Nature myths have been described in a number of contemporary media texts, both overtly and through connotation. Media like multiuser virtual environments (MUVEs) offer a critical challenge because they at times approach an immersive, felt realism that seems to transcend symbolism itself. Readers of these texts inhabit the space in a more compelling manner (in a phenomenological sense) than on's identification or engagement with a novel or movie. Because of the way this kind of virtual space inhabits a liminal space between real and not-real; material and embodied, yet completely constructed and artificial; it's especially interesting to see how other-than-human life and ecosystems are represented here. A common sight in Second Life is a kind of idyll, a natural-seeming area most often in the form of a forest through which avatars might stroll hand-in-hand or simply gaze upon, much as the 19th-century Romantics sought visual experiences of the Sublime. If we take such texts on their own terms, Nature is valuable and restorative. But the text also reinscribes a binary between "natural" and "civilized" areas, and the spaced are promoted (on search engines) as, primarily, places to relax and unwind. In other words, as a place for human consumption. Resistive readings are possible, and the paper describes several of these based on a close reading of several prominent Second Life constructions, concluding with a formative critical methodology for ’reading‘ virtual reality.
- virtual worlds,
- culture studies,
- visual rhetorics
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/js_clark/8/