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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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Chapter II. Gender, Belonging and Motherhood in Virtual Cultures

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Chapter II Gender, Belonging and Motherhood in Virtual Cultures Waiting for Zowie Notes from the Digital Uterus Alina Trebbin “You feel little feet kicking you!” …declared the tummy talker in the bottom left chat box on my laptop screen. Ziggi was three days pregnant with Zowie when the tummy talker first announced his presence. There was still 18 days of pregnancy left, where he would be waiting, in pre-ordered shape, for his de- livery to Ziggi’s inventory list, the place he would return to later on whenever I went offline. His hair would be black, his skin bright, his eye colour open for me to changed endlessly throughout his ‘life’. A growing number of people are no longer exclusively experiencing their real- ity in the physical world. Through new technologies, cyberspace is becoming a vital element of our everyday real life. As fantasy and technology “question” what constitutes reality (Manfé 2005: 75), studies of real life must undergo fun- damental changes. Since the discipline of anthropology is about “[…] the story of life as it has been lived and is being lived at this very moment […]” (Escobar 1994: 223), an anthropologist needs to consider cyberspace as one of her possible fieldwork destinations. The following essay is an account of such fieldwork in the virtual platform Second Life—or rather of its failing. The paper poses more questions than it is able to answer, and perhaps ends in greater confusion than it begins. Nevertheless, it opens and outlines research possibilities in Second...

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