Evan Conaway, PhD Student Department of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine
Servers are the backbone of networked digital infrastructure, yet these devices remain largely hidden from our everyday experience. As the public becomes more aware of servers, especially given the media-storm over governmental private servers in the US, it is important that we better understand what they do, how they are used, and the roles that servers play in mediating various kinds of social relationships. Because servers are often stored in remote and secure locations, studying them poses a unique challenge. For this reason, I turn to online game worlds, in which servers play an integral and rather transparent role in the creation of spaces, publics, and communities. This project thus offers an anthropology of servers in virtual worlds, asking how players and engineers alike construct, navigate, and contest boundaries of identity and difference, and generate novel social relations and values by mobilizing the particular world-making affordances of servers.