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Book Review: Tom Boellstorff Coming of Age in Second Life: an Ant...

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Book Review: Tom Boellstorff Coming of Age in Second Life: an Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human

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Book Review: Tom Boellstorff Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human Boellstorff questioned whether it was possible for a virtual world to be subject to the same ethnographic techniques and analyses as locations and communities are in the real world. As a leading ethnographer studying gay and transgendered cultures in Indonesia, Boellstorff brings a significant amount of experience and expertise to this field of work. He proposed the question – was it possible to use the same methods used in Indonesia to try and understand the new cultures emerging in virtual worlds (Boellstorff 2010) and rehabiliate the notion of ‘virtual’ by studying virtual worlds “in its own terms” (p62). Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human is an ethnographic study of the popular virtual world Second Life. The reader is presented with a description of what it is to ‘live’ in Second Life, by the application of established methodology for examining ‘real world’ communities. Boellstorff attempted to replicate the ‘traditional’ methods and theories of anthropology while applying them to a virtual world. The title of the book is a play on Margret Mead’s classic work Coming of Age in Samoa (1928). Second Life is a platform created by Linden Lab. Their aim was to create a “revolutionary new form of shared 3D experience” (Linden Labs). Coming of Age in Second Life is divided into three parts and nine chapters. The first part, titled “Setting the Virtual Stage” contains three background chapters that set the context of the research. Boellstorff provides an introduction into Second Life and its everyday normalities. He discusses his own experiences with computer games and virtual worlds, tracing them back to their origins. The second part “Culture in a Virtual World”, introduces the reader to different aspects of everyday life in Second Life, dividing the four chapters into the headings “Place and Time”, “Personhood”,...

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