... Certainly, in an virtual Harbin in Open Simulator, we will find individuals and avatars who have never met on-the-ground, and, based any where in the world, or even in space, only come to relate via virtual Harbin; in this sense, virtual Harbin may come to be understood as a completely separate, isolated world – as another planet.
While I suggest here that it's possible to conceive of a virtual Harbin in Open Simulator as a kind of separate planet, which we can understand ethnographically in its own terms, as we shall see, I also have and will explore ways in which individuals and end users and in-world avatars on virtual Harbin, relate, examining, in particular, the relationship between residents and visitors to actual Harbin in northern California, and there engagement in both making and being on virtual Harbin. In suggesting both a separate, virtual place, as well as interaction between, and influences from actual Harbin and the 'real, physical world,' I observe two key aspects of virtuality, vis-a-vis actual and virtual Harbin Hot Springs. The specific contingencies that the ethnographic methodologies I develop here help examine include ways in which, for example, the Harbin pools, the pool area, Watsu, the beauty of the physical milieu of the actual Harbin valley, New Age language, symbolization, as well as what residents (as well as 'local hires' from Lake County) and visitors, - actual and virtual - say, do and create. I'm also interested in the freedoms that emerge through observation vis-a-vis these processes and temporalities – in the now. So in a sociocultural anthropological trajectory of inquiry, the contexts that I privilege here representationally, are particularly actual Harbin, and the making of virtual Harbin in an Open Simulator-like environment, emerging from the 1960s, with an interpretation of the significance of the NOW at Harbin, giving form to interrelated social, economic and political milieus. What's so fascinating about actual Harbin is how separate a kind of hippie world it is, and can be, due to its geography – a valley at the end of a road, with hot springs.
How might a constructive critic question an ethnography, and related methods, of virtual Harbin in Open Simulator, as a separate world? ...
(http://scott-macleod.blogspot.com/2010/11/planet-venus-virtual-harbin-in-open.html - November 1, 2010)