About us and the research

Welcome to our website and our research project! "Virtual Worlds, Disability, and New Cultures of the Embodied Self" is a research project with two Principal Investigators, Tom Boellstorff and Donna Z. Davis. It is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (Cultural Anthropology and Science, Technology, and Society). We are very excited about this project and invite you to learn more about it or even get involved! Below is a brief summary of the project. To the right is our contact information. The "Research Themes" pages will give you updates on the key topics we are addressing as the research proceeds. The "blog" page provides other updates about the project. Enjoy!


How is the internet changing the ways people think of themselves as individuals and interact as members of communities? Many are currently investigating this important question: for this project, the researchers are focusing on the experiences of people with disabilities in “virtual worlds,” three-dimensional, immersive online spaces where people with disabilities can appear any way they choose and do things they may not be able to do in the physical world. Since some early human first picked up a stick to use as a cane, people with disabilities have been at the forefront of technology innovation. What can their creative uses of and adaptions to online social interaction teach us? The researchers will explore this question by studying how people with disabilities create and interact socially in virtual worlds, and how they use different kinds of devices in their homes to experience these online environments. Virtual worlds have millions of users, but they are just part of a much larger domain of internet technology that includes everything from devices like smartphones and laptops to online venues like social network sites, blogs, and e-commerce. Anthropologists are expert in looking at smaller communities to see what they teach us about larger questions. This research will have implications for improving health care and social support for people with disabilities. But it also will use the insights of people with disabilities to better understand how new online technologies influence how we think about our bodies, how we think about social interaction, and how we think about the role of the internet in everyday life.

This research is supported by the University of California, Irvine; the University of Oregon; and the National Science Foundation.

Tom Boellstorff, UC Irvine
Co-Principal Investigator

Professor of Anthropology
(PhD: Stanford, 2000)

phone: (949) 824-9944
email: tboellst at uci dot edu

Mailing address:
Tom Boellstorff
Dept. of Anthropology
Univ. of California, Irvine
3151 Social Science Plaza
Irvine, CA 92697-5100

Tom Bukowski in Second Life

Donna Z. Davis, University of Oregon
Co-Principal Investigator

Director, Strategic Communication Master's Program and Assistant Professor
(PhD: Florida, 2010)

phone: (503) 412-3658
email: dzdavis@uoregon.edu

Mailing address:
Donna Z. Davis
School of Journalism and Communication
University of Oregon Turnbull Center
70 NW Couch St, Ste 366-F
Portland, Oregon 97209

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