Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tide pool life: As method, anthropology involves approaches to the study of multiple aspects of the human experience, Culture

Harbin ethnography:

... In this reading of approaches to data-gathering and ethnography, digital 'pool play' is new in the discipline and practices of ethnography, and now virtual ethnography.

As method, anthropology involves approaches to the study of multiple aspects of the human experience as culture, which, for convenience's sake, is an umbrella term, here, for the methods of sociocultural anthropology, archaeology, paleontological approaches to human origins, as well as linguistics. Anthropology as a discipline, here, includes a much wider record, and time periods, including the contemporary, than ethnography as a discipline might include, and extends concepts of culture, beyond aspects informed by the study of sociocultural processes. For example, the making of virtual Harbin as ethnographic fieldsite, and the study of virtual Harbins (virtual Harbin in OpenSim, the Yahoo Harbin ride board, Harbin sites), here, involves projecting into the future for methods to study both a developing, virtual field site, as well as methods for studying the relationships between actual and virtual Harbins, as they develop together. I see studying Harbin, for example, for the next few decades, involving much research, anticipating the future in the Harbin 'now,' both actually and virtually. The anthropology of avatar-mediated communication and linguistics is relatively new in anthropology, where multimedia-informed 'pool play,' in lieu of digital field work, in the case of virtual Harbin, gives form to new interpretive practices in the discipline of anthropology. In my interpretation, the Harbin waters become non-terra firma 'place,' and, for example, the nakedness, the silence and the cuddling in the Harbin warm pool become new aspects for anthropological and ethnographic participant-observation methods. As salient aspects of Harbin's 'culture,' these latent 'codes' are examples of “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society” (Tylor 1871:1) as well as “practice - the ethnographic and polyphonic representation of ‘culture,’ shaped by conjuncture rather than essence – to shape specific understandings of cultural and historical identity” (James Clifford in MacLeod 2003), and of the focus of my anthropological study, ethnographically.

Ethnography in person, and ethnography, where an avatar, like mine named “Aphilo Aarde,” who builds a virtual Harbin in Open Simulator, which becomes part of a grid of virtual islands', and then, when avatars begin to visit it, starts to study what occurs communicatively there, raises fascinating and important methodological questions about culture and virtual ethnography – counterculture, in the case of Harbin - as well as the role of the avatar-ethnographer, in terms of how to conduct ethnographic research in virtual worlds. ...

( - November 17, 2010)

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