Friday, September 10, 2010

Sierra Wilderness: Place, and the idea of place, as distinct from the actual, The Physical, Actual and Virtual, ethnographically

Harbin ethnography:

... It thus focuses the idea of 'place' in word - , and representation-, form, which is an expression of the heart-idea, - here in the form of the heart-shaped pool.

While this ethnography emphasizes the physical Harbin valley and its pools first as place, and distinguishes between the actual and the virtual, in terms of physicality of place and the software which represents place, virtual Harbin also allows for the possibility to distinguish between place in-world and the actual world, ethnographically. And while virtual worlds persist (Boellstorff 2008: 47) even when specific endusers log out of them or go offline, the physical Harbin pool area and its pools, as place, actually influence people in ways that are incomparable to, say, visiting virtual Harbin from home in your bathtub and interacting immersively with integrating media elements in a hypermedia context to participate in new narrative (formal and aesthetic) production (Packer and Jordan 2000), where at actual, physical Harbin, by way of comparison, your releasing in the place that is the Harbin warm pool with many people around you, some snuggling with their lovers or sharing Watsu, and finding the neurophysiology of loving bliss bubbling up inside of you, and then heading to the hot pool or cold pool, to move from the hot to cold pools multiple times to accentuate and grow this wondrous neurophysiology, isn't as conducive, or as remarkable as virtual place from your bathtub is, - with the bliss that it might provide a milieu for. In examining actual histories of Harbin, vis-a-vis their possibility in virtual Harbin, which (possibility) is both another aspect of ethnographic virtuality, as well as part of the process of virtual building, multiple disjunctions vis-a-vis community will find form. From my field notes, as actual history of Harbin's pool area as place, I wrote in a letter to a friend: “The pools, as one center of this community, and clothing-optionalness, reshape sociality at Harbin. Life is relaxed and easy, even meditative, especially around the pools; people generally have quiet minds there. People are especially attractive when they are relaxed in the pools, and the clothing-optional pool culture accentuates this, especially in such a beautiful place as the Harbin canyon. Openness about the body becomes normalized as part of a transformation process due to a different social psychology. Sexuality is also more present in the ‘air’ – i.e. as part of Harbin culture - than in most places I’ve been, partly as an expression of alternative, hippie culture. I’d like to suggest that all of this together becomes an unique way of knowing and a discourse” (MacLeod, Harbin Field Notes 2007-2008, March 31, 2008). Such experiences of virtual Harbin place will be notably different from the actual Harbin pool area experience, yet will develop, merge and meld as well.

But the initial, virtual Harbins may take on multiple kinds of virtual, interactive representations, besides in Second Life and Open Sim, that this ethnography will also at least touch on. ...

( - September 10, 2010)

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