Can Web-based worlds teach us about the real one?

Researchers are eager to study millions of online gamers that live in ‘virtual’ communities such Second Life, hoping to gain insight into our ‘real world’ behaviors.With last week’s stock market sputter and renewed warnings of a recession, policymakers and presidential candidates are hawking countless plans to jump-start the economy. These proposals are often complex, sometimes controversial, and almost always conjectural.If only there were a way to take them for a test drive.Robert Bloomfield is tinkering with such a plan. As an accounting professor at Cornell University, in Ithaca, N.Y., he researches virtual worlds – a nascent, but growing, field in the social sciences.

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