lord vader visits troops

vaders_visitGalactic News Service reports: “TWILIGHT CITADEL, Tatooine (Valcyn) – Emperor Palpatine’s supreme military commander, Lord Darth Vader, recently made a surprise inspection tour of an Imperial military stronghold here. […] The staff at Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) had noticed, that inside the gameworld of their MMORPG “Star Wars Galaxies” (SWG) a group of players (forming the “203rd Tatooine Expeditionary Stormtrooper Legion”) had their troops very well organized and trained for quite some time. So SOE decided to stage an “ingame-live-event” and made Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith, visit the troops. A global celebrity of a mythical character, well known to at least two generations, visits his followers in gamespace. For some discussion, see the thread at corpnews, for “indigenous flavor” visit the Alpha Company.
Last year in September Andrew Phelps asked: Where is my news? What he had in mind was a Television-channel broadcasting news from gameworlds: “So I’m waiting. I’m waiting even further for someone to bind all this up into a daily game-news network with reporting from all the worlds online. I’d watch that channel, right along side CNN / MSNBC / FOX. I can think of very few things I’d currently enjoy more. Come home, eat dinner, play with baby, watch the “news” for a half hour, then hop into the world that had the most interesting day.” Although I am personally not at all into MMORPGs — if I had seen Lord Vader in the evening news, be sure, I would have made the journey to Tatooine asap.
via story at golublog

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ethnography of online technology communities

MADANMOHAN, T. R. AND SIDDHESH NAVELKAR. 2004. Roles and knowledge management in online technology communities: an ethnography study. International Journal of Web Based Communities 1(1). Electronic Document. Available online:
http://www.inderscience.com/filter.php?aid=4800(.pdf, 211KB)
http://opensource.mit.edu/papers/madanmohan2.pdf (.pdf, 96KB)

official abstract: “The internet is a heterogeneous network of millions of computers that is continuously evolving. The interaction among people around the world on the internet has led to the formation of communities. Technical communities are groups who share a common interest in a technology. The literature on technology communities lacks a conceptual understanding of the roles of various players in the online community. An understanding of the different roles the members of the community assume at different phases, and the impact of the roles on knowledge management is crucial to manage and sustain such online technical communities. This study based on an ethnographic analysis of two technical communities, identifies seven distinct roles: core organiser, experts, problem poser, implementer, integrator, institutionaliser, and philosopher. The impact of each of the roles on knowledge management activities is discussed.”
via cyberanthropology

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thick description of personal weblogging practice

David Brake, PhD-student (Media and Communications) at the LSE (not the Stock Exchange, but the London School of Economics and Political Science, where Malinowski was appointed to the first Chair in Social Anthropology in 1927), plans ethnographic research on blogging: “This study will provide a “thick” qualitative description (Geertz 1975) of personal weblogging practice in a particular context – that of authors from across England, purposively sampled to provide demographic variety, who have created their sites using either LiveJournal or Blogger’s software. [What about those who use geek-style software like blosxom? ;-] This description will be based on semi-structured interviews with the authors supplemented by examination of the sites they have produced. It will focus on the manner in which self-performance on weblogs may be constrained by a number of social factors. […] Have a look at David’s papers, his personal blog (which has the beautiful URI http://blog.org/), and at the Media@LSE group weblog.
via cyberanthropology

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california digital library

“Harnessing technology and innovation, and leveraging the intellectual and cultural resources of the University of California, the California Digital Library supports the assembly and creative use of the world’s scholarship and knowledge for the UC libraries and the communities they serve. Established in 1997 as a UC library, the CDL has become one of the largest digital libraries in the world.” Searching for “Anthropology” delivered 61 anthropology-books online for free.
via cyberanthropology

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videogamestudies

cultural difference on intercultural persistent state worlds
Alan Meades, a Masters-degree (Electronic Arts) student at Middlesex University (UK) does post-graduate research in cyberanthropology: “This study aims to verify if players originating from geographically and culturally different backgrounds exhibit different game preferences, and therefore behaviour within Massively Multiplayer Online games. This study focuses specifically on Square-Enix’s Final Fantasy XI because of the design of the server infrastructure, and the resultant feature that each server is shared with people from many cultures and nations. […] On his website Alan hosts an according online-survey, both in English and Japanese language! When I hit the page today it already reported: 1409 completed surveys since February 27th 2005. After this, to be honest, I felt somewhat relieved by what his subpages On Hofstede, On Bartle, and especially On Anthropology all have to say: “Coming Soon!” … Seems that we are brothers-in-arms, my man ;-)

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cyberethnography as home-work

Adi Kuntsman, PhD-student at the Department of Sociology of Lancaster university (UK) does a research-project called: “Violent belongings: Russian-speaking GLBT [Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered] immigrants in Israel”: “My research explores the role of violence in the formation of on-line GLBT spaces. The main research question is: what are the relations between violence, sexuality and belonging? The research combines different disciplinary approaches to violence: media research and, in particular, the study of violence in cyberspace; studies of violent entertainment; and anthropological research on violence and subjectivity.
    I have recently completed a ten-month ethnography that took place on-line and in Israel. My analysis of the community’s website – the main site of my research – showed that various forms of violent speech were used by the participants to define, narrate and perform their collective belonging. The violent speech was embedded in the complex web of sexual, ethnic and national affiliations and conflicts that constitute the life of this community. […]

Especially interesting for me is her article on ‘cyberethnography':

KUNTSMAN, ADI. 2004. Cyberethnography as homework. Anthropology Matters Journal 6(2). Electronic Document. Available online:

http://www.anthropologymatters.com/journal/2004-2/kuntsman_2004_cyberethnography.htm (.html, 38KB)
http://www.anthropologymatters.com/journal/2004-2/Kuntsman_2004_Cyberethnography.pdf (.pdf, 180KB)

official abstract:”Cyberspace invites the rethinking of the concepts culture and location. But it also demands a re-examination of the idea of ‘the field’ in virtual-or what is also called cyber-ethnography. This article focuses on one way of locating the field in cyberspace by exploring the concept of home as it is conceptualized by the ethnographer and imagined and negotiated by those with whom she works. The article suggests a critical way of approaching belonging on-line, and examines the epistemological position of anthropology at home when applied to cyberspace. On a theoretical level, this article brings together the growing field of cyber-studies and critical feminist and post-colonial perspectives.”
via anthropologi.info

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cyberethnography as home-work

Adi Kuntsman, PhD-student at the Department of Sociology of Lancaster university (UK) does a research-project called: “Violent belongings: Russian-speaking GLBT [Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered] immigrants in Israel”: “My research explores the role of violence in the formation of on-line GLBT spaces. The main research question is: what are the relations between violence, sexuality and belonging? The research combines different disciplinary approaches to violence: media research and, in particular, the study of violence in cyberspace; studies of violent entertainment; and anthropological research on violence and subjectivity.
    I have recently completed a ten-month ethnography that took place on-line and in Israel. My analysis of the community’s website – the main site of my research – showed that various forms of violent speech were used by the participants to define, narrate and perform their collective belonging. The violent speech was embedded in the complex web of sexual, ethnic and national affiliations and conflicts that constitute the life of this community. […]

    Especially interesting for me is her article on ‘cyberethnography':

KUNTSMAN, ADI. 2004. Cyberethnography as homework. Anthropology Matters Journal 6(2). Electronic Document. Available online:
http://www.anthropologymatters.com/journal/2004-2/kuntsman_2004_cyberethnography.htm (.html, 38KB)
http://www.anthropologymatters.com/journal/2004-2/Kuntsman_2004_Cyberethnography.pdf (.pdf, 180KB)

[official abstract:] Cyberspace invites the rethinking of the concepts culture and location. But it also demands a re-examination of the idea of ‘the field’ in virtual-or what is also called cyber-ethnography. This article focuses on one way of locating the field in cyberspace by exploring the concept of home as it is conceptualized by the ethnographer and imagined and negotiated by those with whom she works. The article suggests a critical way of approaching belonging on-line, and examines the epistemological position of anthropology at home when applied to cyberspace. On a theoretical level, this article brings together the growing field of cyber-studies and critical feminist and post-colonial perspectives.

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the social net

understanding human behavior in cyberspace
A new book has been published, which promises to compare the online and the offline worlds, to examine how social behaviour differs in cyberspace, to bring together research never before brought together, and to provide a comprehensive and unique volume on Internet psychology. Only the publisher’s final claim: “Invaluable information for anyone doing businesss on the Internet”, makes me wonder if it is valuable for those doing research online, too.

AMICHAI-HAMBURGER, YAIR (ed.). 2005. The social net: Understanding human behavior in cyberspace. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

official description: “In cyberspace we see examples of the best and the worst aspects of human behaviour. The Internet environment is unique – it affects our attitudes, inhibitions, feelings of responsibility, emotions, impressions of others, and relationships. But how does it achieve this? How does the Internet enable people to express elements of their personality that they cannot express in the real world? This is a topic that extends far beyond psychology. Anyone doing business on the Internet needs to fully understand how people behave online. […]

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a new dawn arises

the long-running grand TC becomes very visible
Splashpage for the Max Payne 2 TC New DawnIn September 2004 the website of the MP2-modding-project Mission:Impossible — New Dawn went online. But the mod was in the making for a much longer time, as it was started as a MP1-mod way before MP2 was published. The team had enough zeal to port everything they had done to MP2. And I can assure you that already a lot had been done, as now and then I was allowed to see ‘secret pictures’ illustrating the progress. The general approach of the team is as professional as it can be outside a game-developer company. I was shown screenshots of one map before and after complete reworking. The first version’s quality already was way above what the average mapper in the modding-community is able to accomplish. And there are only few modders who are willing to sit down again and completely work over a result like that. The whole team — the core of which is German-speaking – has a very long breath and now allows us a stunning glimpse into their work by releasing a teaser-trailer (refer to the links at the end for downloading).
    Like many other mods, ‘New Dawn’ follows the tradition of adapting a major action-movie, or series of movies; in this case ‘Mission:Impossible‘. The style, production values, and quality of the trailer reflect this, as it easily can be mistaken for a trailer of an upcoming silver-screen action-thriller. The fact that ‘New Dawn’ is a grand-scale real total conversion (TC) of a computergame gets impressively emphasized.
    A TC is a complex project which normally can not be handled by a single individual, as the workload simply is too big, and too many diverse expert-skills are required. There are highly skilled all-arounders in the modding scene, but the workload of a project like ‘M:I — New Dawn’ is absolutely not bearable by a single person. The shipwrecked and abandoned one-man TC-attempts are ample proof for this. Sometimes the failed single-handed sailors even are thrown into a personal crisis and leave the community or even online-interaction in general, at least for a time, sometimes forever. To be member or leader of a modding-team does not at all guarantee that those crises won’t come up. Again the list of failed projects is ample proof. (But this does not imply that project-failure is the only cause for frustration leading to crisis.) Prominent examples from the Max-Payne-scene are the cancelled single-handed attempt ‘Blade Runner: Evolution’ by well-acclaimed all-arounder StratonAce, and the current events around the team-driven project ‘Rogue Ops‘.
    On the other hand the corpus of work to be done for a TC allows the generation of creative ‘secondary products’, mostly in the form of machinima (the ‘New Dawn’-trailer is a perfect example). If this ‘offshoots’ are well done, they heighten the status of the maker and the whole team. The only limiting factors again are creativity, skills, and time-at-hand, which in turn are influencing the motivation and the degree of dedication.
    For years ‘New Dawn’ has maintained a strict policy of secrecy and in-team interaction and communication only. Material is only presented publicly when it meets the high standards of the team-members. This may well have heightened the team’s inner cohesion and prevented them from crisis.

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my ‘cyberanthropology’ workshop at the GAA conference

Logo of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Völkerkunde (DGV/GAA)I just got notice that my proposal for a workshop ‘Cyberanthropology’ at the Conference of the German Anthropological Association (GAA aka DGV) – Halle / Saale, 4th – 7th October 2005 has been accepted, and that I am organizing it. Here is the first version of my description of the workshop:

In the widest sense ‘cyberanthropology’ means the branch of sociocultural anthropology which aims to understand the culturally informed interrelationships between human beings and those technological artefacts which can be imagined and described as cybernetic systems. This interrelationships decidedly include the attempts to fuse technological artefacts with human and other biological organisms, with human society, and with the socioecologically shaped environment. In this attempts all the mentioned elements are envisioned as cybernetic systems. This outlines the contours of cyberanthropology’s broadest scope. But in the wake of recent discourses growing around metaphors like ‘globalisation’ and ‘information age/society’ especially Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) move into cyberanthropology’s focus. The complex ‘human beings and ICTs’ unfolds its relevance for sociocultural anthropology inside the following three main sectors:

1. ICTs as tools for sociocultural anthropologists both in teaching and research. The spectrum reaches from using a personal computer as a typewriter, using and/or generating online-databases and -catalogues, communicating with colleagues and peers via internet-services, to keeping in touch with informants online, and the theory-based generation of new forms of representationa for anthropological knowledge. The latter should especially profit by ‘writing culture’ and ‘visual anthropology’.

2. ICTs in the field. The sociocultural anthropological observation, analysis and interpretation of the consequences of the introduction of ICTs into specific societies and/or groups. (Again I emphasize the fact that this comprises the whole world, and not “just those” in the traditional field of the discipline, but does not exclude “them” as well.) Concepts like ‘cultural appropriation of technology’ and ‘ethnography of work’ seem to be indispensable for this task.

3. ‘Cyberspace’ as field. The sociocultural anthropological observation, analysis and interpretation of the sociocultural phenomena springing up and taking place in the interactive ‘space’ (‘cyberspace’) generated by ICTs and computer-mediated communication (CMC). This comprises national and transnational online-groups, but also movements like ‘Open Source’ and the according societal, economical, and juridical issues and problems.

To which degree the three sectors become mutually influential or even inseperable, depends on the specific research-projects, the involved methods and the specific desideratum of understanding. But obviously the sectors 2. and 3. are prone to contain ‘conflicts’ in the sense of the conference’s central issue.

Sociocultural anthropology’s unique potentials of contributing to the above mentioned understanding gradually get unveiled. This potentials already have been recognized by neighbouring disciplines. One symptom of this process is the adoption, or even appropriation, of ‘ethnography’, a generic method of sociocultural anthropology, by sociology, media studies, and other academic disciplines. The engagement by sociocultural anthropology in the last decade was somewhat weaker, but the trend is pointing stoutly upwards. Therefore it is time to join the cyberanthropological efforts of anthropologists in Germany, too.

A programmatic presentation by Alexander Knorr will serve as a starting point for the workshop and the discussion. The following contributions not only will present the diverse fields, approaches, projects, and results, but will be integral parts of a joint debate. That way the workshop not only provides mutual information, but will be a first step towards a generic subdiscipline ‘cyberanthropology’.

That is not yet the official call-for-papers; therefore I first have to talk to the organisators. Stay tuned.

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