Augmentology"...is a concise manual of reality for our digital age."

Mark Hancock,_Augmentology: Interfaccia Tra Due Mondi_

[Sponsored by The Ars Virtua Foundation/CADRE Laboratory for New Media]

_Convergence of the Real and the Virtual_: The First Scientific Conference in World of Warcraft was held over the weekend of May 9th to May 11th 2008. It was an attempt to host a definitive synthetic gathering of scientific practitioners through the use of WoW’s Guild system. The conference involved three separate conference sessions and expeditions [or in-world adventuring scenarios]. Each session consisted of a selected team of “panelists” responding to moderated questions via the guildchat interface. The expeditions were an attempt by the organisers to appropriately adapt a traditional conference model to an online format. Other real-world conventions were replicated completely, including a hierarchical separation of Professionals vs the Audience. Text was the only channel utilized publicly; VOIP was solely employed by the moderators as a monitoring tool and was not infrastructurally incorporated to allow audience participation.

The Second Session of the Conference explored the interplay of relationships in synthetic environments and the geophysical world with specific referencing to World of Warcraft. The chatlog listed below is a _textshot_ segment of the session. This _textshot_ incorporates several text streams that were generated at the event, including emotes, whispers, trade chat, general chat, and guild chat.

5/11 02:31:48.796 [Guild] Southerncal: THIS IS MY WAY OF GETTING THINGS STARTED. Hi, all. I’m Dmitri Williams at USC and I’m chairing this session. Please do not type in /g while this is going.
5/11 02:32:18.171 [2. Trade] Oldirtyblu: wts Heavy Clefthoof Leggings 115g
5/11 02:32:21.390 Ronaan’s pet begins eating a Chunk of Boar Meat.
5/11 02:32:21.890 Gontrus dwddd
5/11 02:32:24.296 Hycintha has joined the guild.
5/11 02:32:24.296 Forthewin tells Tiral NO. Not going to happen.
5/11 02:32:27.687 Gonzorina’s pet begins eating a Stormwind Brie.
5/11 02:32:29.593 Noralore’s Lionel is dismissed.
5/11 02:32:29.593 [Guild] Southerncal: We have 4 excellent panelists here today, and I’m eager to get started
5/11 02:32:29.593 [2. Trade] Asmodius: Enchant Boots – Fortitude 19G my mats….
5/11 02:32:29.593 [Raid Leader] Lightsydor: a few of us have joined “/join sciencechat” for a place to chat outside of guild chat during the conference….
5/11 02:32:30.109 Yasura goes “Shhh”
5/11 02:32:30.125 [2. Trade] Asmodius: Enchant Chest – Major Resilience 39G my mats… Nice PVP Enchant………..
5/11 02:32:33.296 [Guild] Southerncal: So:

<continued here>.

Subject x [X] is a 27 year old American male. X began playing the massively multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft [WoW] in June 2005. On Average, X will be logged into WoW between 2 to 8 hours per day. X has created 7 WoW toons or player characters/chars. His characters are located on _Frostmane_, a USA-based realm/server. His main [primary game character] is a level 70 male Gnome Warrior named _Xster_.

X plays Xster during the majority of the time he is engaged within the WoW environment. X has 5 alts [alternate game characters] which he plays sporadically. X also has a bank character which he uses for all in-world economic transactions. He is a member of a group of players who have voluntarily chosen to band together to achieve specific goals within WoW. This group is called a Guild. Xster’s guild is titled _Carpe Pwnum_.

X/Xster is currently immersed in a specific game variable within WoW. This game variable is an instance called _Karazhan _ [Kara] which is an example of a raid. X is present in the instance with 9 of his fellow guild members. Each member has been included specifically for their race, class and talent make-up.

The raid members have just completed one of their raid targets by killing a boss Non-Player Character or NPC. This boss encounter was difficult; it has taken the raiders 4 attempts to kill Attunemen. The unsuccessful attempts ended in the successive deaths of each raid member, otherwise known as a wipe. X decides it is time for a break and informs the other raid members that he’ll be afk [away from keyboard] for 3 minutes taking a “bio break”.

X makes this announcement through 3 channels. The 1st and 2nd are via text, using the /g and /ra commands to tell his guild “afk for 3″ and to tell the raid “afk bio”. The 3rd is via Ventrilo [Vent], a VOIP program through which he has been verbally communicating with his raid team, 3 non-raiding guild members and 2 out-of-game friends.

Before X leaves his computer, he positions Xster in a safe area in-game where he can wait in suspension until X’s return. As X types the /afk command, Xster appears no different to the other raid chars; the toon still loops through a basic standing state. Xster continues to function via base movements such as breathing and blinking as if X is still present and waiting at the keyboard. There are no visual or otherwise discernible char changes occurring in-game to indicate X’s absence apart from his text and verbal announcements.

X has moved to the kitchen and is now, in a geophysical sense, completely afk – an example of “hard afkism”. However, X is also in a hyper-aware state, conscious of the estimated time assigned to his game absence. X has the game volume turned up to allow for monitoring of the raid member’s voices and game sounds. Any heightened verbal intonations may indicate that the raiders require his immediate presence back in-game.

X rushes his food preparations and arrives back at his keyboard within 2 minutes. He switches back into WoW via maximising the game window but does not put on his headphones and thus does not resume his presence in Vent. He is told that several of the other raiders are still afk. He then alt-tabs out of WoW, checks his Insoshi and GeoSimm Philly accounts whilst still unconsciously checking the game via sound scanning [an example of "soft afkism"]. If a combat sound occurs, he will switch back into the game and resume his activity on Vent.