World Ethnography

Junior (College 3rd year) ・Sociology ・Chicago ・10 Sources

Anthropology is the study of diverse perspectives of human’s past and present societies. In the study of anthropology, there are two categories. They include cultural anthropology, social anthropology, linguistic anthropology and biological anthropology. The knowledge gained by anthropologists helps in understanding the diversity of human culture and how humans have adapted to suit their environment. There are many ways in which anthropologist could find out more about other cultures in relation to the existence of the human culture. This has enabled these social scientists to recognize the possibilities of using the internet and other associated technologies for research purposes. This is due to the fact there has been minimal research work that has been done on matters pertaining to the use of ethnographic participants observation on the internet. This will require an online interaction with the audience so as to get the feedback and assess the behavior of people. Additionally, there will be an application of this observation to the graphical online arena. In this essay, I will be discussing online avatar watching. This will involve collecting information about the human culture through observations in the graphical online environment. Therefore, virtual ethnography is the next phase of understanding the human culture and its environment.

A virtual community is a social network in which people share a common idea, perspectives, and feelings. These people are from different geographical regions, different ethnic backgrounds but the network provides a platform where they can have one voice and one mind. Social scientists including anthropologist could use this environment to collect information. This could be done best through observational research. When conducting an observational research, the researcher should create a system in which he/she will collect the number of registered participants and use them to collect the information provided. For the online avatar watching, it will involve creating a software in which participant will register in order to watch the program. This will provide a good tally for data collections.

The most important aspect of observational research is that the researcher could observe what the participants will engage in or say rather than what the participants will say they engage in. This can be supported by the fact that, most people during data collection will not provide their true perspective on questionnaires. Secondly, observational research provides a platform in which the researcher will access to people in real life scenario. Third, it will be an opportunity to explain the meaning and the context of the research and the program. Additionally, it can be strong on validity and in-depth understanding of the research and program. On the other hand, there are a number of drawbacks that are associated with observational research. The key disadvantage of this research method is that the observer has no effect on the participants and what they observe. Other drawbacks include the program or platform of undertaking the research can be viewed or perceived as too subjective. Secondly, it is time-consuming. Third, everything depends on the role of the researcher and the intended objective. Being an avatar in a virtual community entails a lot of things. First, the setting of the community is a new environment. The new environment will provide the avatar to learn more about the environment through numerous and constant interaction with the people within the virtual community. As a result, acquiring information is a key factor in the virtual community. There may be a change of emotions due to the fact that, as an avatar you will be in a position to visit places where you have never been, meet people you never dream of meeting. This is a platform of new things, culture, and environment. Consequently, it will require more time to adapt and be part of it. Interaction in the new environment as an avatar becomes a problem due to the newness of the environment. In summary, it feels like being taken into the world that you must learn new things and adapt to it. An example can be given to the life and developmental stage of an infant. Take, for instance, the infant is brought up in a new environment where he struggles to understand the environment through language acquisition and cognitive development.

Second Life is a social networking virtual community used as an interactive segment such as social interaction. This virtual community provides an opportunity for people who want to explore a new world that is free of limitations such as ethnic, physical and societal. With this, the researcher is in a position to observe how people interact in an ideal world without limitations. Using simple observational research as a platform for collecting data or information on social interaction has benefits and drawbacks.

Benefits of using observational research in an interactive segment include; the observations made are quick to conduct this means that there are many observations that a researcher can make within a specific period of time. With this, the researcher is in a position to get a large sample. Secondly, the data collected from observational research is easier and quick to interpret and analyze thus less time-consuming method compared to a natural observation which is very involving and uses vast resources. The major drawback involved with observational research is that the data obtained may lack validity due to many factors. Take for instance, when the participants of the program realize that they are being watched, their behavior will change. In the event that the behavior of the participant changes, the data collected will be incorrect and faulty. Other drawbacks may include; in simple observation, a representative sample may lack since a wider representation of a generalized society where factors such as age, ethnical background, race and social class are incorporated. This will make the data collected biased. Secondly, the variables being used may be difficult for another researcher to repeat the same study since the data collected will vary. Additionally, people have different observational skills thus leading to dissimilar results and data. Thirdly, a researcher needs to be trained for him/her to recognize aspects of the program that are significant for the study. This is due to the fact that, a variety of data can be collected but it takes a trained researcher to recognize the information and the data that is needed. Lastly, in the event that the researcher gets too involved, he/she may lose the purpose of the study rendering the project null or leading to biases. This may affect the overall result of the study.

Depending on the avatar that I have selected, people will be in a position to know more about my avatar. This is because, in a free environment without limitation, interaction is not limited. Additionally, there will be more platforms of creating a wider virtual community where you will meet people with same ideas and beliefs together. This will result in making a new team of avatar friends and families defined by a common belief or objective. When it comes to issues that may arise in a virtual community segment include avatar accessing new areas. Additionally, participants may inquire the conditions that are necessary for an avatar to access new places or communities. Secondly, the issue of identity. This will include the choice of the identity of the avatar that one can use in the program. Third, the language to use during the simulation or program. Third, modernity and westernization. The existences of different modernity will be an issue within the virtual community since people are from different communities. The question is, is it appropriate to use modernity from the westerns point of view? These issues do affect the overall interactive segment in the virtual environment. Additionally, ethics in this community is an issue. This raises the concept that every research either online or offline must have an ethical barrier. This will limit the extent to which the research can be done and to what extent of the research is valid based on human interactions and societal demands.

There are vast differences between offline and online culture, relationships, environment, and communities. This begs the questions, why is it so easier for people to interact freely on an online segmenting that offline segment? What are the fears that people have in an ideal world? In a virtual community, such as avatar interactions, participants were interacting with each other in different forms as monsters, animals or any other celestial being without any limitations. In an ideal world, people have created limitations that limit their level of interaction. Take, for instance, racism and ethnicity have been issues affecting our social arena. This has created a distinction and separation amongst people. An example can be given from the separation that existed between the Blacks and the Whites. Additionally, religious differences are also a platform of separation within our societies. This can be supported by the constant indifferences between the Islam and the Christianity.

The most amazing aspect of virtual community is that people interact without looking at the looks, religious background, and other social factors. Therefore, from the observations made, a researcher can conclude that there are factors that affect our social platform of interaction. Humans get into these factors through birth or choice. The choice is dictated by the environment in which they live in. These factors include; religion, race, ethnic background, skin color amongst others. From the research, it can, therefore, be confirmed that in the event that these limitations are eliminated, our social interaction platform could change. It is, therefore, true to say that, the virtual community provides participants with a free environment where they have no limitations and just interacting freely. A social scientist could postulate that the environment in which we are born into is very harsh being that, they are some things we have no control over. The most important factor that we can control is a choice. Some may make right choices or s bad choices within the realm of social interaction. At the end of it, unity and peaceful coexistence are paramount thus bringing out the concept of diversity. In the virtual community, the world becomes a better place to live in; the interaction is not limited by rules or any other societal needs. On the other hand, the real and ideal world provides us with more restrictions that individuals are guided by religious boundaries, ethnical and racial. This creates separation amongst people.

Identity provides us with a sense of recognition. It is very clear that a single person possesses multiple personalities. In the Second life, the program provides a platform in which user could select their characters based on the graphics designed within the software. People are allowed to select any identity based on their perception and choices. There is a limitation within the system i.e. it doesn’t support a multiplicity of personalities. The system provides numerous benefits for those people with social interaction difficulties and disorders such as autism. For those people who are shy, they can use the platform to enhance their social skills through constant interaction with other people within the system. Additionally, in this environment, they will never be stereotyped and seen as not part of the society.There is some disadvantage that is associated with this system for those people with disabilities. The most important one is that the virtual community will not provide them with an ideal environment where they can interact freely just like in the real world. Therefore, if there is looking for a real connection, the virtual community will not provide it in the most realistic way. It is just an imaginary world where people can interact without limitations.

The ethical way of conducting this research is by conducting an ethnographic inquiry. This is due to the fact that ethnographers do explore a wide variety of the human world and situations. There should a guiding principle of care. This will include mitigation of institutional and legal risks and deal with the notion of informed consent. The principle of care will provide an agreeable platform for the investigator and the investigated.When dealing with a new culture, issues objectivity will apply when the researcher wants to highlight the most important aspect of the culture. This may include culture or the social interaction within the specific community. As a result, collecting data and information will be made easier. A culture of a community is made of many categories. Therefore, objectivity will help in assessing which aspects of the culture are relevant to the study.

The prevalent themes that support Second life as a unique culture include; the virtual and the actual, mind and virtual bodies, the relationship between the participant and the avatar (me, myself and avatar). Cultural ideas are represented through graphical designs. This will be achieved through understanding the actual environment and bringing it into act such as the less understood group and the vulnerable ones. There are provided with everything that they miss in the real world. This includes the wishes and dreams of people that one cannot be but can achieve it in a virtual environment.

The Second Life brings out a collision of cultures. Take for instance, in a free and realistic world there are limits within once can reach. In the Second life, one can be anything that he/she wishes to be. First, to the participant it will bring a collision of personality. Take for instance, after the simulation; one may want to be the very person that he/she selected in the Second life. Second, it provides a platform of culture clash. An individual maybe is caught up between the virtual culture and the real culture. The unique aspects of conducting a virtual ethnography include; a researcher may be in apposition to identify the loopholes within our culture that people are wishing to have. Secondly, one is able to understand that, the human mind is diverse when tapped. This is clearly evidenced from the data that has been collected from other relevant virtual ethnographic experiments. Additionally, it provides a platform for understanding the human culture, social interaction in an environment where they are free to express their views and be who they want to be.


A virtual ethnographer provides a platform in which the human culture and its diversity could be studied. With the information collected anthropologist could write academic journal and findings that will provide future reference materials about our culture. However, there are certain limitations that they undergo. These limitations may distort the collected but I believe in the social scientists. This is because; technology provides new avenues of understanding the human culture since human culture are also evolving as time elapses.


Armstrong, Jeffrey (2010) Spiritual Teachings of the Avatar; Ancient Wisdom for a new world. New York; Atria ISBN 978-1-58270-281-10

Fetterman, D (2009) Ethnography; step by step. Third edition, Thousand Oaks CA Sage.

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Hillis, K. (1999) Digital Sensation; Space Identity and Embodiment in Virtual Reality. Minneapolis; University of Minnesota

Lastowka, F.G& Hunter .D. (2004).The Laws of Virtual Worlds. California Law Review, 921, 3-73.

Lawtoo, Nidesh (2015) Avatar Simulation in 3Ts; Techne, Trance, Transformation. ‘Modern Fiction Studies 125.41.1, 132-150

Marcus, George E.& Michael Fischer Anthropology as cultural critique; An Experimental Moment in the Human Sciences(1989).Chicago University of Chicago Press.

Spradley, James P (1979).The Ethnographic Interview. Wordsworth Group/ Thompson Learning.

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Tofts, D. (2003).Avatars of the Tortoise; Life, Longevity, and Simulation. Digital Creativity.14.1, 54-63.

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