Thomas Malaby is Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology and Co-coordinator of the Modern Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He has published articles and essays on practice theory, risk, mortality, and history, and his book,
Economies of Meaning: Property, Value, Exchange
The continuing expansion of virtual worlds in size coupled with their rapidly increasing connections with other domains of their users' lives together raise new questions about the bedrock concepts that have heretofore informed their study. In these domains, we see the rise of both institutionally-sponsored and grassroots learning, the increasing use of in-world achievements as resumé-building credentials, and the advent of higher stakes social networking. To a certain extent, these may be consequences of these worlds' persistence. Human activity in these worlds creates durable effects beyond the market itself. But how are we to understand them? This panel inquires into the limits and possibilities of core ideas in the field, such as value, property, and exchange, and considers how they may be developed to engage the present state of digital life. Is there more to be mined from the intellectual roots of these terms? How may interdisciplinary readings of them furnish productive new directions?