Title page for ETD etd-04092010-154422

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Jung, Yoonhyuk
Author's Email Address yjung1@lsu.edu
URN etd-04092010-154422
Title Users' Understandings of the Virtual Economy in Social Virtual Worlds: Consumption and Entrepreneurship of Virtual Goods
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Information Systems & Decision Sciences (Business Administration)
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Pawlowski, Suzanne Committee Chair
Hirschheim, Rudy Committee Member
Porter, Lance Committee Member
Ullmer, Brygg Committee Member
Van Scotter, James Committee Member
Wiley-Patton, Sonja Committee Member
  • virtual economy
  • social representation theory
  • social virtual worlds
Date of Defense 2010-03-26
Availability unrestricted
Social virtual worlds (SVWs) such as Second Life have gained immense popularity during the last decade. Their popularity is reflected in the explosive growth of the in-world economy, which is mainly supported by users’ consumption of virtual goods and entrepreneurial behavior. Users’ economic behavior has increased the size of the virtual economy to reach over $1B in the United States in 2009 (Nicholson 2009). Given that virtual consumption and entrepreneurship have become an important part of everyday virtual life in SVWs, understanding these two types of economic activities is an essential aspect to understanding user behavior in SVWs. This research aims at investigating the meanings of virtual consumption and entrepreneurship for users.

The research consists of two independent essays. In the first essay about virtual consumption, I examine users’ understandings of virtual consumption through core-periphery analysis of its social representation. 154 Second Life users participated in the web-based survey for this study. I also identify user goals for virtual consumption by using means-end chain analysis, based on interviews with 93 Second Life users. The second essay on the topic of virtual entrepreneurship examines the collective meanings of virtual entrepreneurship and their relationship with the collective meanings of SVWs. To understand the meanings of virtual entrepreneurship, the core-periphery structure of social representations of virtual entrepreneurship is analyzed, based on interviews with 24 Second Life entrepreneurs. The meanings of virtual entrepreneurship are explained and compared with the central meanings of SVWs, identified from 101 newspaper articles on SVWs from 2005 to 2009.

The results show that virtual consumption penetrates extensively into the virtual life of users and make their virtual experience in SVWs much richer; that virtual entrepreneurship is institutionalized in SVWs, and the key meanings of SVWs are well translated into the meanings of virtual entrepreneurship. This research contributes in providing fundamental knowledge about virtual consumption and entrepreneurship and further suggests potential theoretical frameworks for future research. Implications for SVW service providers and producers and sellers of virtual goods are also identified. Another contribution of the research is to demonstrate alternative qualitative research approaches combined with quantitative analyses.

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