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Virtual Environments and Cultures

A Collection of Social Anthropological Research in Virtual Cultures and Landscapes

Edited By Undine Frömming

Virtual reality is no longer an issue that we can avoid or ignore. It is an essential part of our experience, influencing cultures and individuals all over the world. This book presents a collection of ethnographic research in the virtual world of Second Life, and can be seen as an attempt to discover the challenges and limits of social anthropological research with an avatar in virtual cultures and environments. The contributions in this book demonstrate that the development of «digital codes» has meanwhile gone so far that anthropologists have started to conduct fieldwork inside digital user-generated worlds. This volume investigates the challenges facing a reality that is strongly and maybe irrevocably entangled with virtual reality. This development holds disadvantages and dangers but advantages as well - such as freedom of expressions for minority groups, social online activists, religious communities or artists. All research is based on qualitative methods, with group and single interview situations and participant observation over a period of between three and ten months.

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Acknowledgements .......................................................................................... 9 Notes on Contributors ...................................................................................... 11 Foreword .......................................................................................................... 17 Introduction ..................................................................................................... 21 Urte Undine Frömming Entangled Realities in Virtuality ..................................................................... 23 Chapter I Appropriation, Construction, and Imagination of Landscape, Space and Place in Virtual Worlds ................................................................................... 35 Emily Smith [Dis]Orientation: Mapping in Second Life ...................................................... 37 Christina Voigt Form Wilderness to Virtuality: Virtual Nature and Landscape in Second Life ...................................................................................................... 51 Josefine Borrmann Place and Non-Place in Second Life ............................................................... 63 Chapter II Gender, Belonging, and Motherhood in Virtual Cultures .............................. 73 Alina Trebbin Waiting for Zowie: Notes from the Digital Uterus ......................................... 75 Sarah Kiani Crossing Boundaries or Reinforcing Norms? Gender Performances in Second Life ...................................................................................................... 93 6Elena Quintarelli The Amazon of Aquarius: An Ethnographic Journey Through Gender Issues in Second Life ....................................................................................... 105 Emma Corbett-Ashby Queer and Trans Experience in Second Life: An Experimental Dialogue ..... 119 Katharina Frucht Virtual Romance: Love Relationships in Second Life .................................... 131 Julia Zaremba Furries .............................................................................................................. 141 Chapter III Religiosity in Virtual Worlds .......................................................................... 149 Ranty R. Islam Cyberspace and the Sacred .............................................................................. 151 Thomas John Religiosity in a Virtual World: Reasons and Motivations .............................. 165 Manizhe Ali Muslims and the Virtual .................................................................................. 177 Mike Terry Tabernacle in the Wilderness: Hierophany in Virtual Space .......................... 189 Chapter IV Conflicts and Activism in Virtual Worlds ....................................................... 201 Tobias R. Becker Virtual Representations of the Middle East Conflict ...................................... 203 Sara Ferrari and Tiina Kivelä Becoming an Activist in Virtual Worlds – Experiences of Social Activism in Second Life .................................................................................................. 213 Chapter V Art Production and Artists in Second Life ...................................................... 223 Samantha Fox Listen to the Radio: AM Radio, Second Life, and Innovations in an...

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