A Collection of Social Anthropological Research in Virtual Cultures and Landscapes
Edited By Undine Frömming
Virtual Worlds, Pedagogy, and Knowledge Tom Boellstorff Virtual Environments and Cultures is an experiment in collaborative writing, bridging pedagogy and research. One striking aspect of this volume is that it is the product of an extended class-based engagement within a single virtual world, Second Life. This permits an intertextual richness, as the component chapters link a range of student experiences and insights. The meeting of learning and the- ory makes for fascinating reading. The authors speak frankly about their success- es but also challenges and even failures in their attempts to conduct ethnographic research in Second Life. This acknowledgement of difficulties encountered is in fact a vital aspect of good ethnographic practice, a tradition going back at least to Malinowski’s “odyssey of blunders in field-work” in his classic monograph Coral Gardens and Their Magic (Malinowski 1935: 324–330). I salute the contributors for their fascinating work, as well as Undine Fröm- ming, whose pedagogical and editorial skills were clearly central to the book’s publication. I hope to see more examples of this kind of work in the future—with the caveat that (as appears to have been the case here) ethical research practices and oversight are as important in a virtual-world context as anywhere else; in the United States and many other countries, students involved in research like this would need human subjects clearance from their university’s Institutional Review Board. The rich contributions to Virtual Environments and Cultures speak to a range of conceptual and empirical questions that should...
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