An interesting new experiment from University College London, UK has an unmanned avatar wandering around Second Life randomly accosting residents in an attempt to study how people react to their 'personal space' being invaded.
The description of the methods used to make the bot operate have me giggling a little -- "The control software sends the avatar off in a random direction until it finds another avatar or object to watch or interact with." How often have I seen someone stumbling around examining this or that object, awkwardly bumping into people, and generally behaving cluelessly? At least 3 times per login session. This 'anti-social bot' is the perfect 5th columnist!
However, I have to take umbrage with the concept of personal space in SL. Other factors influence how we drive our avatars that don't exist in real life, including avatar occlusion and line-of-sight issues. I personally have no problem with someone walking right up to me, but frequently will back off just to be able to see the other person's avatar better. In its effort to understand SL, perhaps too much hay is made of it hewing too closely to real life. Not all conventions come across the same way. Remember this the next time you log in; learn a new vocabulary!