As I am an advocate for learning from ‘Writing Culture’ [and everything in its wake] and from visual anthropology, when using ICTs as a tool for sociocultural anthropology, it is my duty to hint you to the website of the ↑AG Visuelle Anthropologie [in German] which went online just recently.
↑All your base are belong to us (AYBABTU)—although many times declared dead for good—still is one of the most widespread Internet topoi. As an ↵easter egg AYBYBTU made its way into countless artefacts. Already in the tutorial level [containing even another ↑secret] of ↵Max Payne it can be read on a coffee-shop sign [see above]. Now there is one more wonderfully creative example of artistical expression of gamer culture—↑Zero Wing Rhapsody [↑mirror] is “an anime-style musical remake of the infamous ‘All Your Base’/Zero Wing intro, with the words set to a well-known piece of music by Queen… with a few extra references thrown in for good measure, and completely redrawn graphics.”
Some time ago I already brought up the issue of ↵benchmarks for anthropological knowledge. Succesful social interaction is not the only possible one—being able to cognitively and emotionally embrace artefacts is another one. Knowing about “All your base” is the prerequisite for understanding Zero Wing Rhapsody. However, being able to decipher references is not enough. But if the rhapsody’s 16bit sound triggers memories and associations, if the whole animation paints a smile on your face, evokes an ambience, a feeling of being in sync with the creators and other recipients who embrace the rhapsody—then you have tapped yourself into a part of cyberculture.
all of my base
are belong to you
Pitfalls of virtual property (↵Bartle 2004)
The power of gifts: organizing social relationships in open source communities (↵Bergquist & Ljungberg 2001)
Anthropological perspectives on technology (↵Schiffer 2001)
Technology as the anthropology of cultural practice (↵Aunger 2003)
Ethnologie des joueurs d’échecs (↵Wendling 2002)
Pushing the wood: Chess playing as an anthropological subject (↵Lavenda 2003)
Nexus: Small worlds and the groundbreaking science of networks (↵Buchanan 2002)
Six degrees: The science of a connected age (↵Watts 2003)
A new science for a connected world (↵Valverde 2004)
Self-organization and identification of web communities (↵Flake et al. 2002)
A highly efficient waste of effort: Open source software development as a specific system of collective production. (↵Gläser 2003)
The new superorganic (↵Hanson 2004)
Further inflections: Toward ethnographies of the future (↵Harding 1994)
Real fictional society: Agonic relations in online gaming communities (↵Kline 2004)
The anthropology of cities: Imagining and theorizing the city (↵Low 1996)
Roles and knowledge management in online technology communities: An ethnography study (↵Madanmohan & Navelkar 2004)
Social networks and cooperation in electronic communities: A theoretical-empirical analysis of academic communication and Internet discussion groups (↵Matzat 2001)
Academic communication and Internet discussion groups: Transfer of information or creation of social contacts? (↵Matzat 2004)
History and play: Johan Huizinga and his critics (↵Anchor 1978)
A sociological perspective of sport (↵Leonard 1980)
Leisure and sport (↵Brezina 1983)
Can culture be copyrighted? (↵Brown 1998)
Art, behavior, and the anthropologists (↵Dutton 1977)
Although I have read “Techgnosis” (↵Davis 1998) and still am deeply impressed and quite influenced by William Gibson’s rendition of a voodoo-haunted cyberspace in “Count Zero” (↵Gibson 1986), and although I have been into the anthropology of religion, magic, and all other things that go bump in the night for the longer time of my being at the university, I am not on a quest for finding salvation in cyberspace [really?]. But spirituality [in the broadest sense possible] of course always has to be an issue when trying to understand cultures. That’s the background of my using according metaphors in e.g. ↵creation myth. Just today I discovered the very interesting research-project ↑Cyberspace salvations: Computer technology, simulation and modern gnosis:
I am especially attracted to project 2 ↑The gnostic dimension of gaming:
Whereas many academic and popular comments, informed by a deep-seated suspicion of the social role of computer technology , represent computer games as mere alienated amusement or ‘play’, others portray them in a much more revolutionary light. In line with Baudrillard’s view that games exemplify the postmodern proliferation of simulation and the “disappearance of reality”, some designers regard the production of spiritual experiences as their “business.” Rushkoff argues that the bodiless immersion in these digital worlds of magic can not be disregarded as trivial entertainment or alienation, because fantasy role-playing serves, like traditional religion and formal psychotherapy, “as both spiritual practice and transformational tool.” Given these contrasting claims, the culture of computer games is a central and obvious testing-ground for our hypothesis. ↑[...]
↑Edward Castronova, who rose to fame with his ↑Virtual worlds: A first hand account of market and society on the cyberian frontier (↵Castronova 2001—see also ↵Castronova 2003 and ↑terra nova) has written his first full-length monograph [↑Overview]:
↑Mizuko Ito [↵keitai-scholar and sister of blogosphere-legend ↑Joi Ito] introduces us to ↑Otaku Media Literacy—if one would replace ‘anime otaku’ by ‘gamemodders’ and add one or two adjustments, her text still would be ‘the truth’. Here’s an excerpt:
↑[...] Overseas anime otaku—fans of Japanese anime—represent an emergent form of media literacy that, though still marginal, is becoming increasingly pervasive among a rising generation. Anime otaku are media connoisseurs, activist prosumers who seek out esoteric content from a far away land and organize their social lives around viewing, interpreting, and remixing these media works. Otaku translate and subtitle all major anime works, they create web sites with hundreds and thousands of members, stay in touch 24/7 on hundreds of IRC channels, and create fan fiction, fan art, and anime music videos that rework the original works into sometimes brilliantly creative and often subversive alternative frames of reference. Curious? Check out sites such as ↑animemusicvideos.com, ↑cosplay.com, or ↑animesuki.com. to get a sense of this burgeoning subculture.
Although fan cultural production is denigrated by media professionals as “merely” derivative and lacking in originality, it is worth considering what forms of knowledge, literacy, and social organization are being fed by these activities. To support their media obsessions otaku acquire challenging language skills and media production crafts of scripting, editing, animating, drawing, and writing. And they mobilize socially to create their own communities of interest and working groups to engage in collaborative media production and distribution. Otaku use visual media as their source material for crafting their own identities, and as the coin of the realm for their social networks. Engaging with and reinterpreting professionally produced media is one stepping stone towards critical media analysis and alternative media production. ↑[...]
Another related phenomenon—I do not dare to say the above’s historical forerunner, but the association seems plausible—from Japan also has strong resemblances to gamemodding. Here’s a description by ↑Lawrence Lessig [this time replace 'doujinshi' by 'gamemods']:
But my purpose here is not to understand manga. It is to describe a variant on manga that from a lawyer’s perspective is quite odd, but from a Disney perspective is quite familiar.
This is the phenomenon of doujinshi. Doujinshi are also comics, but they are a kind of copycat comic. A rich ethic governs the creation of doujinshi. It is not doujinshi if it is just a copy; the artist must make a contribution to the art he copies, by transforming it either subtly or significantly. A doujinshi comic can thus take a mainstream comic and develop it differently—with a different story line. Or the comic can keep the character in character but change its look slightly. There is no formula for what makes the doujinshi sufficiently “different.” But they must be different if they are to be considered true doujinshi. Indeed, there are committees that review doujinshi for inclusion within shows and reject any copycat comic that is merely a copy. (↵Lessig 2004: 25-26)
Yesterday night Stephen Hawking—being on promotion tour for his new book—was guest at a late night show on German national TV. I watched some ten minutes of the show and the way Professor Hawking was presented decidedly reminded me of ↑Professor [Charles] X[avier], the founder / mentor / leader of the ↑X-Men. Then this morning I took my usual stroll to the tramway station. Close to the station there’s an array of newspaper vending boxes placed on the sidewalk, every box prominently displaying today’s frontpage. The frontpage of Germany’s largest tabloid “Bild” [Picture] today is filled with a blue-marble depiction of our Earth completely immersed into a fiery blaze. At the topleft corner there’s a small inset showing Professor Hawking, and the headline reads: “Earth’s most intelligent human being prophesies: That’s the way our world will end.” Ain’t that another symptom of how deeply topoi from the comic-book-stories universe have seeped into contemporary everyday-culture?
On 12 October 2004 I [once again] became aware of how deeply named topoi have seeped into my mind. When on that day I drew nearer to the newspaper boxes the following headline caught my eye: “Super-Virus kills Superman” A large portrait of Superman was beside the headline, and below it a small inset showed a bald man in a high-tech wheelchair. My instantaneous thoughts went: “Hell, finally ↑Lex Luthor has done it!” I couldn’t do anything against that idea, it just sprang up from the depths. Then of course I metaphorically slapped my forehead, and got the facts straight: The actor Christopher Reeve had died, and both pictures showed him. But I confess that today I at first instance mistook poor bloating-sun-burned Earth for the exploding ↑planet Krypton.
For more on the topoi I am speaking of, have a look at the excellent ↑Mad Scientists and the Movies page.
And after ↑boingboing recently has ↑hinted to
↑Horrton Hears a Heart, I dare to post a matching poem by the immortal ↑Aleister Crowley [rhymes on holy]—just to make the madness complete:
The end of everything. The veil of night
Is not so deep I cannot comprehend.
I see before me yawn—a ghastly sight—
Love long ago deserted me to wend
His way with younger men. Life spreads a blight
Over me now. I have not now one friend.
There is no hope for me; no gleam of light
To my black path will any comfort lend—
Yet will I meet with smiling face, upright
Das End’ von allem. Nachtens Schleier dicht
Ist nicht so tief, daß ich’s nicht verstehen könnte.
Ich seh’ vor mir klaffen—gräßlich’ Sicht—
Vor langer Zeit die Liebe ging,
Um mit Jüngeren fortan zu ziehn
Das Leben selbst sprach den Schreckensfluch
So daß ’nen einzgen Freund vergebens ich such’
’s ist keine Hoffnung; kein Schimmer von Licht
Der das Dunkel meines Pfads aufbrennt
Dennoch tret’ ich lächelnd und aufgericht’
Gegenüber … dem End’.
The poem is taken from YORKE Collection N1, section 2—poems collected in a small notebook, completely written in Aleister Crowley’s handwriting. Around 1898 or earlier. The German translation is by yours truly and taken from my dissertation ↑Metatrickster (p. 188) which, by the way, is available online under a CC-licence and ↑can be downloaded in full here. [.pdf | 7.5MB | in German, though] Yes, the translation is a miserable one—but ↑Marcel Schwob thought Crowley to be a miserable poet. In consequence my translation is congenial. [Just for the fun of it: Compare the sizes of the Wikipedia entries on ↑Crowley and ↑Schwob ... ]
Mad Scientists and the Movies initially via entry at infocult
The ↑2005 installment of the biannual Conference of the German Anthropological Association (GAA aka DGV) is over and I am well back in Munich. My ↵cyberanthropology workshop now is history—it went well, and from all I heard till now it was very well received, too [Or is it my intimidating personality that no one dares to tell me negative criticism?.] A big Thank You! to everybody who presented a paper in the workshop, and also thanks very much! to everybody who sat in the audience. I enjoyed the interesting questions and the lively discussions very much. My apologies to everybody for my taking the liberty to add a full hour to the workshop’s timeframe. Special apology to ↑Frauke Lehmann, who was forced to present her paper as the last one in the row, way beyond the scheduled time. Unfortunately Castulus Kolo, who had prepared a paper on ↵Cyberanthropology going mobile, couldn’t take part, as he was down with flu—I hope you recovered meanwhile. But nothing will be lost, as I definitely will edit a book containing the workshop-contributions and some items plus in the form of elaborated articles. According logistics already have started. I’ll get back to you soon—for now I will equip myself, as on monday the students will flood in here again.