Monday, June 21, 2010

Dragonfly Bud: Contemporary discussions of the virtual by key researchers characterize the virtual as a social construct

Harbin ethnography:

... people come to actual and virtual Harbin to play, and the building of virtual Harbin is a kind of playing, too.

Contemporary discussions of the virtual by key researchers (e.g. Terra Nova – June 16 2010) characterize the virtual as a social construct, furthering a significant, social scientific interpretation (Hacking – The Social Construction of What?). Edward Castronova, on the one hand, focusing on the economics of virtual worlds, sees virtual reality “any computer-generated physical space … that can be experienced by many people at once” (Castronova 2005:22), and is fascinated by the blurring that occurs when 'real life money' shows up in virtual world (Boellstorff 2008: 23). The magic circle metaphor is one trope for explaining this interchange. For Castronova, money is an example of the 'virtual,' which moves between both spheres. On the other hand, Tom Boellstorff, focusing on the anthropology of the virtually human, sees “little difference between Virtual Reality and "reality" because culture makes "reality" a construct anyway” (Castronova, 2010 Boellstorff is fascinated, too, about why researchers find the interchange between the actual and the virtual so compelling (Boellstorff 2008: 23). For Boellstorff, the 'virtual' emerges from the Age of Techne, and what makes virtual unique from all previous histoical expressions of virtuality is that “techne (making and playing) can take place inside them” (Boellstorff 2008: 58), producing a gap between the actual and virtual. Boellstorff writes “Swallowing their own ontological tails, virtual worlds for the first time allow techne to become recursive, providing humans with radically new ways to understand their lives a beings of culture as well as physical embodiment” (Boellstorff 2008: 58). For Boellstorff, ““virtual” connotes approaching the actual without arriving there” (Boellstorff 2008: 19). And it emerges from the human ability to make things in digital spaces - the Age of Techne (Boellstorff 2008: 58). )

... On a related note, the cryptic French psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan's, conception of the structure of the psyche offers useful perspective in conceptualizing the virtual

( - June 21, 2010)

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