Friday, September 3, 2010

Lake Foliage: A key facet of this actual / virtual Harbin ethnography includes defining virtual as visionary

Harbin ethnography:

... And, as personal, virtual Harbin history, my leaving Harbin as resident opened the opportunity to eventually write this actual/virtual Harbin ethnography.

As a last, personal, virtual, Harbin history, a key facet of this actual / Harbin ethnography includes defining virtual (something not physical, but created by software to appear so), especially vis-a-vis Harbin Hot Springs, as visionary, too. Visionary here includes giving shape to what could be, and Harbin's culture, vis-a-vis its pool area, can find form in virtual expressions. Indeed, at this point, it's words – as virtual expressions and signifiers - that are giving form to this virtual Harbin, the first digital, virtual Harbin in OpenSim having been stolen. As examples of already existing hot springs and related bodies of water in Second Life, the Gardens of Bliss in Second Life, a SL 'build' now taken down, but about which I made the ethnographic machinima “The Making of Harbin Hot Springs as Ethnographic Field Site” (2009 - which you can see here: is one example, although it didn't correspond topographically to any actual place that I know of. I hope virtual Harbin Hot Springs will correspond to actual Harbin's Mainside area, to start, and eventually to the whole valley area including many of Harbin buildings and pools: the Harbin Domes, the Harbin Conference Center, the Harbin Gate, and all of the area from the upper parking lot to the Tea House on the Mainside side of the valley, which includes the pool area, the Temple, the Guest Buildings and Stonefront Lodge - and eventually fitting into a hypothetical, northern California grid. Marron's Onsen Jinjya Hot Springs in Second Life, with some Japanese influences is both a virtual, in-world hot springs (i.e. steam rises from the water) and natural, i.e. it's quite green, and doesn't have a lot of virtual buildings or 'development'; it's the closest in-world hot springs I know of now, to what I have in mind for virtual Harbin. (These 'builds' keep changing, and this one has recently, too – September 4, 2010). Visit it now to get a feel: In general, Second Life's whole digital world environment is conducive to the building of a virtual Harbin. When I first went in-world in 2006, I met a lot of furry avatars, as well as saw bubbles floating through the air, almost psychedelically; SL is a richly stimulating environment. Second Life currently has a virtual Burning Man ( (this 'build' has recently changed, too – September 4, 2010). Second Life is also open to intimacy, in ways the 1960s explored. SL has virtual Woodstock, which is more museum than massive party, without many avatars, when I recently visited it (September 1, 2010). Also, in Second Life, I participated as a juror in a mock Burning Man trial in Second Life conducted by Harvard Law Professor Charlie Nesson who was the judge, for a course he was teaching (, also an expression of virtual vision. In this instance the Burning Man man was burned early, as an expression of original Burning Man anarchistic freedom, but as Burning Man developed over years, ownership issues emerged and there was a actual lawsuit, which Charlie Nesson used to explored as a trial case. The possibility to act out trial roles in a virtual world, anonymously, is a innovative teaching tool. As personal virtual Harbin histories, each of these examples show some realizable, virtual visions, and influenced my understanding of virtual world possibilities, thus informing aspects of virtual Harbin to come. What will emerge and develop vis-a-vis virtual Harbin both follows and is to be seen.


While the above, personal Harbin histories extend ways I explore the concept of virtual vis-a-vis virtual Harbin Hot Springs in this ethnography, actual Harbin histories richly inform these explorations of the concept of virtuality because place matters; the Harbin valley, and its pool area and especially its warm pool and other pools are central to, and intertwined with, emergent (Fischer 2004), virtual Harbin. ...

( - September 3, 2010)

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