Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Loulu: Anthropology of virtual worlds, the Virtual and Techne for Boellstorff, Boellstorff video interview, Defining and thinking through the Virtual vis-a-vis information in my Harbin ethnographic book

Anthropology of virtual worlds - Boellstorff

Great to have found recently this interview with etopianews with Anthropologist Tom Boellstorff about his book - "Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human"(Princeton 2008)  - with which I come into conversation with in my 400-page, .docx, "Naked Harbin" actual / virtual ethnographic manuscript.


"The thing about our everyday lives is that they have always been virtual ... human social life has always been virtual ... " (a transcription is below)


Here's a draft paragraph from my 400 page actual / virtual Harbin Hot Springs' book manuscript about the 'virtual,' in which I come into conversation with Tom's focus both on 'the virtual' and 'Techne' (e.g. craft or making for him, and which I read also partly 'technology'), with my complementary emphasis on information, as in information technology, but especially communication, in my book:

"...I'll explore how these informational, technological, constructive, and particularly communicative practices of examining an anthropological field site in terms of the virtual – where virtual Harbin for ethnographic study here refers to what emerges culturally through communication, vis-à-vis all information processes (and not exclusively in multimedia, or virtual worlds, by any means) – and furthers practices of ethnographically constructing the actual and the virtual, and of developing new forms of anthropological representation, in understanding the virtual. While Boellstorff suggests that the virtual as “everyday action is not touchable, is not physical. It’s about language, it’s about a social norm that I understand I should sit down when I walk into a room, and everyone else is sitting down. You can’t touch that belief, or that habit. It’s virtual in a sense, but it’s also obviously very real.” (Boellstorff, Tom. 2013. Tom Boellstorff talks about "Coming of Age in Second Life.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XkZMXtDEWM  Los Angeles, CA: etopianews), virtual Harbin in this book refers to 4 aspects of conceiving of the virtual (the virtual: defined in my manuscript, pp. 39, 76, 122-123, 377,  … ), a) as something “that is so in essence or effect, although not formally or actually,” so something not physical; b) “something not physical, but created by software to appear so” (Apple dictionary), both metaphorically, and especially vis-a-vis Harbin Hot Springs, as visionary, too; visionary here includes giving shape or form to what could be in a shared sense among human bodyminds as culture, and Harbin's counterculture, vis-a-vis its pool area, can find form in virtual expressions” c) primatologically, as symbolic or language, and across primates that use symbols, d) “One useful definition of “virtual” is “ a philosophical term meaning 'not actually, but as if'” especially vis-a-vis digitally constructed and informed processes. (In the next volume of my Harbin book project (of possibly five volumes and one, digital, cyber, virtual Harbin), I plan to build a cyber, virtual Harbin Hot Springs, probably in a Harbin Bubble Glasses, or emerging cyber glasses, and write about this in terms of a further, actual – virtual ethnographic comparison."


Boellstorff says around (11:11) “and so I am very concerned about how social life has always been virtual in a sense. And part of that depends on how you define what the word virtual means, what the world digital means, and so on. But keeping it to virtual, for the moment, depending on how you define it, so much of our everyday action is not touchable, is not physical. It’s about language, it’s about a social norm that I understand I should sit down when I walk into a room, and everyone else is sitting down. You can’t touch that belief, or that habit. It’s virtual in a sense, but it’s also obviously very real. And so I still don’t have a complete answer to that question, but I think it’s really interested and it’s something that really motivated me doing the Second Life research, and it still motivates me in the continuing research that I do even in the present day … is trying to think about how is it that we’ve always been virtual, and what is new, and what is not new about our engagements with these new technologies.

Q: “What is Techne and how does understanding it help to understand Second Life?”

A: “Well, whenever you do a research project, it it’s successful you get carried down a path you never thought you get carried down, because research for me when it goes well is always about a process of discovery, and that’s what makes it so much fun. And so as I started spending time in Second Life, I really noticed that creativity and crafting was [were] important to lots of people. making things, building things, talking about making things, even sort of making your identity, making your relationship, crafting and making things was really important to people, and that’s not just limited to Second Life. There’s a reason what there’s a game called World of Warcraft (he emphasizes the world ‘craft’ in interview), or Minecraft, right. This idea of crafting and making is really common. … “ (13:10) … same root as technology, … and it was held up as a different sort of thing than episteme, or knowledge … 13:53)

Some relevant, dictionary definitions (Apple dictionary, 2.x) of the words - virtual, Techne, information, technology, information technology, communication, cyber, cyber- and digital, and other concepts I'm exploring in my actual / virtual Harbin book, including culture, counterculture and multimedia : 

actual -  
1 existing in fact; typically as contrasted with what was intended, expected, or believed : the estimate was much less than the actual cost | those were his actual words. See note at genuine .
• used to emphasize the important aspect of something : the book could be condensed into half the space, but what of the actual content?
2 existing now; current : using actual income to measure expected income.

communication - 

1 the imparting or exchanging of information or news : direct communication between the two countries will produce greater understanding | at the moment I am in communication with London.

• a letter or message containing such information or news.
• the successful conveying or sharing of ideas and feelings : there was a lack of communication between Pamela and her parents.
• social contact : she gave him some hope of her return, or at least of their future communication.
2 ( communications) means of connection between people or places, in particular
• the means of sending or receiving information, such as telephone lines or computers : satellite communications | [as adj. ] a communications network.
• the means of traveling or of transporting goods, such as roads or railroads : a city providing excellent road and rail communications.
• [treated as sing. ] the field of study concerned with the transmission of information by various means.

counterculture - 

a way of life and set of attitudes opposed to or at variance with the prevailing social norm : the idealists of the 60s counterculture.

culture - 

1 the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively : 20th century popular culture.

• a refined understanding or appreciation of this : men of culture.
• the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group : Caribbean culture | people from many different cultures.
• [with adj. ] the attitudes and behavior characteristic of a particular social group : the emerging drug culture.


of, relating to, or characteristic of the culture of computers, information technology, and virtual reality : the cyber age.


combining form
relating to electronic communication networks and virtual reality : cyberpunk | cyberspace.

digital -

relating to or using signals or information represented by discrete values (digits) of a physical quantity, such as voltage or magnetic polarization, to represent arithmetic numbers or approximations to numbers from a continuum or logical expressions and variables : digital TV. Often contrasted with analog .

• (of a clock or watch) showing the time by means of displayed digits rather than hands or a pointer.

information - 

1 facts provided or learned about something or someone : a vital piece of information. See note at knowledge .

• Law a formal criminal charge lodged with a court or magistrate by a prosecutor without the aid of a grand jury : the tenant may lay an information against his landlord.
2 what is conveyed or represented by a particular arrangement or sequence of things : genetically transmitted information.
• Computing data as processed, stored, or transmitted by a computer.

technology - 

the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, esp. in industry : advances in computer technology | recycling technologies.
• machinery and equipment developed from such scientific knowledge.
• the branch of knowledge dealing with engineering or applied sciences.

information technology - 

the study or use of systems (esp. computers and telecommunications) for storing, retrieving, and sending information.

multimedia - 

(of art, education, etc.) using more than one medium of expression or communication : a multimedia art form that is a mélange of film, ballet, drama, mime, acrobatics, and stage effects.


an extension of hypertext allowing the provision of audio and video material cross-referenced to a computer text.

real - 

1 actually existing as a thing or occurring in fact; not imagined or supposed : Julius Caesar was a real person | a story drawing on real events | her many illnesses, real and imaginary.
• used to emphasize the significance or seriousness of a situation or circumstance : there is a real danger of civil war | the competitive threat from overseas is very real.
• Philosophy relating to something as it is, not merely as it may be described or distinguished.
2 (of a substance or thing) not imitation or artificial; genuine : the earring was presumably real gold.
• true or actual : his real name is James | this isn't my real reason for coming.
• [ attrib. ] (of a person or thing) rightly so called; proper : he's my idea of a real man | Jamie is my only real friend.
3 [ attrib. ] informal complete; utter (used for emphasis) : the tour turned out to be a real disaster.

Techne -

craft or making (per Boellstorff)

virtual -  

almost or nearly as described, but not completely or according to strict definition : the virtual absence of border controls.

• Computing not physically existing as such but made by software to appear to do so : a virtual computer. See also virtual reality .

virtual world - 

no definition in this Apple dictionary

virtual world -

A virtual world is an online community that takes the form of a computer-based simulated environment through which users can interact with one another and use and create objects. The term has become largely synonymous with interactive 3D virtual environments, where the users take the form of avatars visible to others. These avatars usually appear as textual, two-dimensional, or three-dimensional representations, although other forms, such as live video avatars, are possible, with auditory and touch sensations. In general, virtual worlds allow for multiple users. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_world)

1 (esp. of a person) thinking about or planning the future with imagination or wisdom : a visionary leader.
• archaic (of a scheme or idea) not practical.
2 of, relating to, or able to see visions in a dream or trance, or as a supernatural apparition : a visionary experience.
• archaic existing only in a vision or in the imagination.


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