Virtually Embodying the Field: Silent Online Buddhist Meditation, Immersion, and the Cardean Ethnographic Method

Gregory Grieve

Abstract


This article sketches the Cardean Ethnographic research method that emerged from two years of study inSecond Life’s Zen Buddhist cloud communities. Second Life is a 3D graphic virtual world housed in cyberspace that can be accessed via the Internet from any networked computer on the globe.Cloud communitiesare groups that are temporary, flexible, elastic and inexpensive in the social capital required to join or to leave. In our research, we found ourselves facing a two-sided methodological problem. We had to theorize the virtual and its relation to the actual, while simultaneously creating practices for an effective ethnographic method. Our solution,named after the Roman Goddess of the hinge, Cardea,was a method that uses the model of a hinge to theorize the virtual as desubtantialized and the worlds opened up by cyberspace as nondualistic. This understanding of the virtual worldscalled for a classic ethnographic methodbased on participant observation and thick description.

Keywords


senses , internet , virtual worlds , Buddhism , Second Life

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.11588/rel.2010.1.9384