smart Machine (Basic Books, New York, 1988).Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    J. Mingers, Embodying Information Systems: The Contribution of Phenomenology, Information and Organization 11(2), 103–128 (2001).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    R.J. Boland, Jr. and R.V. Tenkasi, Perspective Making, Perspective Taking, Organization Science 6(4), 350–372 (1995).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    E. Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (Doubleday Anchor Books, Garden City, NY, 1959).Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    R. Barker, Ecological Psychology: Concepts and Methods for Studying the Environment of Human Behavior (Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA, 1968).Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    R. Barker, Ecological Psychology: A Revision and Extension (Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA, 1989).Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    T.L. Taylor and B. E. Kolko, Boundary Spaces: Majestic and the Uncertain Status of Knowledge, Community and Self in a Digital Age, Information, Communication & Society 6(4), 497–522 (2003).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    D. Terdiman, Integrated Voice Coming to’ second Life’, CNet News, Morning Dispatch edition, February 27, 2007: Scholar

Copyright information

© International Federation for Information Processing 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ulrike Schultze
    • 1
  • Julie Rennecker
    • 2
  1. 1.Information Technology and Operations Management DepartmentSouthern Methodist UniversityDallasUSA
  2. 2.Rennecker Research & ConsultingAustinUSA

Personalised recommendations