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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 III. Religiosity in Virtual Worlds


148 the world that surrounds me. In this sense it can be said that fieldwork in virtual worlds has something to offer to anthropology as a discipline. However on the other hand, at least as far as the Furry community is concerned, it does not appear that culture forms itself in the virtual: what is SL is essentially a projection of a certain aspect of the actual world. This includes also discrimination on the basis of physical appearance, bullying and social dynamics in general. Nonetheless, the issue of freedom SL is relative to the context that one is dis- cussing. Although, like Woolley, some argue that in virtual worlds people feel free, it appears to me, after having spent quite some time in-world and having spoken to many informants, that using an avatar does not nullify the human that pulls its strings, and the same ethical guidelines one follows in researching the actual world should theoretically be employed in in-world researches. References Ahren, Khalhys 2012 Forum/Ban-Furry-Prejudice/td-p/1057157 [accessed March 9th 2012]. Babbie, Earl, R. 2011 [2008]. The Basics of Social Research. Cengage Learning. Boellstorff , T. 2008. Coming of Age in Second Life Princeton. Princeton Univer- sity Press. Brookey, Robert Alan & Cannon, Kristopher, L. 2009. Sex Lives in Second Life. Critical Studies in Media Communication 26:2, 145-164. Humphreys, Laud 2008 [1970]. Tearoom Trade: impersonal sex in public spaces. Transaction Publishers. Sieber, Joan E. 1992. Planning Ethically Responsible Research: A guide for stu- dents and Internal Review Boards. Sage. Valeri,...

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