We've written before at WoW.com and even here in 15 Minutes of Fame about attempts to study World of Warcraft culture from a sociological, psychological or anthropological point of view. In all of these cases, the researchers in question have logged time playing WoW as part of their research, albeit some with greater degrees of immersive success than others.
So I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that Bonnie Nardi, a University of California-Irvine expert in the social implications of digital technologies and author of the rather blithely titled My Life as a Night Elf Priest, not only rolled the token raiding character in order to observe the curious behavior of the raiding animal -- she actually enjoys WoW in its own right. Rather than cautiously sniffing WoW culture only to generate another wide-eyed, ZOMG-look-at-this-funny-lingo report from the digital field, Nardi dove deep enough to play in four different guilds: a casual raiding guild; a raiding guild composed of fellow academics; a small, casual guild; and her own friends-and-family guild. Our two-part interview with Nardi, packed with opinion and cultural analysis, reveals a witty approach to WoW culture that successfully combines academic insight with the familiarity of a seasoned player.