US intelligence agency wants to know how to use alternate reality gaming to bolster research

Can alternate reality gaming improve national intelligence gathering initiatives?

The researchers at the government's "high-risk, high-payoff research" group, Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) want to know how alternate reality environments such as games in particular can help it develop "high-quality behavioral and psychological research in near real-world contexts."

IARPA, which is part of the Office of National Intelligence is looking to gather information about these  settings for a project known as Using Alternate Reality Environments to Help Enrich Research Efforts (UAREHERE) though it doesn't specify exactly how such research would be used.  Alternative reality games are usually quite complicated and can involve many people and situations to bring to fruition.

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Specifically the group said it is looking for information to answer the following questions:

1. What, if any, social, behavioral, and/or psychological research has been conducted using Alternate Reality Environments (AREs), to include  Alternate Reality Games (ARGs)?

2. Is there evidence that ARE/ARG-based research provides greater external validity than other methods of social, behavioral, and/or psychological research?

3. What are the key elements to incorporate when designing or using AREs/ARGs for research purposes? What may be the biggest challenges for designing or using AREs/ARGs for research?

4. How might one design an ARE/ARG that combines periods of controlled data collection as well as periods of "free play" and interactions?

5. How might subject recruitment, screening, and informed consent be performed for an ARE/ARG, while limiting priming effects that may occur when explaining the purpose of a research study?

6. What protections can be put in place to maintain the privacy, safety, and anonymity of subjects? How have previous AREs/ARGs addressed these issues? Responses should consider issues regarding the collection of data via personal identifiers that may be sensitive (like user names, phone numbers, emails, IP addresses, etc.), other data that may potentially be sensitive, and data security and protections.

IARPA has had some pretty interesting projects in the past.  Last year it got $1.4 million from the US Army Research Laboratory to develop what it calls Autonomous Dynamic Analysis of Metaphor and Analogy.  ADAMA aims to build a software system that can automatically analyze metaphorical speech in five different languages by analyzing huge quantities of online data.  From IARPA:  "Metaphors have been known since Aristotle as poetic or rhetorical devices that are unique, creative instances of language artistry (for example: The world is a stage; Time is money). Over the last 30 years, metaphors have been shown to be pervasive in everyday language and to reveal how people in a culture define and understand the world around them."

In January the group put out a call for bolstering computer security systems.  IARPA's  Safe and Secure Operations (SSO), research "explores or demonstrates the feasibility of revolutionary concepts in computation, trust establishment and maintenance, and detecting and deflecting hostile intent."

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