Yesterday I had an interesting meeting with Tom Boellstorff, professor of Anthropology here at UC Irvine. Among other things we discussed Second Life. Tom’s book Second Life, Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human, will soon be published. Tom belongs the category of scholars that manage to maintain both a strong, more traditional (or maybe rather non-digital) line of research and do high-quality work in relation to the ‘digital’ (as well as taking jobs such as being the editor-in-chief of American Anthropologist). Two earlier books of his are The Gay Archipelago: Sexuality and Nation in Indonesia and A Coincidence of Desires: Anthropology, Queer Studies, Indonesia. One of the questions we discussed is to what extent his ethnographic work in Second Life is different from traditional ethnography, and Tom’s experience seems to be that it is not as different as one might expect. Partly because adapting to new contexts and ‘study objects’ is an integral part of ethnographic work. The issue of anthropology’s relation to the digital is different, and it will be interesting to follow how books such as this one are received by the community.
We also talked about useful Second Life resources and some new (or almost new) books:
New World Notes (blog)
The Making of Second Life by W. James Au
Designing Virtual Worlds by Richard Bartle
I, Avatar: The Culture and Consequences of Having a Second Life by Mark Stephen Meadows
Mark Meadows is an old HUMlab friend, and I had a chance to briefly hold his book. It is a very nicely designed book. I look forward to reading it. In general, I am looking forward to reading critically situated books on virtual worlds with an anchoring in experience, data and history as well as theory.
Tom also told me about the upcoming Cultures of Virtual Worlds conference here at UCI.