Monday, September 30, 2013

Virtual Ethnography 101: The Mind Museum

I would always ask my college and graduate students in Anthropology, aside from learning anthropological concepts and theories inside the classroom, to explore places, experience cultural or social happenings, and write ethnographic accounts using the participation-observation method.
I am posting in my blog with the writer's consent selected ethnography penned creatively by my students to contribute to the emerging sub-discipline of anthropology called 'Virtual Ethnography'.

Basically, virtual ethnography is also referred to as Webnography. We cannot deny the fact that with increasing use of technology and the Internet, there is now a demand for online spaces on various ethnographic accounts.

By Michelle C Robles

Growing up, I’ve had my fair sampling of museums both local and abroad. As a kid, I’ve gone to several trips to our country’s local museums such as the National Museum and Museo Pambata, which I only vaguely recall. Abroad, I’ve roamed the halls of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the Getty Museum in California and The Louvre in Paris. 

Of all these great places I went to, I noticed that there was a commonality in my experiences. I was merely an observer, looking at artifacts, paintings, sculptures in awe of their beauty but never really understanding what they meant. I never felt their significance to me. This thing that those experiences lacked was an experience made possible by the last museum I went to – the Mind Museum. 

The exhibit took me on a journey through the Atom, Life, the Earth and the Universe. This time, I wasn’t merely an observer but a participant. The things that were just pure head knowledge to me about this world came to life during those three hours I spent in this Museum last April 29. Each part of the exhibit was an interactive display that helped me understand the scientific laws and principles that governed the world we live in. I was amazed with the simplicity with which they were presented. It catered to the young crowd and at the same time, it appealed to the older generation as it presented complex science concepts through hands-on activities. 

At the beginning of the tour, we were welcomed by Aedi, which was a modern robot. And from there we were ushered into a theater that showed a 3D movie that showcased the evolution of man from a primitive hunter-gatherer to a sophisticated and intelligent animal. From the discovery of fire, the earliest humans then evolved from the use of basic tools to cave drawings, which also transitioned to rituals, and so on. 

This gave everyone a foundation of what humans were, where we came from and where we are now as a species. As we exited the theater, it was as if everything in the museum made sense because it was a segue from the movie that ended with how man evolved to its present state. When we saw the exhibits that were before us, we were looking at the byproducts of technological innovation and natural evolution. From the strange world of the very small (atom), to nature across the breadth of time (earth) to the exuberance of life to the majesty of the universe, I saw how everything was connected. 

As I shifted to the last part of the exhibit, it showcased seemingly ordinary things that, in reality, were extraordinary inventions such as the evolution of transportation, the printing press, the manipulation of light for human use, the birth of different languages and of literature. It also included technologies related to food, clothing, shelter and health – basically of how we live. These various technologies that showcased human ingenuity sets apart the human race from other species of intelligent life here on earth. It delved into who we are as human beings – expressions of our humanity.

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