Dr Athen Ma
Queen Mary University of London
Athen Ma is an innovator in interdisciplinary approaches to the study of communities and networked ecosystems. She is particularly interested in finding out how the structure and dynamics of communities evolve over time and what kind of mechanics that help underpin cohesion in communities. Her research has been published in world-leading journals, with recent works revealing the organisation of collaborative science in the UK (in PNAS highlight), uncovering how ecological networks rewire under drought (front cover of Nature Climate Change), and how agricultural ecosystems are resilient to changes in farming management (in Nature Ecology and Evolution).
Online multiplayer games naturally form a platform for social relationships to develop, and deciphering the social structure and dynamics of the communities formed will provide insights into many aspects in games, ranging from users engagement and retention to team formation. For example, matchmaking enables users to find other players who share similar profiles, interests as well as skills and personality; has been seen as an important tool for establishing and maintaining a thriving gaming community.
Athen is keen to explore novel ways to use advances in social network analysis to investigate player communities in games across multiple network scales, so as to better understand their formation and evolution. Findings from this research will help identify/predict the type of social interactions that will promote the level of engagement among players and community cohesion, paving the way for designing in-game activities that will foster long-time engagement and retention.