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Notes on Boellstorff (2008), Chapter 6

July 9, 2009

Boellstorff, T. 2008. Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Chapter 6. Intimacy, pp. 151-178

151 emoticons not too important in SL

152 text as techne, separates actual from virtual; text ubiquitous, so SL ideal for deaf people but the opposite for visually impaired

153 historically unprecedented language exchanges, incl. ‘whispering’

154 author uses linguistic background effectively, e.g. code-switching could happen with different modalities of textual language, as in example of ethnographer’s interlocutor switching between chat (specific location) and IM (specific person) depending on degree of intimacy of topic (sex)

156 cybersociality and friendship, no techno-hermits; cybersociality research shows that ‘virtual worlds can not only transform actual-world intimacy but create new forms of online intimacy’

157 friendship is key relationship form, ‘foundation of cybersociality’, more so than sexual relations despite hype about sl; friendship is about choice and egalitarianism

158 time-effective friendship, no need to wait plus it’s cheap – don’t have to spend “an hour getting ready and 100 bucks at the bar”

158 ** SL not mass media, mediating two locales; rather it’s place in its own right [see earlier chapter, points about place-making] so you can make friends ‘exclusive to that virtual world’

159 accelerated friendships, from ‘inside out’ (the opp. of RL friendships)

162 BDSM most common sexual communities; 163 BDSM Gorean communities

164 problematic paedophilia

164 house in SL is real house in virtual context, not representation of house, argues author [but more baffling than this for most people?, see Goody 1997 on world-historical ambivalence and puzzlement towards representations; see also earlier chapter on in-world painting of ‘real’ sl landscape]

165 residents’ sexual orientation often not clear

166 friendships were basic; love could make the virtual real, as in example of poem [???]

166 twentieth century love tied to place-making and belonging, same applies to SL; ‘What operationalizes love in virtual worlds is not knowing who someone is in the actual world, but crafting a relationship within the virtual world’.

167 again, SL not mediating two real-world places, third place in its own right, e.g. Chancie no plan to meet SL boyfriend in actual world: “our RL paths are very different. I am older, my path set. He is just starting his…”

168 terrific account of SL wedding. Officiant: “May no man, woman, or lag do you under”.

169 falling in love and establishing a rel could happen very quickly, noted by many residents

170 trust can be internal to SL; newbie who saw SL as a game and other residents as “far apart” not ‘copresent in a virtual place’ didn’t get this, she was concerned about trust; not the case with more experienced residents.

170-171 not knowing about actual life reinforced techne gap between actual and virtual – here link between episteme and techne revealed: ignorance helped to maintain the gap, so knowledge has potential of bridging the gap. But in practice more complicated: trying to keep the gap could backfire.

172 [no stats provided]

172 SL ‘sex and cuddling’ concealed from RL husband who didnt quite understand idea of SL romance

173 case of resident who used photo of somebody else and then when girlfriend wanted to meet him in real life felt he had betrayed her trust

173 [unclear account of techne here]

174 virtual kinship and participating as a child in SL

175 child play was subset of ‘kin play’, virtual kin groups created; 176 Resident called Wendy who played child, went to sleep in SL, logged off and her real-life was her dream [!!!]

176 emic notion of addiction common in SL, 177 incl. addiction to people more common than to scripting, building or other practices; 178 addiction concerns were concerns about ‘compromised agency’ that reflect ‘broad assumptions about the character of homo cyber’ (creative, intentional, self-controlled); 176 all this ‘symptomatic of anxieties about selfhood, agency, and intentionality that lie at the core of discourses of the virtually human’. [Reflect on implications for practice-theoretical understanding of SL; very interesting stuff].

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