Episode 31 of The Drax Files is now available to watch featuring Tom Boellstorff talking about avatar identity and the use of virtual worlds. Tom is an anthropologist from the University of California in Irvine. Tom is the author of Coming of Age In Second Life which was published back in 2008 and many may find the name Tom Boellstorff familiar.
When Tom signed up to Second Life back in 2004 there were only around 2, 500 members with an average concurrency of two hundred. Tom said that you could fly over every region across the grid within a week at two hours a day.
Tom says that Second Life’s a place with places in it, people are still interacting inside the virtual world, there’s still plenty to observe. Tom feels if the virtual reality explosion happens then virtual worlds are going to be a major use case. Tom says that VR won’t take over virtual worlds, it will be a different way of accessing them.
The interview is around five minutes long but there is great footage of Second Life throughout the episode and its really worth watching.
About Epsiode 31
“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/106…] 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/boellsto…
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]
Special thanks to the Drax Family – young and older- for participating in the filming of this episode.
Super special thanks to Jacki Morie for getting great footage from the SoCal VR Expo 2015.
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Watch previous episodes of The Drax Files here from 1-30.
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