Virtual Lives
A Reference Handbook
by James D. Ivory
January 2012, 269pp, 6 x 9
1 volume, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-59884-585-3
$65, £50, 57€, A90
eBook Available: 978-1-59884-586-0
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

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.

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
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, January 1, 2013

"A useful introduction to the topic that is suitable for research and instructional collections. Summing up: Recommended."—Choice, September 1, 2012

Contemporary World Issues

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

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

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.


Subject coverage spans six main categories:

  • Criminal Justice
  • Environment
  • Gender and Ethnicity
  • Politics, Law, and Government
  • Science, Technology, and Medicine
  • Society
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 support 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
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.
Accept All Cookies | Decline.