Friday, November 19, 2010

Gabbroic Layer of Earth's Crust: The positing of a culturally significant avatar-ethnographer, Virtual Harbin Hot Springs

Harbin ethnography:

... In the case of this actual and virtual Harbin ethnography, an avatar-ethnographer who both creates a virtual Harbin in Open Simulator as well as helps Harbin residents and visitors to create it, and then lives in virtual Harbin for the next few decades, in seeking to understand the sociocultural life which emerges there, vis-a-vis on-the-ground Harbin, and writes about this, gives form to new and developing conceptions of culture {counterculture?}.

The positing of a culturally significant avatar-ethnographer both making, and studying, a field site like virtual Harbin Hot Springs, and avatars as Harbin visitors and residents, highlight the significance of not only interactive multimedia, but also crafting (Techne viz. Boellstorff) and, especially, communicative processes, as important in the practices of ethnography for the study of virtual culture. Actual and virtual Harbins are kinds of irreverent-in-the-way-hippies-are, soak-in-the-pools, countercultural churches, informed by the 1960s in the context of modernity and the information technology revolution, where ethnographic practices, such as interviews and participant observation, are important methods for their study, as counterculture. As an avatar-ethnographer, I've found in other contexts in Second Life that multiple avatars, in virtual worlds such as Second Life and Open Simulator, can communicate both in voice and text-chat at the same time, as a group, even while 'real time' video is streaming into the virtual island where the avatars have gathered. That is, two concurrent, communication processes, like talking in an actual group concurrently while group-writing on actual paper to communicate, are possible, and is an example of how human, communication processes are new in virtual worlds. As avatar-ethnographer, if the medium is the 'sociocultural' message, then this multi-modality of communicative processes is significant for ethnographic interpretation, here in the case of actual and virtual Harbin, and gesturally, as well. As one example of how communication is different in virtual worlds, compared with the actual world, information technologies extend the possibilities for symbolizing, and communicating, now in relation to virtual Harbin.

For example, an avatar-ethnographer could both participate in the virtual Watsu (water shiatsu), with another avatar visiting virtual Harbin, as they talk in voice, and group text-chat about the Watsu, perhaps while watching an instructional Watsu video in this virtual world from the pool, and as they script/code their avatars to add subtle, nuanced, and perhaps new, in-the-virtual-warm-pool movements. …

( - November 19, 2010)

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