Saturday, July 24, 2010

Acer Pennsylvanicum Erythrocladum: Actual & Virtual Harbin in a Slightly Historicized Way, In Past & Present Tenses, with Future in Mind

Harbin ethnography:

... What this anthropological book does is bring an ethnographic approach to actual Harbin into conversation with virtual Harbin world building to identify complementary new approaches to ethnography, engaging the limitations of the form of good ethnographic writing in the process, and by focusing on humans.

Consequently, I write about both actual and virtual Harbin in a slightly historicized manner, and both in the past and present tenses, and with an eye to the future, too (Le Guin 1985), with the production here of virtual Harbin, for ongoing focus on Harbin life vis-a-vis anthropological participant observation. The folkloric/archival aspect of this book serves, too, to provide even the basis for hippie-learning for subsequent generations (Foxfire?). I hope that this book will come richly into conversation with virtual Harbin representationally, with the digital technologies making possible image-representations, not possible in either this book, both due its limitations in image reproduction, and because actual Harbin Hot Springs doesn't allow cameras or photographs on Harbin property. With book's, - ethnographic ones, in particular here - and photography's emergence in modernity, both of which changing cultural processes in somewhat far-reaching ways, virtual worlds and virtual Harbin, too, may come into conversation with actual Harbin. Fortunately, a number of books have already been written: by Harbin's founder (Ishvara 2002), the current Harbin CEO (Wyne 1997), the creator of Watsu – water shiatsu – which originated in the Harbin warm pool (Dull 1993), and an historian of Harbin (Klages 1991), - so Harbin has a significant history of textual and representational engagement in the context of modernity, for all of its orientation to the now, and a pool-centric retreat center. Since this book allows me to construct a conceptual narrative (Boellstorff 2008:30) in relation to the visually-oriented, actual Harbin pool area as an ethnographic field site which isn't a conceptual narrative, I am given the opportunity to step back from the clothing-optional, pool-centric culture which is Harbin, to float in ideas about Harbin, informed by ethnographic questions. And virtual Harbin - which I hope will emerge flourishing through a group, digital, creative process - will allow many representational Harbin aspects to emerge which a text-based 'classic ethnography' can't. And thanks to Tom Boellstorff's book, I can come into this text-based, virtual-anthropological conversation, without having to define this genre of virtual anthropology in ground-breaking ways, conceptually. I thus begin with terms in the first chapters, and allow the reader to choose in which order to read the chapters.

In engaging Boellstorff's “Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human” in this draft, I also engage the 'structure' of the classic ethnographies by Malinowski, Evans-Pritchard, Mead and multiple other ethnographers. ...

( - July 24, 2010)

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