THE EPISTEMOLOGICAL CHALLENGES OF THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF VIRTUAL WORLD
Online environments provide new challenges for reconsidering the epistemological endeavour of social sciences. It is difficult to say whether virtual reality is facilitating the creation of new personae or just the surfacing of the inner most uninhibited ones. Social sciences in general and digital anthropology in particular have, thus, the opportunity to analyse new forms of sociabilities that are characteristic to the cyberspace. This study draws attention to some important considerations in the study of online communities, like those focusing on the balance beween ensuring subjects’confidentiality and providing data validity. Becoming a part of the virtual reality offers the opportunity of reshaping one’s own identity and furthermore of exploring the various identities of other individuals who are more or less familiar to us in the real world. Once in this cultural environment, an anthropologist has to engage in a phenomenological endeavor over the individual and social impact of Internet, before tackling the actual fieldwork.
Keywords: digital anthropology, epistemology, cyberspace, virtual communities, social media.