For those who overcame the Study 1 hurdle, here’s the intro to Study 2. If it was an episode of Friends, it’d be called “The One About Sex”:

The last chapter examined the affective meanings of Friend relationships in Second Life, drawing connections between social network analytic notions of network strength and psychological facets of influence. The network strength measures were operationalised as behavioural indicators of closeness in the virtual world; the likelihood an individual would grant a Friend modification rights, designate a Friend an in-world partner and the frequency with which two Friends communicated via public chat, Instant Message or outside Second Life were found to implicate varying degrees of source attributions, social comparisons and perceptions of who embodied group norms. Second Life account holders’ negotiations between the online and offline self emerged as an important contributor to this effect, as the presentation of the self in the virtual world embodied the social capital the individual had in the online community.

How much control an account holder bequeathed to a Friend through the network strength measures determined how much s/he was trusted, was viewed as credible, was a source of social comparison and was perceived to represent the group prototype. The results maintained that online communities were rich enough to support interpersonal influence, confirming that the features of the lean medium are important to consider when applying existing influence theories to virtual environments.

While the Study 1 results offered support for the connection between network measures and psychological theory, Social Network Analysis also explains influence outcomes based on structural concepts like network density and network position. These structures of connection describe the speed with which social change occurs in a population, by defining the composition of interpersonal relationships within a system, and the individuals within networks who facilitate this. These features have not been assessed in relation to social psychological influence research, yet the structural explanations of social systems describe the pathways an innovation takes to arrive at a target, and propose that this has an effect on an adoption outcome.
It is argued in this thesis that psychological features of interpersonal and normative influence explain the variation in cases where actors do not adopt attitudes or behaviours when they are structurally expected to, or why innovations will spread through populations when a system’s relationship composition does not appear to structurally support it. In this chapter, we extend the findings from Study 1 by applying structural phenomena, in addition to psychological features of influence, to predictions of attitudes in this online community.

Study 2 aimed to explain whether structural or psychological features better predicted attitudes to sexual activity in Second Life. Building on the results of Study 1, it predicted measured of attitudes with three structural predictors (network position, network density and network strength), and four groups of psychological predictors (ratings on interpersonal and normative facets of influence, perceived attitudes and previous personal experience).

The results of the analysis demonstrated that network strength and network position indirectly predicted attitudes, by describing what kinds of perceived attitudes were likely to form. Accurate and inaccurate perceptions of what close friends felt about cybersex strongly predicted the personal attitude. Additionally, individuals clustered into groups that perpetuated inaccurate perceptions of what their local network felt about sexual activity in Second Life, arguably drawn together based on what they thought others believed rather than what others did believe. It was proposed that these perceptions emerged because participants sought similar others to form communities with, and projected similarity based on stereotypes that emerged from cues available in the deindividuated space.