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Posts with tag anthropology

15 Minutes of Fame: Anthropologist Bonnie Nardi on WoW culture and art

From Hollywood celebrities to the guy next door, millions of people have made World of Warcraft a part of their lives. How do you play WoW? We're giving each approach its own 15 Minutes of Fame.

We've written before at WoW.com and even here in 15 Minutes of Fame about attempts to study World of Warcraft culture from a sociological, psychological or anthropological point of view. In all of these cases, the researchers in question have logged time playing WoW as part of their research, albeit some with greater degrees of immersive success than others.

So I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that Bonnie Nardi, a University of California-Irvine expert in the social implications of digital technologies and author of the rather blithely titled My Life as a Night Elf Priest, not only rolled the token raiding character in order to observe the curious behavior of the raiding animal -- she actually enjoys WoW in its own right. Rather than cautiously sniffing WoW culture only to generate another wide-eyed, ZOMG-look-at-this-funny-lingo report from the digital field, Nardi dove deep enough to play in four different guilds: a casual raiding guild; a raiding guild composed of fellow academics; a small, casual guild; and her own friends-and-family guild. Our two-part interview with Nardi, packed with opinion and cultural analysis, reveals a witty approach to WoW culture that successfully combines academic insight with the familiarity of a seasoned player.

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Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

15 Minutes of Fame: Anthropologist digs into WoW

15 Minutes of Fame is our look at World of Warcraft players of all shapes and sizes – from the renowned to the relatively anonymous, the remarkable to the player next door. Tip us off to players you'd like to hear more about.

While we've written before about academics who are researching WoW from within, we're not sure that we've seen anyone whose primary fieldwork is the PvE raiding experience. Meet Alex Golub, Ph.D., an anthropology professor at the University of Hawaii. Golub plays a Resto Shaman in a Wrath-era raiding guild who's researching what he calls the culture of raiding -- "why people do something as crazy as run 25-mans four days a week."

"There is a lot of research on WoW, actually, but most of is based either on crunching Armory data to produce statistical analysis of game play, or it is more 'cultural studies' where people play the game a little and then write something beautiful about it," he explains to 15 Minutes of Fame. "My unique angle is that I am doing anthropological fieldwork in WoW, living and playing with a raiding guild and putting in 20+ hours a week keeping them healed and decursed."

The main themes of Golub's research (ahem): "American cultures of self-control, efficiency, masculinity and success amongst players of WoW." We asked him to boil that down for us. "I study how guys behave badly in Vent, and how/why people become emo and/or talk about why other people are emo," he explains. "I'm interested in how you get a group of 25 people to keep calm and collected as they try to do something really emotionally important to them, which requires relying on other people when its difficult to see them face to face."

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Filed under: WoW Social Conventions, Features, Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

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