Koppell on virtual reality

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Bear imprisoned, Belfast, Maine

Conversation in Second Life. (Image copyright 2003, Linden Research, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

In "No 'There' There," Jonathan Koppell argues against the idea "that cyberspace is a place as tangible as France or St. Louis or the coffee shop on the corner." He remarks that "I recently participated in a telephone conference call with people in several other states and countries. Were we all together in another 'place'? I doubt that any of us thought so." (Koppell 2000, 16)

He then argues that metaphors can lead to dangerous conclusions, citing problems with "the war on drugs," and "the marketplace of ideas." As for cyberspace, the danger he points out is that "Legislatures are wary of bringing government to cyberspace -- as if it somehow existed in some pure state beyond ordinary society. Judges are reluctant to bring law into this 'new' arena, as if applying existing laws to Internet transactions would be tantamount to colonizing Antarctica or the moon." (18)

Koppell is right about telephone calls, and right that cyberspace as a whole is not a place, but it does not follow that more embodied modes of cyber-interaction cannot happen in virtual areas that can include real places, in the sense that I have been using the word.