Tom Boellstorff, Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine
Editor-in-Chief, American Anthropologist
When: October 15, 2009, 16:00
Where: Konferenzraum, Institut für Politikwissenschaft, Neues Institutsgebäude, Universitätsstraße 7, 1010 Vienna, 2. Stock
Millions of people around the world today spend portions of their lives in online virtual worlds. Second Life is one of the largest of these virtual worlds. The residents of Second Life create communities, buy property and build homes, go to concerts, meet in bars, attend weddings and religious services, buy and sell virtual goods and services, find friendship, fall in love—the possibilities are endless, and all encountered through a computer screen. Tom Boellstorff conducted more than two years of fieldwork in Second Life, living among and observing its residents in exactly the same way anthropologists traditionally have done to learn about cultures.
In this talk, Professor Boellstorff draws from his research on this new frontier of human life to discuss how virtual worlds present profound challenges to our understanding of the human. There are indeed ways that virtual worlds represent radically new possibilities for human being. However, just as challenging (and possibly more surprising) is the discovery that virtual worlds show how in some ways humans have always been virtual. As a result, virtual worlds in all their rich complexity build upon a human capacity for culture that is as old as humanity itself.