Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tortoise: WHAT THIS, A BOOK, DOES, Why write a book? And why write an anthropological book? Virtuality

Harbin ethnography:

... While “virtual worlds reconfigure selfhood and sociality” (Boellstorff 2008:29), this is due to new forms of symbolization and representation, informed by multimedia in this example of actual and virtual Harbin.


Why write a book? And why write an anthropological book, an ethnography, about actual and virtual Harbin? As Boellstorff asks, “Why not a website, blog, or some other electronic form?” Books, still, in the middle of the information technology revolution (Castells 2000) are the richest, most-accessible, most condensed, longest-enduring, information-sharing media I know of, that allow for a sustained exploration of ideas, of thesis, examination and development of congruent ideas. Similarly, they are unparalleled as a way to share thoughtful research. And many more people can read than have a computer today. In anthropology, they're an information technology that allow people to share ideas in a very rich way about the 'whole' of a subject. Each unique volume thus contributes most richly to an ongoing conversation about knowledge and ideas that emerges from well before the ancient Greek world's focus on how knowledge works. And they are a remarkable and durable expression of virtuality itself, in the form of an idea technology for writing transmission which has withstood the tests of time since writing began some 5500 years ago (Schmandt-Besserat 2007). As I write this book, I add paragraph after paragraph to my blog ( Harbin ethnography link) which I have transferred from writing this in Open Office (a free, open source office suite, which includes a word processing program), and for which I don't yet have a publisher. In the process, I'm also conversing, in many senses, with both actual Harbin Hot Springs itself, in that I continue to do field work on a weekly basis there at the time of this writing, and with Tom Boellstorff's paper-based book “Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human.” Ethnographically, this Harbin book allows me to begin an exploration of all aspects of actual Harbin, and will potentially develop into ongoing virtual studies that supersede and incorporate this book. Of the many possible academic approaches to thinking about Harbin, ethnography alone seems to allow for the most far-reaching qualitative understandings of the many unique aspects of this place, emerging from the 1960s. This book similarly also allows for the exploration and study of virtual Harbin, ethnographically. In so doing, it allows me to focus on Harbin as a whole, as Malinowski observes: “an Ethnographer who sets out to study only religion, or only technology, or only social organization cuts out an artificial field for inquiry, and he will be seriously handicapped in his work” (Malinowski 1922:11), - in addition to my particular interests here in the Harbin pools, clothing-optionalness, the influences of the 1960s / counterculture and virtuality, both actual and virtual.

A book's structure also influences ways in which information is shared. ...

( - July 22, 2010)

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