... By engaging a key anthropological form of descriptive analysis for comparison in both actual and virtual field sites, I depart from other approaches to qualitative analysis of both how Harbin Hot Springs might be considered in other academic disciplines, as well as prescriptive analysis, which many other researchers of virtual worlds have engaged in. In this book, I synthesize ethnographic analysis of two comparable field sites to highlight virtuality, and the possibilities and limitations of ethnographic comparison of the actual and virtual.
This actual / virtual comparative approach highlights the significance of representation in understanding and characterizing ethnographically both actual residents and visitors to actual Harbin, as well as the ways in which avatars have emerged, due to digital technologies, to offer beginning ways to explore the “virtually human.” As my first line of analysis, I suggest that life for actual residents and visitors, emerging from the milieu of the 1960s, can be delightfully countercultural, and freeing, at Harbin, for some; drawing on the literature of the virtual, avatar life in this actual / virtual Harbin context, makes possible new forms of counterculture (e.g. exploration of a variety of freeing roles / the possibility to build and thus create new possibilities). And I also show that avatars in virtual Harbin in Second Life offer the possibility to explore a curiously doubly-liminal space. People find freedom at actual Harbin. I therefore develop the argument that both actual Harbin and virtual Harbin open possibilities for kinds of virtual experience, which, in many ways, are countercultural, and thus make possible the exploring of 'avatar-ness,' and virtual freedoms, in their own lives in relation to their computers, as people and individuals. Thus in my analysis, actual Harbin, in relation to virtual worlds and to virtual Harbin, becomes more virtual than the multimedia, interactive representation of Harbin, for people/visitors, due to a kind of actuality of counterculture on-the-ground, which is a kind of virtuality more 'real' than virtual Harbin, due to its 'realness'. The real and the actual are more vivid instantiations of the virtual, than the virtual, due to actual Harbin's nowness; the experience of warm pool is too difficult to replicate digitally, for example. And I also characterize how counterculture emerges in relation to culture in uniquely Harbin ways, actually and virtually, where both influence the experience of Harbin residents and visitors. In addition, the milieu (culture) of on-the-ground Harbin makes both actual and virtual Harbin counterculturally freer, a key concept in the analysis of counterculture, - actually and virtually.
What counterculture is here, in the context of this kind of descriptive analysis, - in relation to anthropological conceptions of culture - involves a kind of creative response of people in the 1960s to modernity, my second line of analysis. ...
(http://scott-macleod.blogspot.com/2010/02/dragon-millipede-not-culture-but.html - February 20, 2010)