... With a focus on freedom, and Harbin's countercultural processes, I'll leave questions of capital, consumption, and means of production, however, vis-a-vis both actual and virtual Harbin, to other social scientists and researchers.
Harbin itself is a place of play, or retreat, of dropping out, of escapism in many senses of this word, and of creating a different society, - of embracing freedom in explicit, clothing-optional ways. Tuning in, turning on, and dropping out (T. Leary) emerged in the 1960s in relation to mind-expanding psychedelic drugs – Ishvara at Harbin attended workshops and talks with Tim Leary at Esalen and other places - and Harbin flows out of this ethos of 1960's freedom-seeking, of seeing things differently, of creating and living an alternative, countercultural exploration of life. People, then and now, go on vacation to get away - including going on retreats - and to have fun, which is what Harbin is for, in so many ways, as a kind of continuous hippie gathering under the name of Heart Consciousness Church (but it isn't a church, by way of comparison, in the way the traditional, dour, gloomy and strict - by some accounts - Wee Free Kirk of Scotland is, which is stricter even than the Free Church of Scotland, which has a reputation for strictness). Harbin is a place where more countercultural explorations have occurred in a 1960's sense than most other places on the planet. More spiritual teachers – saddhus, gurus, fakirs, astrologers, travelers in India, Tantric Yoginis, Zen Buddhists, Toaists, psychedelic tripsters traveling to far away worlds, rainbow cosmonauts, hippies, Dead Heads, Merry Pranksters, Goddesses and spiritual journeyers of most colorful stripes, and very diverse 'Western' backgrounds - have come in and out of Harbin than can be imagined, ~ mind-blowingly so. And Harbin has welcomed them, held a lot of workshops around such spirituality, and created and cultivated the space for a kind of countercultural (escapist – yes, totally:) freedom, especially in Harbin's pools. Well, anthropologically speaking, it just kind of happened, and is still happening as the waters flow out of the ground and people take off their clothes and head into the warm pool. The ways in which such explorations that have occurred at actual Harbin will emerge in virtual Harbin beginning in 2009-2010, with the 1960s four decades in the past will be fascinating to observe ethnographically.
People familiar with actual Harbin and with virtual worlds like Second Life, in general, are often predisposed to certain assumptions which I hope this ethnography will clarify. ...
(http://scott-macleod.blogspot.com/2010/07/heron-in-flight-harbin-itself-is-place.html - July 13, 2010)