Saturday, July 17, 2010

Rainbow shiners: I first got an avatar, and found rich, 'flow' experiences in a virtual world when participating in a Harvard University course

Harbin ethnography:

.... Over time, some residents to Harbin Hot Springs will only know Harbin virtually and some will only know it in-the-actual-waters, but there will be much overlap and related conversation about this, as well.

THE VIRTUAL HARBINITE (vis-a-vis the Posthuman?) AND HARBIN FOLKS (vis-a-vis the Human?)

I first got an avatar, and found rich, 'flow' (Csikszentmihalyi 199.) experiences with these new information technologies, in the autumn of 2006 when participating in a Harvard University course, “CyberOne: Law in the Court of Public Opinion,” on its virtual island in Second Life. Besides the excitement of interacting, representationally, with people from all over the world on virtual places in Second Life - with cartoon-esque avatars representing you which you can shape and dress any way you like, and where you can build anything imaginable - it was during this course's office hours in group chat (Figure with dialogue example) that I experienced new possibilities for the exchange of ideas among people. This was before Linden Lab introduced voice into Second Life, so linguistic communication occurred only through typing. What was uniquely posthuman was the modality of communication in the following ways. Multiple people, through their avatars, type-chatted at the same time. What was typed was recorded so that people could re-visit what was said in the conversation earlier, and reply to previous ideas. Multiple lines of reasoning and conversation could therefore emerge. And the transcript of each group conversations was saved, so that it could become part of future conversations, and so that it was archivable. A document was created in perpetuity, as well. This combining of people, avatar-mediated-communication and information technologies in a novel constellation to create 'flow' experiences in serious-minded, multiple-voiced conversations is what I call here an example of a posthuman experience. On virtual Harbin, these conversations emerge vis-a-vis both actual and virtual Harbin sociocultural processes. Actual Harbin has generated a rich fabric of life where Harbin residents and Harbin visitors – Harbinites (? - a term I've heard occasionally at Harbin), or Harbin folks (the often-heard term 'Harbin residents' does not include visitors and guests) – are human in ways informed by Harbin's culture. The Harbin experience – as I've heard it called, and sometimes by Harbin residents in the sense that to call the 'now' experience as experience, takes it problematically out of its 'nowness' – is what I hope will inform a reading of the posthuman vis-a-vis virtual Harbin.

Avatar names in Second Life are influenced by its discourse and milieu. ...

( - July 17, 2010)

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