Author:

Sprondel, J., Breyer, T., & Wehrle, M.

Published in:

SSRN Paper Series

Year:

2011

Type:

Academic articles

CyberAnthropology is an approach that submits anthropological and philosophical questions (as well as sociological, political and linguistic questions including questions of constitutional law arising from them) to different fields associated with the internet – which has not been done in this specific transdisciplinary way in previous research. We analyze changes, developments and continuities between the lifeworld of users and new possibilities of participation on the internet, taking into account different methods given by different disciplines. We also raise the question of how the interaction between us human beings and the medium of the internet can be grasped theoretically and how human behaviors, needs and desires correlate with it practically. CyberAnthropology thus targets the questions of how the human being understands itself and others, how it structures its lifeworld when embedded in virtual environments, in face of the challenges posed by the internet as the dominating medium. Is the internet a new virtual reality or just the representation of old norms and habits? Can we speak of a 'cyber citizen' and has the 'animal socio-politicum' changed in the light of the internet as a primary form of communication and source of knowledge? How do interest groups form, if one considers the fact that the internet transcends local, regional, national, ethnical and social boundaries? How do new boundaries and normative orders emerge? So far, the question of how the internet changes societies and the habits of their members has merely been tackled either in abstract terms of media philosophy or in the context of detailed empirical studies of concrete user behavior. In the first case, the internet is regarded as a self-transforming medium that has had deep consequences on the lives of individuals ever since its emergence and development. What remains unclear, however, is the relationship between the materiality of the internet and its peculiar 'message' – for humanity, human responsibility and political action. In the second case, for instance in the research of the 'Digital Ethnographers' Michal Wesch and Don Tapscott, the focus lies on the description of virtual phenomena rather than on an analysis that would embed those phenomena in a broader theoretical framework of 'virtual reality', which would allow for an application of the outcomes to other disciplines and fields of research. This is intended by drafting a systematic theory of CyberAnthropology.

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