... Nevertheless, communication emerges as an important new development in this anthropological interpretation of these Harbin cultures and its avatars and virtual worlds.
Actual and virtual Harbin communication codes are informed by fluid, warm-water, clothing-optional, and hippy-to-the-hot-springs thinking, in this interpretation. But actual Harbin emerges in an historical sense in this ethnography since 1972, when Ishvara bought the property, while virtual Harbin emerges in relation to this in the context of interactive communication technologies making virtual world building possible, and the emergence of related, sociocultural processes. Anthropological definitions of culture as code, habit, capability (Boellstorff 2008:68) etc., which the people who are part of the group 'know,' - cultural protocols, or rules, in a sense - each open possibilities for understanding actual and virtual Harbin, as well as further refining concepts of culture, anthropologically, vis-a-vis the whole, which, here are both actual and virtual Harbins. And while a virtual Harbin field site as laboratory for probabilistic analyses of sociocultural processes may appeal to communication theorists and empirical researchers, the concept of culture I here choose to develop for framing methods for studying actual and particularly virtual Harbin is interpretive, and communication-centric, focusing on the whole, where the sociocultural processes that interest me are latent and un-reified ('unthingified'). In terms of the concept of culture, I further focus on Harbin identity in this ethnography vis-a-vis information technologies, and which, to quote Jim Clifford, referring to the Mashpee indians, involves an ongoing “'reinterpretation of [their] contested history in order to act – with other Indian groups – powerfully, in an impure present-becoming-future.' Suggesting a concept of identity which is neither bound by culture nor ethnographic authority, he rhetorically asks 'Yet what if identity is conceived not as a boundary to be maintained but as a nexus of relations and transactions actively engaging a subject?'” (Clifford, 1988:344 in MacLeod 2003). While Clifford is writing about the Mashpee, and their land claims of the past few decades, in what is now the state of Massachusetts, I extend his language to help frame the emergence of Harbin identity - not quite a tribe as I see it although this language is sometimes used - out of the contested '60s. Here at Harbin, residents, visitors and guests visit, and have visited, the springs to earn a living or to get away from the city, and because they like the fabric of life, in the context of modernity, and now do this online in the context of the digital revolution.
One appeal of a virtual Harbin for some researchers and students of virtual worlds might be new methodological possibilities to use, for example, “elicitation” approaches (Boellstorff 2008:68), that is, slightly more structured interview approaches, as well as statistical analyses, especially linguistically, than participant observation, to understand 'culture' here, especially as Harbin residents understand Harbin culture at actual or in virtual Harbin. ...
(http://scott-macleod.blogspot.com/2010/11/hot-cool-pools-actual-virtual-harbin.html - November 23, 2010)