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December 13, 2006

Space and Culture


CFP: The Place of Synthetic Worlds

CFP: The Place of Synthetic Worlds :: Special issue of Space and Culture edited by Eric Gordon. 500 word abstracts are due by March 2, 2007. Completed essays are due July 16, 2007. All questions and abstracts should be directed to Eric_Gordon[at]emerson.edu.

Synthetic worlds can now claim tens of millions of members. From game environments such as World of Warcraft to the social environment Second Life, these avatar-driven platforms are becoming central to the wider networked culture. Increasingly, users don’t require a game pretense to spend time in synthetic space, they log on to socialize, conduct business, go to meetings, wander around or shop. Linden Lab’s platform Second Life is leading the way in this. Distinct from other Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs), there are no missions, goals, or winners in Second Life. Artists take up residence there; academic conferences are conducted there; and increasingly, institutions are establishing themselves there: Harvard and the University of Southern California have campuses, Reuters recently opened a Second Life bureau, the CDC opened an office to promote safe sex and emergency preparedness, Sony is positioning itself to deliver content, and Nike has started selling virtual shoes. As societies take shape in this environment, it has become quite clear that for most users, the second life looks remarkably like the first one. Users are engaging in everyday activities with represented environments (Sims) that are surprisingly similar to their real life counterparts. Consequently, Second Life cannot accurately be called “virtual” reality; more to the point, it is a synthetic world that produces a mixed reality through immersive digital social networks.

This issue of Space and Culture will explore the function of place in virtual spaces. It will examine how individuals, communities and institutions form identities in relation to sims. And it will interrogate the role of “real-world” places and networks in the construction of meaningful “virtual” spaces.

While Second Life presents a fascinating case study in the evolution of synthetic worlds, papers need not be limited to that platform. Possible topics include:

dwelling in virtual space
public vs. private
inside vs. outside
physical vs. virtual
shopping and place
place of sex
youth culture and “hanging out”
the place of the virtual classroom
landmarks, memorials, parks
location in the virtual real estate market
virtual place blogging
local journalism
art practice

Eric Gordon
Assistant Professor
Department of Visual and Media Arts
Emerson College
120 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 824-8828

Posted by jo at December 13, 2006 11:08 AM