Intersecting Virtualities: Applied Research on Digital Anthropology and Virtual Environments
Editors: U. Undine Frömming, Ana Correa and Daniel Wood
Special thanks to Dr. Kateryna Maltseva at the National University of Kyiv-Mohala Academy
Website and Layout: Deborah Bischofberger
The seventh edition of the Journal of Visual and Media Anthropology presents the work of nine scholars conducting research in digital anthropology and virtual environments through intersecting crises and an era of rapid technological change. The publication contains four papers, five films, and one 3d gallery, all of which approach the increasing digitization of life and space from intersecting positions and contexts. With an expanded scope from previous years, this seventh edition brings the work of M.A. students in Visual and Media Anthropology at HMKW Berlin and the work of M.A. students at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, who participated in the Digital LION project over the past semester.
This paper is grounded theoretically in literature but geographically in the Ubuntuland metaverse and the region it represents. Qualitative data is collected through interviews with avatars in Ubuntuland, interviews with artists that the marketplace caters to, immersion in the digital environment, and participant observation. Through the descriptive articulation of this data, the potentials of Ubuntuland and virtual environments will be examined, as well as the connected ecosystems and structures of power and access from which it arises. This research paper aims to explore the digital pioneering of Ubuntuland as it relates to colonialism and imperialism and examines whether the marketplace supports African artists in gaining access to the digital economy and promotes a sense of community or other sidelines for those that need the strengthening of the most. The relationship between land ownership in digital environments and land-based issues in Africa will be explored, raising questions about the commodification of Africa.
On February 24, 2022, a neighbouring country allowed itself to violate our borders, kill our people and destroy our cities. This is still going on today. In this project, I want to share the part of Ukraine where I feel the most pain. Places where I had a lot of adventures and which I will never see the same again. The project is presented as a video of a gallery tour. The gallery was created in FrameVR. All the photos and videos from the pre-war period are personal memories of travelling around Ukraine.
This essay will answer the following essential question: How does the AltspaceVR community perceive the russia-Ukraine war? The paper will briefly outline the historical and political context of the situation, a full-scale war in the centre of Europe. The essay also offers key narrative findings from this brief, exploratory study. In particular, the text identifies three main political narratives about the russia-Ukraine war within the AltspaceVR community and suggests how and where they may emerge. It also provides questions for further research on this topic.
This paper explores the concept of exclusion from virtual space and virtual reality, drawing on the theory of Agamben’s homo sacer. By placing the figure of homo sacer in a spatial context, this text questions the transition between actual and virtual spaces and realities. At the same time, the opposition between real/virtual is considered a second level of the old opposition between nature/culture. The paper shows that despite some difficulties, applying the term homo sacer is helpful to researchers on virtual reality concerning the sovereignty of virtual spaces, their states of emergencies, and considerations about public space in terms of virtuality. The most important aspect is that virtual spaces could manifest a new shift in the classical triad of state-nation (birth)-territories, opening up a range of potential threats.
Living Ghosts is about the experiences that Oromo refugees from Ethiopia face as they flee to different parts of the world. Kenya, a neighbouring country, is one of the first stops on harrowing journeys filled with natural and artificial terrors. Many have to leave the blessings of a lush and green Oromia to walk through harsh deserts and cross oceans - their journeys more often than not ending in death or a life that is not a life, like ghosts. The video uses machinima, short clips created in second life, virtual interviews, and actual TV reports to recreate some aspects of their stories. Living unknown, unclaimed, with no fundamental rights in their countries of refuge, had inspired many Oromo singers from back home to cry for them as well. One of them was the human rights activist Hachalu Hundessa who sang a song dedicated to them. It is called Anaan, Anaan, meaning I wish I were the one suffering instead.
Hell on Heaven investigates planetary emergency through the environmental disaster in Istanbul on July 27 2017. The narrative structure is built on the interviewee’s experience, Remzi Oguz Gunaydin, and the archival footage abstracts this collective story of the disaster. Overall, the film briefly intends to shed light on solastalgia while experimenting with the codes of poetic cinema to question this critical phenomenon from an alternative perspective. The film uses the archive and screen recording as a form of “digital eye” that functions as a tool to trace memories of the disaster. The digital intervention is enhanced by playing with specific qualities of the images to question remembrance.
Transcendent Simulator is a short film that examines ‘transcendental moments’ in the Truck Simulator video games. The Truck Simulator games allow players to control hyperrealistic commercial trucks and drive through simulated landscapes of the western United States or continental Europe. While the games may seem straightforward, many players use the virtual space to have out-of-body, meditational experiences. The game world becomes a space where players can have transcendental experiences and escape the limitations of their own bodies. This film was born out of interactions and engagements with the r/trucksim Reddit community and drew on research on transcendental moments in HCI to understand how the virtual world can become a transcendental space.
3,260 Souls in the Digital World is A Multimedia Exploration of Visibility, Marginalization and the Cost of Progress. How does one experience what has been “lost” to history? In this time of late-stage Capitalism, our relationship with industrialization is fraught with consequences for humanity, landscapes and culture. Our connections through digital technology and research can illuminate what has been missing from the narrative. This piece is an audiovisual exploration of the phenomenological experience of history connecting to archives, ethnography of space & place, and the climate crisis. Incorporating a multilayered and multimedia approach, 3,260 souls includes screencast, staged portraits, integrated archival pieces, field recorded video and audio, sound FX, voiceover and the thematic arc of a dark fairy tale. The title refers to the number of people buried in Seattle’s Potter’s Field in 1912 when it was slated for development. Many were from marginalized groups, and many had no money, family or support system. They were all cremated, and the ashes were mishandled.
This film examines the overmedicalization of childbirth and the way in which this has contributed to the loss of knowledge regarding childbirth and breastfeeding. As childbirth was moved out of the home and into the hospital in the late 19th century, giving birth became a medical procedure and centuries' worth of knowledge was lost. Women and birthing people have struggled to regain this knowledge, but through the help of social media, there has been a resurgence of community around childbirth and breastfeeding, providing women and birthing people with the much-needed information and support what they are seeking. In this film, I show how birth has become medicalized and for profit, how counterculture efforts have fought to restore agency over childbirth, and how social media has become a source of community.