Faculty Publications

New Iowa School Redux: Second Life As Laboratory

Document Type



Laboratory, New Iowa School, Second Life, Virtual worlds

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Studies in Symbolic Interaction



First Page


Last Page



This paper provides a general comparison between the ethos, methodological mission and theoretical standpoint of the New Iowa School, established by Carl Couch and his students and Second Life, a three dimensional virtual world that invites particular forms of sociation. Despite differences in orientation and purpose, as well as biases in communication we propose that the methodological and conceptual emphasis underlying the research generated from New Iowa School experimental studies can provide a useful framework for research into the virtual worlds created in Second Life. In the course of citing similarities and differences between the New Iowa School and Second Life, we also note that contrived worlds in laboratories and virtual worlds in user domains not only have relevant analogical processes to outside, in situ social worlds, but consist of social stages for performances that have application to the various social stages constructed by actors in the real world. In conclusion we suggest that the New Iowa School and Second Life represent different but compatible realities in their own right that the conceptual depth associated with the New Iowa School can inform research into Second Life interactions, and that each offer insights into the external worlds inhabited by real actors who navigate across time and space in their everyday lives. Copyright © 2014 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited.


Department of Communication Studies

Original Publication Date


DOI of published version