Augmented Focus Groups: On Leveraging the Peculiarities of Online Virtual Worlds when Conducting In-World Focus Groups
Increasingly, academic researchers and practitioners have been using online 3D virtual worlds such as Second Life (SL) to conduct focus groups. When doing so, researchers and practitioners have copied and pasted as is, in this new environment, the qualitative methodologies commonly used in real-world focus groups. However, the relevance of using standard focus group methodologies within an online virtual environment has been neither tested, nor the focus of previous research. In addition, online virtual worlds may offer new methodological opportunities that, so far, have been left unexplored. To fill in this methodological gap, the authors have moderated various focus groups in Second Life. When doing so, they tested the limitations inherent to using real-world protocols in an online virtual environment. During the course of this project, it became clear that the usual focus group protocols should be adapted to the peculiar context, if one wants to fully leverage this new medium. As a result, new online qualitative methodologies (e.g., 3D collages) were developed and tested during this research project.