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Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  334 ratings  ·  28 reviews
Millions of people around the world today spend portions of their lives in online virtual worlds. Second Life is one of the largest of these virtual worlds. The residents of Second Life create communities, buy property and build homes, go to concerts, meet in bars, attend weddings and religious services, buy and sell virtual goods and services, find friendship, fall in lov ...more
Hardcover, 316 pages
Published May 11th 2008 by Princeton University Press (first published April 21st 2008)
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Dec 14, 2008 rated it it was ok
In his book Coming of Age in Second Life, Tom Boellstorff makes a statement that he wants to treat Second Life as a virtual world “in its own terms.” His rationale for this is that “there do exist distinct cultures in virtual worlds, even though they draw from actual-world cultures” (18). I find his approach towards virtual worlds not only provocative but also strategic. While it presents a fresh perspective in observing new media culture, it also aptly serves his purpose to map Second Life cult ...more
Kellynn Wee
Oct 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyable book about a phenomenon I had known nothing about. Genuinely also made me want to spend four years studying Neopets, my own virtual world (in which I still continue to exist!). Balances between the promise and perils of virtual worlds without resorting to ambivalence or retreating from making a stance. Both hopeful and lucid. The ideas I liked: the constant, dynamic movement between the virtual and the real; creationist capitalism; and how the digital enables humans to become hu ...more
May 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Before I read Boellstorff, I registered for Second Life and spent a few hours in the last week just to see what it was about. I remain absolutely clueless. I'm trying to imagine what real life circumstances would attract me to spending any significant amount of time in this world, and I suppose I can think of a few. If I were confined to a bed, socially isolated, or stuck in a truly miserable job with plenty of free time at my desk, or if I wanted to have a virtual affair, I suppose Second Life ...more
Shonell Bacon
Apr 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's rare that someone takes what is deemed an academic book to bed as her nightly reading, but Boellstorff has a voice and writing style that is fit for a number of readers--from the academic to the lay person wanting to know more about virtual worlds. It's the kind of voice and style that I'm interested in and that I hope to have in my own academic works. Anyone who is a fan of virtual worlds and Second Life specifically will enjoy the in-depth descriptions that are available in this work, fro ...more
Sep 05, 2012 rated it liked it
Tom Boellstorff's Coming of Age in Second Life intrigued me the very moment I picked up the text. Boellstoff's uses a clear and informative tone to describe and explore the virtual human. The text is easily digestible for anyone interested in learning more about virtual life. Through his knowledge and charismatic voice, he takes the reader with him on his journey from the beginning in a true Coming of Age fashion.

While he claims multiple times to be unbiased and an anthropologist observing the
Beth O'Connell
Jun 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Excellent look at the overall culture of Second Life. I'd like to find something similar where the fieldwork was done after 2009, when SL's numbers started to drop. ...more
Rachel Goldman
Feb 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tom Boellstorff takes a fascinating approach to researching culture in one of the largest virtual communities called Second Life. His primary goal in researching this virtual world is to gain insight into the culture that exists there and further understand the norms that are shared by those who participate. In studying Second Life, Boellstorff took a research approach used by anthropologists studying culture called ethnography. He conducted research by interviewing participants and forming focu ...more
William Crosby
Nov 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
An ethnography on the Second Life virtual world. The author provides context by discussing concepts and history such as "virtual" (ancient: e.g. language, memory palaces), "cyber " (ancient Greek: control, governor), teche, gaming, and others.

His discussion includes many different aspects of SL including relationships, love, avatars, money, gender/race, sex, ethics, addiction, etcetera. He points out that culture and the particular rules we follow in a society are no less artificial than those i
Pia Margić
Aug 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, diplomski
It's quite an interestimg read. The author provided conversations with people who invested themselves entirely into a second life, where they displayed an entirely different mentality than IRL, where those same people projected themselves as different ages, sexes even, and formed commited relationships, marriages - even though they had "real-life" ones to people they loved. They showed social awareness in a virtual enviroment, truly forming a world of their own.

A very interesting read indeed. Ev
Apr 06, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: accelerate, theory
Broad, varied and expansive but general, undynamic and inconclusive by turn. I admire the work though perhaps I was expecting something different of the method and the focus, though unfortunately I'll admit I may have been looking forward to a more vulgar egoist approach than the humanist one here. Reading this while having grown up with/on similar sims and forums I suppose a lot of the actual work of the book and the labor of the theory are things I've done already.

I guess my main disappointmen
Jan 12, 2021 rated it liked it
Fascinating to read something to "futuristic" that now seems so dated. Boellstorff studies second life as a fully formed culture that exists separate from "offline life" and approach which now feels naive when more so online/offline life has just blended together. However does a good job clarifying the seeds from which a culture can grow and its fun to read candid accounts from a time when people would actually go online to connect with others. ...more
David Stancel
May 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing book! First two-chapters are little bit too much focused on anthropological methodology, but the rest of the book is just mind blowing. It provides detailed Analyses of all kinds of aspects of Second Life, and in some cases of other virtual worlds too. Pleasure to read such a craft!
Avery Delany
Jun 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: academic
Anas Sabbar
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
A great and exhaustive (sometimes overly pedantic) introduction to a nonexistent book.
Jul 03, 2015 rated it liked it
Boellstorff does not tread untrod ground in what is probably his best and most famous book but he does it better and with greater style than your garden variety academic. Borrowing title and theory from classical anthropology the author gives us a complex ethnography in the digital medium in perhaps one of the 'digital worlds', to paraphrase the book, most suited for classical anthropological pursuits. Not messing about with unsightly MUDs, websites and forums or with the quintessentially gamifi ...more
Nov 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-school
This is a really fascinating book because the topic is not something that you would expect to read an anthropological analysis of. I had to read it for my anthropology class Material Culture. The author did all of his fieldwork inside of Second Life, a virtual reality MMO where players can create virtual versions of themselves. I was really impressed by his discussion of the history of virtual worlds, which started long before computers. He expertly discusses different issues in virtual worlds, ...more
Feb 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I continue to broaden my reading in internet studies. This is an ethnography by a Professor of Anthropology who spent two years in second life during its early years. He uses traditional ethnographic tools as he explores this "thriving alternative universe" which is as meaningful to its natives as the "real world".

I know from my own experiences with early online community (Lambda Moo) that Boellstorff does not deeply delve into the social life of participants. He notes many times in his prose th
Jun 05, 2011 rated it it was ok
This is a bizarre book, not for its subject matter but for the degree to which Boellstorff seems intent on reproducing Margaret Mead's approach to Samoa--treating Second Life as a bounded cultural isolate, worthy of understanding in its own terms. Given that the man's partner, Bill Maurer has presided over the death of language, this sort of almost positivist unreconstructed Boasianism is not a little surprising--maybe they have a Jack Spratt and spouse thing going on when it comes to high-flown ...more
Lilly Irani
May 10, 2008 rated it liked it
Argues that virtual worlds are not just representations or simulations of the "real" world, but have cultures in and of themselves. Moreover, these cultures have stratifications, patterns, and meanings that have been documented in by anthropologists since time immemorial -- complete with citations of books written in the late 1800s. All this is true, and the book is packed dense with references but it feels more like riffing than an argument. It makes gestures at topics like gender, class, etc, ...more
margot lane
Oct 17, 2011 rated it it was ok
Though Boellstorff adamantly tries to keep anthropology as a serious thread throughout this book, he does a terrible job of keeping to current and actual methodological anthropology research. Though an interesting argument and topic, he seems to forget his anthropological perspective in turn producing what is essentially an interesting albeit thoroughly engrossed advertisement for Second Life and virtual worlds. Just okay. No true ethnography here though...
Mar 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
I can't speak to this book's significance within the field of anthropology or its methodological soundness, but it serves as a well-informed and well-written introduction to Second Life for a non-participant such as myself. The references back to classics of ethnographic research are charming, and the bibliography is truly excellent. This book also does nothing to dispel my impression that Second Life manages to be simultaneously boring and creepy. ...more
Travis Wagner
Feb 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This work tows the line between theory and the actuality of Second Life in a way that fixates not on the absurdity or the spectacular, nor even the dystopic implications for society, but instead the very human components that exist at its center. This is necessary reading for anybody looking to learn about Second Life, but is equally key as a work of anthropology. I cannot praise it enough.
Jun 23, 2010 rated it liked it
Interesting study of the author's experiences in Second Life. He did spend quite a bit of time in-world to do the research for this book, and so this digs under the surface appearances of the "typical" virtual-world denizen. He describes some interesting new themes which are specific to virtual worlds. ...more
Darya Conmigo
Mar 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: anthro, 2012
I enjoyed reading this ethnography a lot! It is written in a rather accessible way while still offering a fair amount of theorizing on the subject of virtual worlds and anthropology's role in studying them. ...more
Sep 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Meriterebbe di essere tradotto in italiano. Tom -attraverso Second LIfe- costruisce un quadro interpretativo fantastico per capire come ci comportiamo in rete, anche (e soprattutto) fuori da Second Life.
Mills College Library
305.8 B6718 2008
May 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
I'm half way through this book and it is fascinating. I love Tom's Indonesia work--he is one of my favorite anthropologists out there right now. ...more
Nov 27, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
so many times I have thought ... "hey .. that's me !!!" :)) ...more
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