Monday, November 22, 2010

Desolation Wilderness: An avatar-ethnographer, Virtual Watsu with another avatar visiting virtual Harbin, Multi-modalities of Communication as Message

Harbin ethnography:

... As one example of how communication is different in virtual worlds, compared with the actual world, information technologies extend the possibilities for symbolizing, and communicating, now in relation to virtual Harbin.

For example, an avatar-ethnographer could both participate in the virtual Watsu (water shiatsu), with another avatar visiting virtual Harbin, as they talk in voice, and group text-chat about the Watsu, perhaps while watching an instructional Watsu video in this virtual world from the pool, and as they script/code their avatars to add subtle, nuanced, and perhaps new, in-the-virtual-warm-pool movements. This might involve innovating with Watsu, due to the medium of virtual water (e.g. see these Second Life dance scripts: ). The avatar-ethnographer then might interpret this Watsu and these developments with a reading of the sociocultural significance of information technologies, and Harbin as Heart Consciousness Church (HCC), vis-a-vis the freedom and ease of Watsu, and the freedom-seeking movements and healing creativity, some of which involved hippies going to hot springs, of the 1960s. In terms of communication and participant observation, the avatar-ethnographer can begin to examine the significance of virtual world, mediated language-use, even generating machinima's (virtual world animated videos), transcripts and documents of group-text chat, as well as potentially recording conversations, with avatar permission, and within the ethics of the anthropological, field work, or water play, practices. And in terms of identity and participant observation, for example, the avatar-ethnographer could also then virtually participate in an educational, virtual, Harbin Watsu and might interpret it in the context of Harbin as a Watsu school. The culture of actual Harbin from which Watsu as a new, human, social therapy and movement form emerges, would then inform the culture of virtual Harbin, in which Watsu is further explored, and in which innovations may also find form. And face-to-face, body-to-body, avatar-face-to-avatar-face and avatar-body-to-avatar-body communication become possible (see this still buggy, avatar-face information technology: ) through actual and virtual Watsu (Boellstorff 2008:67). In terms of agency, the Harbin Hot Springs' avatar-ethnographer emerges as a new co-agent, or actor, participating with, as well as observing (potentially anonymously, too, since avatars' actual identities are often not know) other virtual Harbin avatar visitors. While not interpretively language/communication-, identity-, network-, information technological- or agent-centered, for example, in an ethnographic, conceptual sense, the avatar-ethnographer engages aspects of related questions in her analysis of virtual Harbin cultural practices, digitally. Nevertheless, communication emerges as an important new development in this anthropological interpretation of these Harbin cultures and its avatars and virtual worlds.

Actual and virtual Harbin communication codes are informed by fluid, warm-water, clothing-optional, and hippy-to-the-hot-springs thinking, in this interpretation. …

( - November 22, 2010)

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