The Eyes Have It: Measuring Spatial Orientation in Virtual Worlds to Explain Gender Differences in Real Ones

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Here, we explore how 3D, networked
virtual worlds - in particular Second Life, which enables users to create and modify their own
environments - can act as a kind of 'virtual' laboratory for studying gender difference. By
tracking users' eye movements as they navigate a virtual rendition of the Morris Water
Maze (the 'gold standard' for measuring gender difference in spatial orientation, navigation
and mobility), this work constitutes an empirical basis for claims that we have attempted to
make in the context of ethnographic work with female and male video game players, both
novice and expert: that mastery of, and the ability to competently navigate through space,
both real and virtual, is as much (if not more) learned and acquired, as it inheres in the
bodies and brains of differently-sexed subjects.
This Technical Report is prepared through a collaboration between: Multimodal Analysis of Real/Virtual Environments Laboratory (Simon Fraser University), ENGRAMMETRON (Simon Fraser University), and Play in Computer Environments Studio (York University).
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TheEyesHaveIt_June2010.pdf 1.11 MB