Deep Thoughts, Identity and Expression, Second Life, Virtual World Platforms

Anthropology and Second Life: It’s All About Real Estate, with Some Chat Thrown In

I’m a big fan of Coming of Age in Second Life, the new book by Tom Boellstorff and touched on it recently.

Now the anthropologists are chewing over the contribution Tom’s book makes to their field. Of particular interest is the following claim by the blog’s author (emphasis added):

Indeed, Boellstoroff’s book confirms my conviction that Second Life is mostly about real estate, with a little relationship stuff thrown in for good measure.

If Boellstoroff never really convinced me that I should care about Second Life, it is because he doesn’t even try. His argument is that whether we care about virtual worlds or not, they are here to stay, so we’d better try our best to understand them. And, what better way than ethnography? Indeed, Boellstoroff has given us a very competent, thoughtful, and well written, ethnography of one such virtual world. And this is perhaps the most interesting thing about the book – it is an ethnography of a virtual world.

He goes on to claim that Tom’s use of his real life name rather than his avatar identity places his work on shaky ground:

There is one exception to Boellstorff’s self-imposed limitation, and that is his own authorial voice. In Second Life he is Tom Bukowski, born on June 3, 2004 who has a home in Ethnographia, located in the Dowden region of Second Life. But the book isn’t written by Bukowski, its written by Boellstorff, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of California. Boellstorff’s corporality is very much tied to his authority as an anthropologist.

I’ve replied at length on Savage Minds, and direct you there for my own response (pending moderation) and encourage your own.

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