Arguing the Value of Virtual Worlds: Patterns of Discursive Sensemaking of an Innovative Technology

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With the rapid pace of technological development, individuals are frequently challenged to make sense of equivocal innovative technology while being given limited information. Virtual worlds are a prime example of such an equivocal innovative technology, and this affords researchers an opportunity to study sensemaking and the construction of perspectives about the organizational value of virtual worlds. This study reports on an analysis of the written assessments of 59 business professionals who spent an extended period of time in Second Life, a popular virtual world, and discursively made sense of the organizational value of virtual worlds. Through a Toulminian analysis of the claims, grounds, and warrants used in the texts they generated, we identify 12 common patterns of sensemaking and indicate that themes of confirmation, open-ended rhetoric, demographics, and control are evident in the different types of claims that were addressed. Further, we assert that the Toulminian approach we employ is a useful methodology for the study of sensemaking and one that is not bound to any particular theoretical perspective.
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Author Nicholas Berente, Sean Hansen, Jacqueline C. Pike, and Patrick J. Bateman
Year 2011
Volume 35
Issue 3
Keywords Virtual worlds, Second Life, sensemaking, discourse, argument, Toulmin, organizational value
Page Numbers 685-709
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