Virtual Lives

A Reference Handbook

by James D. Ivory


Although virtual worlds typically attract users in their mid- to late 20s, the site Second Life, for example, has more than 150 post-secondary institutions signed up. The role-playing game World of Warcraft has a base of international users who engage in eight different languages, sometimes with culture-specific avatars. One thing is for sure: real people are totally fascinated with virtual worlds.

Print Flyer
Cover image for Virtual Lives

January 2012


Pages 269
Volumes 1
Size 6x9
Topics Technology/General

This book is the THE source for information on virtual worlds, covering every aspect of this intriguing and fast-changing social practice and the technologies upon which it rests.

Virtual Lives: A Reference Handbook describes the history, development, and role of virtual worlds, also known as virtual environments and immersive virtual environments. It provides detailed background about virtual worlds and their societal impact, from early precursors and inspirations to the latest trends and developments. Specifics on user demographics are included, as are descriptions of virtual worlds' functions, discussion of societal concerns and opportunities, and information about relevant research data and key persons and organizations.

Although virtual worlds in their current form are a relatively new phenomenon, other online social environments have served as precursors for decades and literary inspirations go back even further. This handbook therefore covers some early developments dating back to the mid-20th century. Its primary focus, however, is on developments since the mid-1990s and especially on the current state and social impact of virtual worlds, including their impact both in the United States and around the world.


  • A detailed chronology detailing inspirations, precursors, developments, and controversies related to virtual worlds
  • Tables of data about users of virtual worlds
  • An annotated list of private, nonprofit, and government organizations pertinent to virtual worlds
  • Biographical sketches of authors, developers, researchers, policymakers, and notable virtual world users
  • A glossary of scores of relevant terms related to virtual worlds' function and use
  • A bibliography of additional resources readers can consult to learn even more about virtual worlds


  • Consolidates information about virtual worlds from hundreds of sources in an easily accessible handbook
  • Covers the development of virtual worlds from their early inspirations to the latest trends
  • Draws on a mix of academic research, industry data, and popular media sources to ensure comprehensive coverage of its subject
Series Description

Contemporary World Issues

24-hour cable news. Millions of Internet sites. Information overload. How can we sort through the information? Assess the analyses? Trust the sources?

This award-winning series offers comprehensive, one-volume reference handbooks on important topics related to health, education, the environment, and social and ethical issues.

A world of questions demands a library of answers. Contemporary World Issues covers the controversial topics that students, readers, and citizens want to read about, write about, and know more about. Visit the entire list of titles in the series at


  • Subject coverage spans six main categories:
  • Each volume offers a rich array of resources:
  • A background and history essay that provides essential context and grounding for further study
  • A balanced summary of ongoing controversies and proposed solutions that show numerous paths for further research on pressing, contemporary questions
  • A forum of authoritative perspective essays by experts, offering a broad spectrum of arguments on the issues
  • Carefully selected annotated documents, tables, and graphs that supports statistical literacy and investigation of primary sources
  • A chronology of events, legislation, and movements that place events in sequence and draw connections between them
  • Annotated lists of print, Web, and multimedia resources that power the next steps for in-depth research
  • Profiles of key players and organizations
  • A glossary of key terms
Author Info

James D. Ivory, PhD, is assistant professor in the Department of Communication at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA.



"This volume is a well-executed reference for a very timely subject that can be approached in several different ways. It would be welcome in any collection."—ARBA

"A useful introduction to the topic that is suitable for research and instructional collections. Summing up: Recommended."—Choice

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