Friday, March 13, 2009

Reading around in anthropology

My excellent colleague, the anthropologist/historian/ethnomusicologist/multimedia artist DJ Hatfield, sent me in some intriguing directions for reading around.  In particular, the essays in the book Rhetorics of Self-Making, edited by Debbora Battaglia, have prompted a lot of thought.  In my house, we have a running joke that it is imperative that I start stories I am telling about what I did that day with a prefatory "In Second Life," or otherwise I say things like, "My friend Maya and I were both robots today," or "I spent the day falling again," etc.  Even little Sammy loves to say, "I'm waiting for you to say 'in Second Life!'"  Well, as I read the essays in the Battaglia book, I want to add, "in Second Life," because as I think through the various contributions to what she terms a critical anthropology of selfhood (2), they seem so fully applicable to how subjectivity and selfhood are created, circulated, and constantly recreated in a virtual world.  

One of the  most striking experiences I have had is when I have given my "shape"--the object that holds the dimensions of my body avatar's body--to my friend Shirah, who has put it on herself, adjusted the measurements, and then given it back to me to wear.  It takes the idea of the girlfriend makeover to a new level!  And shows how what anthropologist Jason Pine, in a fantastic television show available inworld at the Brooklyn Is Watching sim (slurl) calls "self design" can be so very social in SL.  

Of course, as I read around, I return to my old standbys, the things that form the very backbone how I make sense out of my experiences in SL: Bartky, Goffman, Pelton, Hall, Benjamin, de Certeau, Foucault to some extent.  Heidegger.  

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