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Folkways in Wonderland: a cyberworld laboratory for ethnomusicology

Published Date: 04-10-2011

Subjects: 

  • Folkways in Wonderland: a cyberworld laboratory for ethnomusicology, 
Abstract

—In this paper we describe a musical cyberworld — a collaborative, immersive virtual environment for browsing musical databases — together with an experimental design launching a new subdiscipline: the ethnomusicology of controlled musical cyberspaces. Research in ethnomusicology, the ethnographic study of music in its socio-cultural environment, has typically been conducted through qualitative fieldwork in uncontrolled, real-world settings. Recently, ethnomusicologists have begun to attend to the study of virtual environments, including pre-existing cyberworlds (such as video games). However, in this paper, we adopt an unprecedented approach by designing a custom musical cyberworld to serve as a virtual laboratory for the ethnographic study of music. By constructing an immersive cyberworld suitable for ethnomusicological fieldwork, we aim for much greater control than has heretofore been possible in ethnomusicological research, leading to results that may suggest better ways of designing musical cyberworlds for research, discovery, learning, entertainment, and e-commerce, as well as contributing towards our general understanding of the role of music in human interaction and communityformation. Such controlled research can usefully supplement traditional ethnography in the real world.

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