An anthropological journey in virtual worlds
Paper short abstract:
Virtual spaces represent new “spaces of life” and a new field for anthropology. Using examples coming from various online settings and virtual worlds, we will discuss how online visual material can be gathered, and how information can be extracted from its analysis.
Paper long abstract:
Within a few decades, the tremendous technical advances of information technologies, as well as the democratization of the use of the Internet and other virtual spaces, have considerably modified the way humans interact with each other. Representing new "spaces of life", the various forms of online settings - including the most drastic immersive virtual worlds - challenge the way anthropology is performed, and at the same time opens new avenues to understand human societies and inter-personal interactions. Human individuals and communities increasingly occupy virtual spaces, leading to the emergence of virtual communities. Therefore, virtual anthropology represents an emerging area, with its own conceptual and methodological constraints, related to the absence of a defined physical field and its replacement by an extremely wide digital space. We will here discuss the nature and characteristics of the different forms of visual material which can be collected on the Internet and in immersive virtual worlds, from pictures to online videos and machinimas. Using examples coming from various online settings and virtual worlds, we will show how meaningful information can be extracted from analysis of online visual material, and discuss some of the methodological issues as well as some of the ethical questions raised by the collection of online visual material.
Anthropology and photography in the digital age