Virtual places

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Japanese house in the virtual world Second Life (Image copyright 2003, Linden Research, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

Data delivery in Hong Kong

< p class="exposition" />Human places do not have to be composed in physical space. My examples in this study include some places that exist in physical space, some in virtual space, and some in a mixture of physical and virtual spaces. Even if the technology never progresses beyond what is possible today, there are already real virtual places, that is, areas of virtual space governed by a web of norms for "embodied" social action. People do things in virtual places. People have conversations "in" locales that don't exist physically; they get into arguments "there." If we can ask of these activities in what place they happen, it would seem that "in the virtual space" is a better answer than in the scattered physical locations of people sitting at desks all over the world.

But, some might ask, don't virtual places have at best a derivative place-quality? Aren't virtual places signs of the death of place? Aren't they the reign of manipulation?

I've spent more than a decade on-line. I've visited just about every kind of place a computer and modem can take you. The places I've seen on-line that flourish do so when people bring themselves to the table, contributing their own ingredients to a communal stew of ideas, opinions, and metaphors. Where you find people building relationships, sharing day-to-day experiences, teaching each other what they've learned about the world, and figuring out together how they're going to face the oncoming day -- those are the places that thrive. Those are the places people live in. . . . .. For metaworlds to be places unto themselves, inhabitants must be able to build on their experiences there. When users can change the state of objects in a metaworld, and when those changes persist from day to day, it becomes possible for those objects to embody meaning." (Rossney 1996,145)

Because of the social norms and expectations defining places in virtual space, our actions there will have real-life consequences for our relationships and projects. This is another sign of the reality of such virtual places. They are not merely arenas for pleasure and desire without responsibility or consequences. (See Kolb 2006