Virtuality and Video Ethnography TECH2002 Studies in Digital Technology Andrew Clay 5
Second Life as a ‘technology of the self’ <ul><li>What kind of a ‘technology of the self’ are virtual world websites such as Second Life ? </li></ul>
McKeon and Wyche (2005) <ul><li>‘ Life Across Boundaries: Design, Identity, and Gender in SL’ </li></ul><ul><li>Graduate students at Georgia Institute of Technology, College of Computing, in a class studying Online Communities </li></ul><ul><li>January 2005 </li></ul><ul><li>23,000 members of SL </li></ul><ul><li>16 hours per week average spent in SL </li></ul><ul><li>Active users – 25-40 hours per week </li></ul><ul><li>SL today in the UK? - [‘However, in terms of time spent per user, Second Life proved the most "sticky" site with total visits averaging five hours 29 minutes during August’ (Kiss, 2007). </li></ul>
<ul><li>SL provides a persistent virtual world, in which its users (also known as “residents”) take on an avatar persona for the purposes of interacting with each other and their environment. The world provides a few rules and structures, a physics engine, and a simple interface for customizing an avatar and building objects within the world (p.1) </li></ul><ul><li>Second Life has produced a ‘wildly explosive burst of creativity, from which emerges a complex and engaging multifaceted society with its own economy, value systems and social structures’ (p.1) </li></ul><ul><li>Users can ‘construct a complete alternate reality with social groups, pastimes and possessions’ (p.2) </li></ul><ul><li>‘ users build identity and community through creation of their world’ (p.5) </li></ul><ul><li>anonymity </li></ul>
<ul><li>‘ geek chic’ research avatars conducted a ‘virtual ethnography’ within SL </li></ul><ul><li>Regular log ins for one month of 30-40 hours each </li></ul><ul><li>Provided ‘rich observational data’ to help them understand the virtual world and develop questions </li></ul><ul><li>Conducted interviews over the phone </li></ul><ul><li>Theoretical background </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Judith Butler (1990) Gender Trouble </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sherry Turkle (1995) Life on the Screen </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Erving Goffmann (1959) The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Participants </li></ul><ul><ul><li>USA and Canadians, average age of 33 (ranging from 22-42) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Registered users for at least 4 months </li></ul></ul>
<ul><li>Future research?: </li></ul><ul><li>How SL residents take advantage of the real economy within the virtual world </li></ul>
Research Outcomes <ul><li>Gained a detailed knowledge of how SL works </li></ul><ul><li>Most participants spent 20 hours/week online </li></ul><ul><li>Participants believe that Second Life ‘enabled them to express themselves in ways that were unavailable to them in real life…more outspoken, better looking, or wealthier, SL provides an opportunity for users to live the life or be the person they want to be offline’ (McKeon and Wyche, 2005, p.22) </li></ul><ul><li>This confirms research previously done in the area of online identity [virtual worlds such as Second Life just allow far richer identity play?] </li></ul><ul><li>Reactions to gender-bending were polarized </li></ul>
Virtual Worlds? <ul><li>3D models of the world as reality or in fantasy, in the context of online games or as environments for people to meet through the interface of their avatars are growing in popularity. As the technology of broadband advances, the possibilities of collaborating, role-playing, and experiencing the world beyond the limits of time and space are extended greatly. </li></ul>
Web 2.0...The Machine is Us/ing Us (Final Version) (Michael Wesch, 2007)
Wesch on Web 2.0 <ul><li>Hypertext </li></ul><ul><li>HTML – formatting and content </li></ul><ul><li>XML – separation of format and content </li></ul><ul><li>Mashup connectivity </li></ul><ul><li>The content is us, using us </li></ul>
<ul><li>‘ So if there is a global village, it is not a very equitable one, and if there is a tragedy of our times, it may be that we are all interconnected but we fail to see it and take care of our relationships with others. For me, the ultimate promise of digital technology is that it might enable us to truly see one another once again and all the ways we are interconnected. It might help us create a truly global view that can spark the kind of empathy we need to create a better world for all of humankind. I’m not being overly utopian and naively saying that the Web will make this happen. In fact, if we don’t understand our digital technology and its effects, it can actually make humans and human needs even more invisible than ever before. But the technology also creates a remarkable opportunity for us to make a profound difference in the world’. (Michael Wesch, quoted in Batelle (2007)) </li></ul>
Michael Wesch <ul><li>Cultural anthropologist at Kansas State University </li></ul><ul><li>[cultural anthropology – study of humanity with emphasis on cultural variation among humans – creation of meaning and significance in everyday life] </li></ul><ul><li>Interest in the impact of new media on human interaction </li></ul><ul><li>Experiments with the possibilities of digital media to extend and transform the way ethnographies are presented </li></ul><ul><li>[ethnography – participation and observation fieldwork research method (conversation, interviews) – linking what people say to what people do] </li></ul>
<ul><li>Michael Wesch: </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Facebook is not only great for expressing your identity, sharing with friends, and planning parties, it also has all the tools necessary to create an online learning community. Students are already frequently visiting Facebook, so we can bring our class discussions to them in a place where they have already invested significant effort in building up their identity, rather than asking them to login to Blackboard or some other course management system where they feel “faceless” and out of place’ (Batelle, 2007) </li></ul>
Digital Ethnography Working Group, Kansas State University <ul><li>home of the digital ethnography working group, a team of cultural anthropology undergraduates led by Dr. Michael Wesch exploring the impacts of digital technology on human interaction and human interaction on digital technology </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.mediatedcultures.net/ksudigg </li></ul>
Digital Ethnography of YouTube Project Blog http://mediatedcultures.net/youtube.htm YouTube http://uk.youtube.com/results?search_query=ksudigg&search =
Social bookmarking - http://www.diigo.com/tag/ksudigg?tab=153 identity
‘ ksudigg’ student videos <ul><li>History of YouTube </li></ul><ul><li>Acoustic space – boundaries of electronic technology </li></ul><ul><li>Authenticity on the Tube – LonelyGirl15 </li></ul><ul><li>Spreading ideas – politics on YouTube </li></ul><ul><li>Global community – communication across national boundaries </li></ul><ul><li>Vlogging – video blogs </li></ul>
Identity <ul><li>Identity – outward presentation of self </li></ul><ul><li>Self and other </li></ul>
Media change <ul><li>‘ old media’ consumption > ‘new media’ play </li></ul><ul><li>Passivity > (inter)activity </li></ul><ul><li>Reality > hyperreality and virtuality </li></ul>
Videogames <ul><li>‘ Games develop a subjectivity that…is an alluring invitation to become part of an environment and to make things happen in that environment. The process of playing is a process of production…Like other new media, electronic games move the individual to the centre of cultural production: the gamer is the subject and the agent of the game’ </li></ul><ul><li>(Marshall, 2004, p.72) </li></ul>
Avatars – a ‘technology of the self’ <ul><li>Avatar </li></ul><ul><ul><li>An electronic character or object that represents you in VR, games, chat rooms, and on the Web </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Technologies of the self (Michel Foucault) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>the ways in which people are allowed to promote and maintain their ‘selves’ in society, and the ways in which they are enabled or constrained in their use of different techniques by available language in use </li></ul></ul>
Technology as Experience <ul><li>‘ In the process of making sense of our experience we get a sense of part of who we are’ (McCarthy and Wright, 2004, p.122) </li></ul><ul><li>Experience is a continuous engagement that is technologically facilitated </li></ul>
Sherry Turkle <ul><li>Increasing intimacy with (intelligent) machines, especially computers (‘a second self’) </li></ul><ul><li>Current edge of things – tension between physical worlds – anxiety, creativity, invention </li></ul><ul><li>‘ online life became a social location for the projection and exploration of self...the virtual can be used to reflect constructively on the new. Even a gesture as simple as choosing an online name can be fraught with implications (Turkle, 2004, p.288) </li></ul><ul><li>‘ identity play’ [online world is just an extension of our unmediated selves?] </li></ul>
Media technologies and the self <ul><li>Oral >>> text >>> electronic society </li></ul><ul><li>Writing – a space where abstractions of the self could be isolated from everyday experience and reflected upon </li></ul><ul><li>Expanded by print </li></ul><ul><li>Typically, mass media technologies construct a public self under the forces of mass markets and audiences </li></ul><ul><li>Mass media create images that have powerful effects on our identities, or conceptions of ourselves – they provide an abstract space for reflection </li></ul>
<ul><li>Television presents and performs ourselves to ourselves </li></ul>Soaps – continuous narratives of dramatised everyday life Reality television Surreality television
Reflexivity <ul><li>Giddens (1991) self-identity, formation of the self </li></ul><ul><li>Being self-aware is understanding yourself in terms of your biography – a story always in the process of being constructed </li></ul><ul><li>With the reflexive incorporation of mediated materials (Thompson, 1995) </li></ul><ul><li>Example – novel or television – we are opened up to new opportunities to see ourselves in relation to issues and social relations beyond the immediate locales of our everyday lives </li></ul>
The Web as a media technology of the self <ul><li>The Web seems to be a new technology of production that allows individuals to create their own public image for themselves </li></ul><ul><li>Instead of imitating others that are presented to us, we create images of ourselves to follow </li></ul><ul><li>The Web might be seen as a medium of self-publicity rather than self-discovery? </li></ul><ul><li>a set of techniques that allows us to create public images that come to dominate our identities </li></ul><ul><li>Do we objectify ourselves as the content of new media? </li></ul>
Personal homepage Online presence ‘This is who I am’
Blog online dialogue ‘This is what I’ve got to say’
From personal homepages to online social networks?
<ul><li>Public-Private Perspectives </li></ul><ul><li>‘ letting the world in’ to your life – construction of identities using personal information and self-publishing technologies. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Cheung – two types of presentation of self : </li></ul><ul><li>Direct – biographical, personal data </li></ul><ul><li>Indirect – preoccupations, tastes, significant things, objects, people, bits of culture and so on. </li></ul><ul><li>BUT, who is the audience? – friends, anonymous surfers, self-to-self (part of understanding self, finding self, revealing, or confessing?) </li></ul>
publicATION ‘ On the Web, the personal function of ‘discovering’ (or at least clarifying) one’s thoughts, feelings and identity is fused with the public function of publishing these to a larger audience than traditional media have ever offered’ (Chandler, 1998).
TECHNOLOGIES OF THE SELF Homepages can be seen as what Michel Foucault describes as ‘technologies of the self’ ‘ which allow us to transform the very way we think of ourselves and to change ourselves to who we really want to be’ (Chandler, 1998).
communication media sharing play connectivity feeds and metadata global participation user-generated content
what is new? availability and access, opening up of many-to-many communication, using a dynamic form of publishing that can constantly be ‘under construction’, not fixed in print on a shelf.
Questions <ul><li>How do people use electronically mediated communication such as social networks and virtual worlds? </li></ul><ul><li>How is technology used as the continual and integral reflexive biographies or symbolic projects of the self? </li></ul>
Identity Production in a Networked Culture: Why Youth Heart MySpace’ (Boyd, 2006) <ul><li>Teenagers and MySpace </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Youth are not creating digital publics to scare parents - they are doing so because they need youth space, a place to gather and see and be seen by peers’ </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Regardless of what will come, youth are doing what they've always done - repurposing new mediums in order to learn about social culture’ </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Technology will have an effect because the underlying architecture and the opportunities afforded are fundamentally different. But youth will continue to work out identity issues, hang out and create spaces that are their own, regardless of what technologies are available’ </li></ul>
Problems that can occur when people make their provate lives public? http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/years/2008/0521081myspace3.html
Bibliography Batelle, J. (2007) A Brief Interview with Michael Wesch (The Creator of That Wonderful Video...) [WWW] Available at http://battellemedia.com/archives/003386.php (Accessed 25 October 2007). Boyd, D. (2006) Identity Production in a Networked Culture: Why Youth Heart MySpace [WWW] Available at http://www.danah.org/papers/AAAS2006.html (Accessed 29 October 2007). Chandler, D. (1998) ‘Personal Home Pages and the Construction of Identities on the Web’ [WWW document] Available at http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Functions/mcs.html (Accesed 26 ) October 2006). Chandler, D. and Roberts-Young, D. (1998) The Construction of Identity in the Personal Homepages of Adolescents [WWW document] Available at http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Functions/mcs.html (Accessed 26 October 2006). Cheung, C. (2000) ‘A Home on the Web: Presentations of Self on Personal Homepages’. In Gauntlett, D. (Ed.) Web.Studies , London, Arnold. Giddens, A. (1991) Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age , Cambridge, Polity Press. Kiss, J. (2007) Facebook Powers Past MySpace [WWW] Available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2007/sep/25/digitalmedia2 (Accessed 29 October 2007). Marshall, P. D. (2004) New Media Cultures , London, Arnold. McCarthy, J. And Wright, P. (2004) Technology as Experience , Cambridge, Mass. and London, MIT Press. McKeon, M. and Wyche, S. (2005) Life Across Boundaries: Design, Identity and Gender in SL [WWW] Available at http://www.mattmckeon.com/portfolio/second-life.pdf (Accessed 27 October 2006). Thompson, J. (1995) The Media and Modernity: A Social Theory of the Media , Cambridge, Polity Press. Turkle, S. (1997) Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet , London, Simon and Schuster. Turkle, S. (2004) The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit , Cambridge Mass. and London, MIT Press. Wired (2007) Winners at the 2007 Rave Awards: Michael Wesch | Web 2.0... The Machine Is Us/ing Us [WWW] Available at http://www.wired.com/entertainment/theweb/magazine/15-05/raves_wesch (Accessed 29 October 2007.