The Drax Files: World Makers [Episode 31: Tom Boellstorff]
Anthropologist Tom Boellstorff sees no difference between doing ethnographic research in Indonesia or among the residents of a digital universe like Second Life.
"The challenge is always time" he says: "You need to get to know the people you are studying, you need to live among them, so they can get to know you!"
For over 12 years Tom Boellstorff has been an active resident of Second Life, not only writing books about his research there and the methodology used in exploring user-centric online societies but engaging hands on with diverse communities such as the Parkinson's support group and Virtual Ability.
In a recently published new edition of his book "Coming of Age in Second LIfe" [ http://press.princeton.edu/titles/10611.html ] he cautions against dismissing sustainable digital communities like Second Life simply because they are not the hot tech property of the day: "The biggest obstacle in studying technology is the obsession of the media with what is new and what is big. Nobody asks me why I am still going to and writing about Indonesia for instance. From an explorer's point of view the culture in Second Life today is as vibrant and fascinating to me if not more so than when I started out!"
In this 5 minute mini-documentary Tom Boellstorff not only addresses the issue of big data, avatar identity and what role the new wearable VR technology may play for revitalizing interest in virtual worlds but elaborates on a more nuanced way to address the difference between what we tend to label "real" versus "virtual".
For more information about Tom Boellstorff go to http://faculty.sites.uci.edu/boellstorff/
Big thanks to Marianne McCann for creating powerful sets, Apple Fall for custom props and all the great extra actors who had the courage to film with us at the Welcome Area [especially Hexapoda, Bryn Oh, Gidgette & Wilber Adagio and Chorister, Calisto Amato and williarenato]
Also big thanks to Justin Esparza and friends at the Forest of Kahruvel for welcoming Tom's balloon.
Special thanks to the Drax Family - young and older- for participating.
Super special thanks to Jacki Morie for getting great footage from the SoCal VR Expo 2015.
This video contains excerpts from the trailer for the film "Real Life"  by Albert Brooks
blogs about this episode:
LL = https://community.secondlife.com/t5/Featured-News/The-Drax-Files-World-Makers-Episode-31-Tom-Boellstorff/ba-p/2956928
Inara = http://modemworld.me/2015/08/12/the-drax-files-31-digitising-ethnography-in-second-life/
Ciaran = http://sl.governormarley.com/?p=5278