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The Multimedia Anthropology Lab at University College London (UCL MAL) is proud to

present an online conference and virtual exhibition Multimedia Encounters: Experimental Approaches to Ethnographic Research taking place Tuesday 12th to Friday 15th of January. Follow links below to access recorded panels.

How are ethnographic encounters with alterity mediated and transformed by multimedia technologies? Drawing on both material culture studies and the ontological turn, UCL MAL mobilises a global conversation on the concepts, forms and media through which we produce and share knowledge.


The conference draws together anthropologists, artists, sound designers, coders, VR/AR producers among other experimental practitioners to initiate a global conversation on experimental research formats and multimedia knowledge. Conference panels will offer stimulating debates with over 30 speakers - including sound artist Chris Watson. This selection of radical academic thinkers and cutting-edge practitioners invite us to think critically about multimedia forms of research, questioning divisions between art and science and pushing the boundaries of knowledge.


  • ROOM 0: Wade Wallerstein
    ENTER ROOM HERE Virtual Phenomenology is an ongoing investigation into the lived experience of traveling through, inhabiting, or otherwise interacting with virtual and simulated spaces, landscapes, and software environments. Wallerstein has spent time traversing virtual environments and conducting ethnographic field research across various computer-generated realities. Wallerstein’s research is grounded by Tom Boellstorff’s assertion that the virtual is not reducible or opposed to the real; instead, the virtual is opposed to the actual. Both the virtual and the actual are very much real, but rooted in the affordances of their material singularity. Further drawing upon Christopher Tilley’s definition of phenomenology as encompassing the relationship between Being and Being in the World, this project seeks to uncover how the material affordances, aesthetic conventions, and social mechanics of commercial 3D interactive virtual worlds shape social understandings of space as well as cultural relations amongst online communities. In this iteration of Virtual Phenomenology, Wallerstein presents a selection of field note recordings inside Ghost of Tsushima, a single-player game developed by Sucker Punch Productions and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment for the PlayStation 4 system. Noted amongst gaming communities for its sharp computer-generated graphics, engaging gameplay, and hyperrealistic environments, Ghost of Tsushima presents an interesting case study in virtual landscape phenomenology in both its fantastical symbolic representation of late 13th Century Japan, high-caliber world simulation, and built-in tools for environment modulation and recording. The site-specific installation in Mozilla Hubs for Multimedia Encounters presents a kaleidoscopic view into this world, showcasing a number of overlapping videos from inside the game world recorded using virtual camera software. The overwhelming barrage of overlapping visual information displayed in this installation in turn simulate the over-stimulating and massively multiple qualities of these kinds of 3D virtual worlds, which uniquely offer opportunities for players/users/visitors/travelers to experience rapid nonlinear movement through an unimaginable number of high-fidelity environments at once. The experience engendered by these immersive imaging technologies, software environments, and gaming interfaces is ultimately one of fragmentation or context collapse.


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