Avatara: Ethnographic Film in a Virtual World

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.

more about “Avatara“, posted with vodpod

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.


4 thoughts on “Avatara: Ethnographic Film in a Virtual World

  1. Maximilian Forte

    Excellent! Thank you very much for that link Carlo, and I very much hope people will visit the website. I will look at it more closely and perhaps talk about in my own class.

    Thanks so much for this.

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  3. Jeremy Owen Turner

    Hello there,

    Thanks for continuing an analysis into our documentary, Maximilian :-)

    We have also posted the full length feature onto the Internet Archive – http://www.archive.org/details/vw_traveler-avatarax

    I agree with you that in this case, only the avatars themselves needed to be studied.

    I am now doing thesis research using Second Life as a platform and will be writing about the participant observation methodology in there.

    I would be curious to know more about your ethnographic approach to virtual worlds and any resources about this – in addition to Tom Boellstorff’s “Coming of Age in Second Life” would be most appreciated.

    Jeremy Owen Turner – 536.

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