It was in 2003, I believe, that I was sent a DVD of Avatara by the filmmakers, who asked that I write a review about it. In my mind, I decided that this was an ethnographic film of a virtual world, and I wrote in that vein. Actually, Donato Mancini, one of the filmmakers with the Vancouver-based artists’ collective known as 536 asked me not to emphasize “ethnographic film” so much (it is my label for this film), since he preferred that it be understood as an installation piece. Still, 536 conducted ethnographic research — perhaps ethnography as art, or as a former student might call it, an artful ethnography — with specific philosophical interests and a strong appreciation of the digital aesthetics of new modes of sociability. I learned only moments ago (thanks to Grace in twitter and her tumblr post on the film) that the full film is online, and here it is. My review, published in Visual Studies, follows beneath it. For those who teach on topics of cyberspace ethnography, I strongly recommend the film for class.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
P.S.: I would change the end of the review, and delete my comments on the “possible shortcomings” of the film, as they represent some old biases of mine that I have since learned to shred. For both methodological and analytical reasons, I would see little utility in following the members offline.