Friday, February 4, 2011

Crocus petals unfolding: In generating both textual interpretations of both actual Harbin as well as virtual Harbin, as it unfolds

Harbin ethnography:

... And as a form of generativity of interactive, sociocultural processes, including communication, as well as generative archiving, virtual world multimedia representations of Harbin, with opportunities for intersections, for example, between actual Watsu in the physical waters of the Harbin warm pool, and virtual Watsu, interacting through one's computer, even while in one's home bath tub, create very new ethnographic methods and intersections, especially vis-a-vis interactivity, virtuality and multimedia.

While in generating textual interpretations of both actual Harbin as well as virtual Harbin, as it unfolds, I will engage my notes, Second Life transcripts, and Harbin texts and histories, as documents, which have significance as symbolic record of an unfolding ethnographic history of 'oneness,' 'now' and a hippy ethos, in Harbin's terms, such an approach generates new questions of ethnographic authority. While my notes and Harbin texts (like the Harbinger and the Harbin Quarterly) are raw data, in a sense, which could be seen as lending authority to my ethnographic interpretation, I prefer to engage Taoist and musical tropes, of finding one's way between interpretively (three examples/metaphors of Taoism that inform my reading of Harbin - water flowing effortless through river banks, becoming one with the banks do to its fluidity, a baby which has all it needs, Chuang Tzu, Thomas Merton, butcher story where the butcher, through intuition and skill, finds the joints between the animal so effortlessly that he never dulls the blade), and eliciting certain musical qualities of the 'improvisational opera' which I can see as Harbin, as a social scientific and anthropological alternative to questions of ethnographic authority, with its implications for hierarchical power relations in knowledge-generation. I hope, too, in my actual, participant-observation interviews, to facilitate expression of the Harbin voices I listen to, and converse with, as well as provide information-technological opportunities for Harbin-lovers to write their thoughts, in order to facilitate kinds of polyphonic, or heteroglossic (many voices), expressions of Harbin. The “Harbin Hot Springs :)” Facebook page, which I began, is one example of this. It now has around 960 members, all of whom joined easily and simply by clicking the FB 'join' button - this group grew fairly large fairly quickly of its own accord - and by which Harbin-folks can, and have, posted comments about Harbin in a kind of open forum. I also welcome anthropologists to write other ethnographies of Harbin to generate conversation about it. All such practices re-write questions of ethnographic authority. For those interested, generating, and engaging, a rich, ethnographic, textual conversation about Harbin, as well as inviting other Harbin residents to write their own, is one way of engaging some of the problematics of ethnographic authority.

Generating virtual Harbin itself raises other questions of ethnographic authority, as well as questions of who will be 'natives' or first, Harbin residents and visitors, in this most recent, upcoming version of virtual Harbin. …

( - February 4, 2011)

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