Friday, January 21, 2011

North New Zealand: Only one virtual world presentation in a Tourism Studies' conference with Second Life 'build' called the Gardens of Bliss

Harbin ethnography:

... As ethnographer, where confidentiality protects informants' identities, I choose to follow fairly well-established confidentiality guidelines (here:, with respect to avatar identities, as well. Such guidelines are in development vis-a-vis the anthropological ethics of online research.

I've thus far only given one virtual world presentation where I showed people in a tourism conference a Second Life 'build' called the Gardens of Bliss (this build has been taken down), with its beautiful mountainous landscape as well as its pools. In giving this demonstration, I showed more how avatars work and how virtual Harbin would appear, than interact with other avatars. I thus didn't raise confidentiality issues in this demonstration. In the machinima “The Making of Virtual Harbin Hot Springs as Ethnographic Field Site in Second Life and Open Simulator” (, I, as ethnographer, also only conversed with a friend helping me make this machinima, and not with any one else, not raising questions of confidentiality. Unlike Tom Boellstorff, who eventually banned … I think I'll choose to invite other avatars I know, and who have consented, for any public presentation or conversation I, or others, may give. Like actual Harbin, I may place a sign at the virtual Harbin gate house, that ethnographic study, and possible presentations-to-the actual-world occur in this virtual space, and that by entering, an end user will grant consent for his or her avatar. On this sign, I will mention that virtual Harbin is clothing optional and that Watsu occurs between two avatars, for example. I'll also mention that ethnographic study occurs here, including interviews. I may include a check box with this information as an avatar enters, as a kind of consent form. If students of mine start also to study in virtual Harbin, I may include this on the sign. Like Tom Boellstorff (Boellstorff 2008:81), I plan also to develop a consent form for interviews in virtual Harbin, which my hypothetical students could also use there.

Like actual Harbin, where, in addition to being a member of Heart Consciousness Church, or having someone in your party who is, and where you pay anywhere from U.S. $25 for 24 hours for one to camp on a weekday, to $300 for the most expensive cottage for two, to stay, on a weekend, I may also charge a very nominal fee in Linden dollars for entry to virtual Harbin – on the order of U.S. pennies – since this virtual Harbin is becoming a parallel-to-actual virtual Harbin field site. ...

( - January 21, 2011)

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