In collaboration with the German Socio-Economic Panel (GSOEP) in the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), the SWI at Indiana University has developed a tool for collecting survey data within Second Life. The usual protocol with such surveys is to attract respondents in-world and then send them to a web page to complete the survey. This is a poor protocol because it causes attrition and breaks immersion. It is usually necessary, however, because objects in SL usually cannot serve questions quickly and clearly enough. The Virtual Data Collection Interface (VDCI) is an SL object that optimizes question delivery and data retention so that the respondent experience is very close to the typical experience with web surveys. It allows respondents to quickly complete surveys while remaining in-world. We think it is the only tool in SL with this feature, but maybe one is out there and we just haven't heard of it.
The VDCI draws on existing formal survey protocols developed by scholarly survey-creation experts. It extends these protocols into the virtual realm, creating a new protocol that can be termed Virtual Assisted Self-Interviewing (VASI). VASI represents an early step into the future of rigorous in-world data collection from users of virtual worlds.
This working paper describes both the protocol and the tool. Questions or comments? The corresponding author on this project is Mark W. Bell (typewritermark 8t gmail d0t com).