Life Online: Researching Real Experience in Virtual Space
Alienating for some, yet most intimate and real for others, emerging communications technologies are creating a varied array of cyberspace experiences. Nowhere are the new and old more intertwined, as familiar narratives of the past and radical visions of the future inform our attempts to assess the impact of cyberspace on self and society. Amidst the dizzying pace of technological innovation, Annette N. Markham embarks on a unique, ethnographic approach to understanding internet users by immersing herself in on-line reality. The result is an engrossing narrative as well as a theoretically engaging journey. A cast of characters, the reflexive author among them, emerge from Markham's interviews and research to depict the complexity and diversity of internet realities. While cyberspace is hyped as a disembodied cultural arena where physical reality can be transcended, Markham finds that to understand how people experience the internet, she must learn how to be embodied there--a process of acculturation and immersion which is not so different from other anthropological projects of cross-cultural understanding. Both new and not-so-new, cyberspace provides a context in which we can ask new sorts of questions about all cultural experience.
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