Welcome to Cyberia: Notes on the Anthropology of Cyberculture
by Arturo Escobar
[Escobar, Arturo. 1994. “Welcome to Cyberia: Notes on the Anthropology of Cyberculture.” Current Anthropology 35 (3):211–31.]
- “The point of departure of this inquiry is the belief that any technology represents a cultural invention, in the sense that it brings forth a world; it emerges out of particular cultural conditions and in turn helps to create new ones” (211).
- “the priority accorded science and theory over technical creativity has led moderns to believe that they can describe nature and society according to laws. Rather than as the effect of practice nature and society appear as objects with mechanisms and are therefore treated instrumentally” (213).
- “cyberculture” refers specifically to new technologies in two areas: artificial intelligence (particularly computer and information technologies) and biotechnology [… to] the realization that we increasingly live and make ourselves in techno-biocultural environments structured by novel forms of science and technology” (214).
- Anthropological research into cybercultures should be guided by four inquiries:
- What are the discourses and practices that are generated around/by computers and biotechnology?
- How can these practices and domains be studied ethnographically in various social, regional, and ethnic settings?
- What is the background of understanding from which the new technologies emerge?
- What is the political economy of cyberculture? (215)
- “The anthropology of cyberculture holds that we can assume a priori neither the existence of a era nor the need for a new branch of anthropology” (216).
- “technoscience is motivating a blurring and implosion of categories at various levels, particularly the modern categories that defined the natural, the organic, the technical, and the textual”
- “Bodies,” “organisms,” and “communities” thus have to be retheorized as composed of elements that originate in three different domains with permeable boundaries” (217).
- Possible ethnographic domains and research strategies:
- The production and use of new technologies
- The appearance of Computer-mediated communities
- Studies of the popular culture of science and technology, including the effect of science and technology on the popular imaginary
- The growth and qualitative development of human computer-mediated communication, particularly from the perspective of the relationship between language communication, social structures, and cultural identity
- The political economy of cyberculture (217-219).
- Then a bunch about complexity, including:
- “The discovery that “inert” matter has properties that are remarkably close to those of life-forms led to the postulate that life is a property not of organic
matter per se but of the organization of matter and hence to the concept of nonorganic life (de Landa 1992)” (221).
- interface anthropology—put forth by Laurel (1990, 91-93), it is a “focus on user/context intersections, finding “informants” to guide the critical (not merely utilitarian) exploration of diverse users and contexts” (218).
- appended to that definition is this cool footnote: “Walker (1990) distinguishes five phases in the history of user interfaces (1) knobs and dials, (2) batch (a specialist computer operator running a stack of jobs on punched cards), (3) timesharing (,4) menus, (5) graphics windows. The next phase will take the user directly ‘inside’ the computer, through the screen to cyberspace, so to say. This will be a three-dimensional space such as the one achieved by virtual reality today. The hope of designers is that it will replace more passive viewing with active participation” (218)
- Poeisis—Heidegger’s term for the essence of Being. It’s present in the arts and certain Eastern philosophies. See The Question Concerning Technology
- Social constructivism—a methodology and theoretical stance based on the idea “that, contrary to the technological determinism of past times, contingency and flexibility are the essence of technological change; by showing that social processes are inherent to technological innovations, they deal a fatal blow to the alleged separation of technology from society and of both of these from nature” (212).
- interpretive flexibility—”the fact—long known to anthropologists—that different actors (“relevant social groups,” in the constructivists’ parlance) interpret technological artifacts in different ways” (212).
Significant changes in the nature of social life are being brought about by computer information and biological technologies to the extent that—some argue—a new cultural order, “cyberculture,” is coming into being. This paper presents an overview of the types of anthropological analyses that are being conducted in the area of new technologies and suggests additional steps for the articulation of an anthropology of cyberculture. It builds upon science, technology, and society studies in various fields and on critical studies of modernity. The implications of technoscience for both anthropological theory and ethnographic research are explored.
Continue reading Escobar – Welcome to Cyberia
Is It Me or My Brain? Depression and Neuroscientific Facts
by Joseph Dumit
[Dumit, Joseph. 2003. “Is It Me or My Brain? Depression and Neuroscientific Facts.” Journal of Medical Humanities 24 (1–2): 35–47.]
- Wittgenstein says that there are certain points about which we no longer ask for an explanation or a test of its truth, and explanations come to an end:
- “Giving grounds, however justifying the evidence, comes to an end; —but the end is not certain propositions’ striking us immediately as true, i.e. it is not a kind of seeing on our part; it is our acting” (On Certainty, p. 204) (39).
- We might call the set of acts that concerns our brains and our bodies deriving from received-facts of science and medicine the objective-self”
- The objective- self consists of our taken-for-granted notions, theories, and tendencies regarding human bodies, brains, and kinds considered as objective, referential, extrinsic, and objects of science and medicine. That we “know”we have a brain and that the brain is necessary for our self is one aspect of our objective-self” (39).
- “Furthermore, objective-selves are not finished but incomplete and in process. With received-facts we fashion and refashion our objective-selves.
- Thus it is we come to know our bodies as endangered by poisons like saccharine, our brains as having a “reading circuit,” and humans as being either mentally ill or sane or borderline.
- I call this “objective-self fashioning” to highlight our own activity in encountering “received-facts.”
- I emphasize “received-facts” rather than just “facts”to highlight the activity of translation that has taken place in order for the results of a scientific or medical project to reach us.
- Each of these movements of facts from one media to another is also necessarily a transformation of the fact. Science studies scholars Bruno Latour and Michel Callon call this process “translation,” a term connoting both movement and change in meaning. We all know that a fact established in a lab is not known immediately by everyone, everywhere. It must travel through specific channels” (39).
- “Each of the aspects of our objective-selves has this personal history (of coming-to-know via received-facts) and also a social history. (39-40)
- “Some human kinds that we are starting to take for granted, e.g., depressives, require attending to broader social and institutional forces in order to understand how it is that we look to the brain for an answer” (40).
- “These social histories enable and constrain science at every level of fact conception, experimentation, publication, and dissemination and reception, but this does not imply that science is culture. Science produces facts in spite of and because of these constraints—laboriously, continuously, and creatively” (40).
- “And we fashion our objective-selves with the fruit of this labor in the form of received-facts in our own continuous and often creative manner, no matter how skeptical we are. This way of living with and through scientific facts is our form of life” (40).
- Examining sufferers of mental illness pints Dumit to a type of selfhood he wants to “a pharmaceutical self whose scale is one of days and weeks.
- Contrary to a Heideggerian phenomenology in which one is passively thrown into moods, here one’s abnormal neurochemistry actively throws one into depression or mania. Sometimes one can respond to this by taking drugs that, days or weeks later, throw you into yet a third state—not normal, but better.”
- This pharmaceutical Self brings forth “three critical aspects of objective-self fashioning for our purposes.”
- First, there is a tremendous flexibility and openness of explanation of the objective-self”
- Even in the face of specific received-facts about ourselves such as brain images, there is room for negotiation and redefinition. Sociologists and anthropologists of psychology have called this the “pandemonium” of folk psychology. But they also note that even as we can play with mind and brain, motivation and behavior, we also ultimately must satisfy local common sense” (44).
- “The second aspect … is the need for a nuanced, complex cultural, historical and institutional as well as scientific or biomedical understanding of context.
- Objective-self fashioning is an ongoing process of social accounting to oneself and others in particular situations in which received-facts function as particularly powerful resources because they bear the objective authority of science” (44).
- “The third critical aspect of objective-self fashioning is the fundamental connection between the brain as objective-self and one’s own personal identity.
- When genes are invoked as the cause of one’s objective-self and aspects of one’s personality they can become synecdoche for one’s identity. If one has a gene for depression, one can fear becoming depressed.”
- “We can note here that brain images further confuse the part with the whole—even though brain images only show a slice of the brain, they show the slice as representing the whole brain, which in turn is the person” (44).
- “Individual sufferers are trying to both understand their illness and live with it. These are activities that are not necessarily compatible. Using the notion of the pharmaceutical self, I would suggest that they have entered into a relationship with their brain that is negotiated and social” (46).
objective-self—our taken-for-granted notions, theories, and tendencies regarding human bodies, brains, and kinds considered as objective, referential, extrinsic, and objects of science and medicine (39)
objective-self fashioning—”an ongoing process of social accounting to oneself and others in particular situations in which received-facts function as particularly powerful resources because they bear the objective authority of science” (44)
identification— borrowed from psychology and semiotics, “we can characterize our relationship to culture as identification.In Kenneth Burke’s definition, identification includes the “ways in which we spontaneously, intuitively, even unconsciously persuade ourselves” (Burke, 1966, p. 301)” (36)
This article considers the roles played by brain images (e.g., from PET scans) in mass media as experienced by people suffering from mental illness, and as used by scientists and activist groups in demonstrating a biological basis for mental illness. Examining the rhetorical presentation of images in magazines and books, the article describes the persuasive power that brain images have in altering the understanding people have of their own body—their “objective self.” Analyzing first-person accounts of encounters with brain images, it argues that people come to understand themselves as having neurotransmitter imbalances that are the cause of their illnesses via received facts and images of the brain, but that this understand- ing is incomplete and in tension with the sense that they are their brain. The article concludes by querying the emergence of a “pharmaceutical self,” in which one experiences one’s brain as if on drugs, as a new form of objective self-fashioning.”
Continue reading Dumit – Is It Me or My Brain?
The Question Concerning Technology
by Martin Heidegger
[Heidegger, Martin. 1977. “The Question Concerning Technology.” In The Question Concerning Technology, and Other Essays, 3–35. Harper & Row.]
Technology, to begin with, is not a thing, but rather a way of revealing truths.
- “Modern technology too is a means to an end.” “We will master it. The will to mastery becomes all the more urgent the more technology threatens to slip from human control.” (pg 5)
- There are four causes (ways of being responsible for something else) involved in tech’s means
- causa materialis—the material, the stuff a thing is made from
- causa formalis—the form, the material takes, the template
- causa finalis—the intended end use, ritual, application, etc.
- causa efficiens—who (or what) actual forms the material, the craftworker, miner, technician, etc.
- All four causes work together to facilitate the technology’s occasioning (it’s coming onto being in its specific context)
- Plato says: “every occasion for whatever passes over and goes forward into presencing from that which is not presencing is poiesis, is bringing-forth” (pg 10)
- “Technology is a mode of revealing. Technology comes to presence [West] in the realm where revealing and unconcealment take place, where aletheia, truth, happens.” (pg 13)
So what’s the problem?
- Modern technology is different because the type if revealing is different.
- “What is modern technology? It too is a revealing. Only when we allow our attention to rest on this fundamental characteristic does that which is new in modern technology show itself to us. [paragraph break ] And yet the revealing that holds sway throughout modern technology does not unfold into a bringing-forth in the sense of poiesis. The revealing that rules in modern technology is a challenging [Herausfordern], which puts to nature the unreasonable demand that it supply energy that can be extracted and stored as such. [ … ] The earth now reveals itself as a coal mining district, the soil as a mineral deposit.” (14)
- This type of revealing is based on challenging. Whereas the old-school peasant “challenge the soil of the field” (15), new technologies demand that the materials in the earth (like coal) are always ready for use as “it is stockpiled; that is, it is on call, ready to deliver the sun’s warmth that is stored in it” (15)
- H calls this standing-reserve
- Since we do this, we tend to see the objects as only the resources contained in them, as an ordering revealing
- in other words: “The unconcealment of the unconcealed has already come to pass whenever it calls man forth into the modes of revealing allotted to him. When man, in his way, from within unconcealment reveals that which presences, he merely responds to the call of unconcealment even when he contradicts it. Thus when man, investigating, observing, ensnares nature as an area of his own conceiving, he has already been claimed by a way of revealing that challenges him to approach nature as an object of research, until even the object disappears into the objectlessness of standing-reserve” (19).
- H calls this propensity in humans enframing.
- “Enframing means the gathering together of that setting-upon which sets upon man, i.e., challenges him forth, to reveal the real, in the mode of ordering, as standing-reserve. Enframing means that way of revealing which holds sway in the essence of modern technology and which is itself nothing technological” (20).
- OR “the way in which the real reveals itself as standing-reserve” (23)
- OR “Enframing is the gathering together that belongs to that setting-upon which sets upon man and puts him in position to reveal the real, in the mode of ordering, as standing-reserve” (24)
- And Enframing is the essence of modern technology
- Enframing creates a situation wherein humans see the world around around them as a “calculable complex of the effects of forces” (26). We see only resources standing-reserve but no objects in and of themselves.
- When we don;t see the objects as they are (in their truth), we fall for the illusion that humans are the only things around worth noting…
- “as soon as what is unconcealed no longer concerns man even as object, but does so, rather, exclusively as standing-reserve [ … ] he comes to the point where he himself will have to be taken as standing-reserve. Meanwhile man … exalts himself to the posture of lord of the earth. [ … ] This illusion gives rise in turn to one final delusion: It seems as though man everywhere and always encounters only himself” (26-27).
- AND “the challenging Enframing not only conceals a former way of revealing, bringing-forth, but it conceals revealing itself and with it That wherein concealment, i.e., truth, comes to pass” (27)
- “The rule of Enframing threatens man with the possibility that it could de denied him to enter into a more original revealing and hence to experience the call of a more primal truth” (28).
- (yeah, but wtf is ‘truth,’ H?)
- And FINALLY— “The coming to presence of technology threatens revealing, threatens it with the possibility that all revealing will be consumed in ordering and that everything will present itself only in the unconcealedness of standing-reserve” (33).
All is not lost
- “So long as we represent technology as an instrument we remain held fast in the will to master it. We press on past the essence of technology. [ paragraph break ] When, however, we ask how the instrumental comes to presence as a kind of causality, then we experience the coming to presence as the destining of a revealing” (32).
- Techne also used to mean “art,” so maybe art will be the ultimate savior?
- And who knows, maybe “the frenziedness of technology may entrench itself every where to such an extent that someday, throughout everything technological, the essence of technology may come to presence in the coming-to-pass of truth” (35).
Techne—”techne is the name not only for the activities and skills of the craftsman, but also for the arts of the mind and the fine arts. Techne belongs to bringing-forth, to poiesis; it is something poietic. [paragraph break ] The other point that we should observe with regard to techne is even more important. From earliest times until Plato the word techne is linked with the word episteme. Both words are names for knowing in the widest sense. They mean to be entirely at home in something, to understand and be expert in it.” [ … ] “It is as revealing, and not as manufacturing, that techne is a bringing-forth.” (pg 13)
Continue reading Heidegger – The Question Concerning Technology
Taking Animism Seriously, but Perhaps Not Too Seriously?
by Rane Willerslev
[Willerslev, Rane. 2013. “Taking Animism Seriously, but Perhaps Not Too Seriously?” Religion and Society: Advances in Research 4 (1): 41–57.]
How do we take indigenous animism seriously in the sense proposed by Viveiros de Castro? In this article, I pose this challenge to all the major theories of animism, stretching from Tylor and Durkheim, over Lévi-Strauss to Ingold. I then go on to draw a comparison between Žižek’s depiction of the cynical milieu of advanced capitalism in which ideology as “false consciousness” has lost force and the Siberian Yukaghirs for whom ridiculing the spirits is integral to their game of hunting. Both know that, in their activity, they are following an illusion, but still they go along with it; both are ironically self-conscious about not taking the ruling ethos at face value. This makes me suggest an alternative: perhaps it is time for anthropology not to take indigenous animism too seriously.
Continue reading Willerslev—Taking Animism Seriously, but Perhaps Not Too Seriously?
Anthropology and Play: The Contours of Playful Experience
by Thomas Malaby
[Malaby, Thomas. 2009. “Anthropology and Play: The Contours of Playful Experience.” New Literary History 40 (1): 205–18.]
- The use of play as a theoretical tool, rather than being brushed off as a leisure activity, has taken hold across academic disciplines within the humanities and social sciences. Malaby wonders why Anthropology hasn’t been invested before now.
- He argue that “while the ingredients of a more useful conception of play as a disposition (as opposed to an activity) were always present, and even found expression on occasion, the field as a whole stressed only two viable possibilities: play as nonwork and play as representation” (205-6).
- BUT, “Departing from this pattern prepares us to recognize a better model for thinking about play, one that draws ultimately on the pragmatist philosophers’ portrayal of the world as irreducibly contingent. On this view, play becomes an attitude characterized by a readiness to improvise in the face of an ever-changing world that admits of no transcendently ordered account” ( bold added, 206).
Historically, play is divided in Anthropology
- Non-work—position held by Materialists
- Callois: “play is an occasion of pure waste” (206).
- play cannot be commoditized, so it is worth nothing
- Representation—position held by representationalists (gasp)
- Ex. Geertz & Deep Play
- play stands as a symbol of larger and deeper cultural meanings
- BUT WAIT: “What should interest us about this treatment of a game, however, is the way it trades one kind of reductionism for another. In his zeal to trump whatever material stakes were in play with the different stakes of meaning-making, Geertz eliminated from consideration any consequence beyond the affirmation of meaning. On his view, games become static appraisals of an unchanging social order; and thereby, one element that is vital for any understanding of the experience of play is lost” (207).
- “That element is the indeterminacy of games and the way in which, by being indeterminate in their outcomes, they encapsulate (albeit in a contrived fashion) the open-endedness of everyday life” (207-8).
- So the point is that games are indeterminate, much like our complexly contingent lives.
- “an approach to games that acknowledges this indeterminacy looks quite different from its past treatments. It connects games to other domains of experience by showing how they contain the same kinds of unpredictabilities and constraints that saturate our experience elsewhere, albeit combined in a contrived fashion. Viewed this way, games assume a powerful relationship to human practice and social process.”
- “What is more, this view allows us to see how games may be related to a particular mode of experience, a dispositional stance toward the indeterminate. This is an aspect of experience that disappears from view when practice is left out in favor of materiality or representation” (208).
- in Play and Work: A False Dichotomy, Stevens makes “a vital point that game researchers (and social scientists generally) are still prone to forget: if by “play” we are trying to signal a mode of human experience—a way of engaging the world whatever one is doing—then we cannot simultaneously use it reliably as a label for a form of distinct human activity (something that allows us to differentiate categorically between activities that are play and those that are not)” (208).
- So then “when the work/play distinction is left behind, we see instead in ludic practice a more useful contrast between a cultural form (a game-like activity, no matter how playfully engaged in) and a mode of cultural experience (a playful disposition towards activities no matter how game-like)” (209).
- Csikszentmihalyi’s flow is a mode, for instance
- For Huizinga, it is the play-element
- In the world, we also have this type of indeterminacy or contingency
- can be compared to Heideggerian thrownness
- also fits well into the concepts behind practice theory
- There are three main features to this disposition of play in the world
- “First, it is an attitude that is totalizing in the sense that it reflects an acknowledgment of how events, however seemingly patterned or routinized, can never be cordoned off from contingency entirely …”
- “Second, the disposition of play is marked by a readiness to improvise, a quality captured by Bourdieu in his development of Marcel Mauss’s concept of the habitus …”
- Finally, play is a disposition that makes the actor an agent within social processes, albeit in an importantly restrained way; the actor may affect events, but this agency is not confined to the actor’s intent, or measured by it. Rather, it allows for unintended consequences of action” (211).
- The playful disposition does not need games, but can be leveraged to other means: “just as with ritual, it is the power of the mode of experience associated with it that makes the deployment of the cultural form a tempting project for individuals and institutions”
Play and institutions:
- “In its study of ritual, anthropology undertook with great success a similar project, whose enabling insights should inform our current inquiries into play not least with regard to the relationship of these institutions to a social form they are beginning to deploy for purposes of their own …”
- “games, as outlined above, manifest a playful disposition that, seeming to lift them above institutional interests, can, by the same token, be seen to validate those interests impartially” (213).
- examples given
- Linden Lab and its semi-successful attempts at gamifying the in-house decision making process
- “gold-farming,” tying gameplay to actual capital accumulation IRL
- TopCoder.com having coders compete to write the best code for specific commercial uses—the company then owns the code
Game vs. Ritual
- There is an important “difference between the cultural forms of ritual and game. Rituals, despite the fact that they can go wrong—the fact, that is, they are subject to contingency—aim to bring about determinate outcomes …”
- and “Games, while also a contrived cultural form and subject to similar kinds of sponsorship, are marked by the legitimacy of their indeterminacy; that is, their outcomes are supposed to be contingent” (214).
and finally—BIG POINT
- “What is most provocative about the current moment, then, is how the explosion of thoroughly digitized games prompts us to confront the play element and its powerful yet indeterminate relationship to the emergent cultural form of computerized games. As institutions are coming to deploy games in their governance and in their engagement with a computer-mediated public, we may be well advised to see their efforts as similar to the age-old and ongoing attempts to employ ritual to prompt sentiments for nations or other groupings. The disposition of play is, in many ways, the latest sentiment to have been turned into the object of institutional desire. Some of us are prepared to bet that its roots in indeterminacy will be a bulwark against corporate takeover; but a bet is probably the most we can hazard. “
Continue reading Malaby— Anthropology and Play
Being in the World (of Warcraft): Raiding, Realism, and Knowledge Production in a Massively Multiplayer Online Game
by Alex Golub
[Golub, Alex. “Being in the World (of Warcraft): Raiding, realism, and knowledge production in a massively multiplayer online game.” Anthropological Quarterly83, no. 1 (2010): 17-45.]
- an argument directly against Boellstorff, particularly on two fronts
- Immersion in virtual worlds is dependent on the realism depicted in the world—Golub says “no”
- virtual worlds are “places” that can be studied without reference to the offline users—Golub says “hell no”
- Golub uses participant observation as part of a ‘middle-core’ raiding party in World of Warcraft (WoW) to deny both of these assertions; arguing that “the sociotechnical systems created and deployed by raiders ramify beyond the magic circle of World of Warcraft onto websites, Internet telephony servers, and actual-world gatherings” (20).
- in his discussion of Boelstorff’s Coming of Age in Second Life, he argues “that Boellstorff’s decision to exclude from his study the websites, blogs, and other online sites where Second Lifers interact is as problematic as his decision to bracket out their actual world lives” (24).
- Further, scholarly treatments of the nature of virtual worlds “short-circuit attempts to theorize what makes virtual worlds compelling because they appeal to taken-for-granted notions of sensorial immersion” (26).
- He sees immersion as being based on “commitment to the game,” and his raiding party increases this immersion/commitment by “decomposing the visually and aurally realistic world of Warcraft into its component parts” (34).
- players use mods to parse the visual input into less aesthetically pleasing pieces of info: threat meters, DPS, health, “maximize their knowledge of the game state, replacing realistic three-dimensional imagery with user-friendly measurements of underlying variables in the game. [He] call[s] this process “decomposing the world” (35).
- players use audio plugins to speak to each other over an audio channel that is not included in the game mechanics—they both plan raids and socialize on this channel, this increasing immersion with the use of outside tech
- take-home—”an account which takes seriously both virtual worlds and the anthropological critique of locality should focus on three things…
- we must follow participants in virtual worlds across all segments of their life-worlds that are central to their biographies, not merely those that are virtual…
- we must understand the intertwined systems of action and meaning which become projects for people…
- we must understand the way those projects engender publics, both networked … or otherwise” (40-41). (reformatted by me)
This paper discusses two main claims made about virtual worlds: first, that people become “immersed” in virtual worlds because of their sensorial realism, and second, because virtual worlds appear to be “places” they can be studied without reference to the lives that their inhabitants live in the actual world. This paper argues against both of these claims by using data from an ethnographic study of knowledge production in World of Warcraft. First, this data demonstrates that highly-committed (“immersed”) players of World of Warcraft make their interfaces less sensorially realistic (rather than more so) in order to obtain useable knowledge about the game world. In this case, immer- sion and sensorial realism may be inversely correlated. Second, their commitment to the game leads them to engage in knowledge-making activities outside of it. Drawing loosely on phenomenology and contemporary theorizations of Oceania, I argue that what makes games truly “real” for players is the extent to which they create collective projects of action that people care about, not their imitation of sensorial qualia. Additionally, I argue that while purely in-game research is methodologically legitimate, a full account of member’s lives must study the articulation of in-game and out-of-game worlds and trace people’s engagement with virtual worlds across multiple domains, some virtual and some actual. [Keywords: knowledge production, phenomenology, virtu- al worlds, World of Warcraft, Second Life, video games, raiding]” Continue reading Golub—Being in the World (of Warcraft)
Placing the Virtual Body: Avatar, Chora, Cypherg
by Tom Boellstorff
[Boellstorff, Tom. 2011. “Placing the Virtual Body: Avatar, Chora, Cypherg.” In A Companion to the Anthropology of the Body and Embodiment, edited by Frances E. Mascia-Lees, 504–20. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.]
“to develop a theory of the virtual body that links
- ethnographic insights from prior work by myself and other scholars with
- a theoretical architecture drawing from a range of philosophical perspectives and
- the introduction of three new concepts: virtual chora, being-inworld, and the cypherg” (515).
- chora—ancient Greek philosophical term; in Plato’s view chora is the basis of being, such that “forms come to be in it without ever being of it” (Sallis 1999: 109)
- virtual chora—Virtual worlds underscore how chora is not place per se, but place-making or worlding (Zhan 2009), the embodied “dance” of techne making possible “being-in-the-world.” As this last term suggests, this reframing of chora links it to a phenomenology of the virtual body
- being inworld—Heidegger’s ‘being-in-the-world’ is not sufficient for the virtual, because ‘being’ is defined and experienced differently, depending on which virtual world one is ‘being’ in. So Boellstorff pluralizes and phenomenologizes the concept (through Merleau-Ponty). Being inworld is existenec (dwelling) according to the local virtual definitions.
- cypherg—a mixture of Karl Jaspers’s cypher (an “objectivity which is permeated by subjectivity and in such a way that Being becomes present in the whole” (Jaspers 1959: 35) and Donna Haraway’s cyborg (part human, part machine, see Cyborg Manifesto). The cyherg itself is “virtual corporeality through which “a participation in Being takes place” (Jaspers 1959: 61), a participation through techne that makes possible the conditions for emplaced being itself. A recursive indexicality, made possible by the pluralization of being-inworld” (515).
“From virtual chora emerges the cypherg, a figure of online corporeality, a figure whose recursively indexical being-inworld stands to fundamentally reconfigure what it means to be human” (517).
Continue reading Boellstorff—Placing the Virtual Body