Valuing Virtual Worlds: The Role of Categorization in Technology Assessment
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Virtual worlds offer great potential for supporting the collaborative work of geographically distributed teams. However, reports indicate the existence of substantial barriers to the acceptance and use of virtual worlds in business settings. In this paper, we explore how individuals' interpretations of virtual worlds influence their judgments of the value of the technology. We conducted a qualitative analysis set in the context of a large computer and software company that was in the process of adopting virtual worlds for distributed collaboration. We identified interpretations of virtual worlds that suggest three mental categories: virtual worlds as a medium, virtual worlds as a place, and virtual worlds as an extension of reality. We associated these mental categories with different criteria for assessing the value of virtual worlds in a business setting. This study contributes particularly to the acceptance of virtual worlds but also more generally to the understanding of technology acceptance by demonstrating that the relative importance of the criteria for assessing a technology varies with potential users' interpretations and mental categorizations.
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